Tag: Beijing


Coronavirus has closed our school for six weeks and counting. This is how we make it work


Australia

There’s no playground or lunch bell at this school, but some 8,000 kilometres from Beijing, Angela Steinmann and Jaima Holland are preparing for another day of class.

From the confines of a renovated Queenslander in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, the pair have found themselves grappling with the residual impacts of the coronavirus crisis: school shutdowns.

Angela is the elementary school principal at Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), where Jaima is a physics teacher and Grade 9 mentor.

As the Chinese New Year rolled around in late January, the pair — like “50 per cent of our staff and students” — left the capital to travel overseas, opting to holiday in the Philippines.

Then, the outbreak occurred.



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Angela is the elementary school principal at the Western Academy of Beijing, where Jaima is a physics teacher and Grade 9 mentor. (Western Academy of Beijing)

“At the beginning of the holidays [Chinese authorities] announced that schools would be closed, so we had to very quickly make a plan of action to begin online learning when we came back a week later,” says Angela.

“Rather than quickly return to China, we decided there wasn’t really any need for it. We weren’t going back to school, so a decision was made that students and teachers could operate from wherever they were.”

With friends and family in Brisbane, the pair returned to Australia (“The internet connection here is better than the Philippines,” Jaima quips), where they have spent much of the year navigating the ups and downs of their new classroom.

They are now almost finished the sixth week of delivering an online learning curriculum to 1,400 WAB students aged from 3-18 who represent the many cultures and nationalities who attend this international school for expatriate children.

‘We went from zero to full-on in a week’

As authorities work to contain the spread of COVID-19, more than 290 million students across the globe have been disrupted by school closures (much to the chagrin of parents).

While China was the only nation mandating closures some three weeks ago, as of the beginning of March, at least 22 countries in three different continents had followed suit in announcing or implementing contingency plans of their own.

It means schools have had to pivot to an online curriculum, as they stare down the barrel of an uncertain future.



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Using online applications like Zoom, Skype and WeChat, teachers set the usual daily course work for their students. (ABC News: Bridget Judd)

As if the transition wasn’t hard enough, the Western Academy of Beijing, an international school in the north of the city, has been forced to confront another hurdle: many of their more than 150 staff, who had been overseas on holidays when the outbreak occurred, remain in all corners of the world (“We have people in Europe, America, Asia, Australia — everywhere,” Angela says).

“We all follow Beijing time, so the time zone has been the trickiest one,” she adds. “It has been a huge challenge; we went from zero to full-on in a week.”

Using online applications like Zoom, Skype and the Chinese social media app WeChat, teachers set the usual daily course work for their students, interspersed with parent workshops, forums and teacher staff meetings.

It is very much business as usual (“Our swimming teacher, for example, is still doing swimming lessons online,” Angela says), but that is not to say there have not been challenges.


Infographic:
Despite being stuck in different corners of the world, staff still have weekly meetings.
(Supplied: Angela Steinmann)

“In any classroom you’ve got a range of abilities. Not just academic abilities but self-management abilities, the ability to make sure they’re engaged and can organise themselves,” Jaima says.

“And when you go into an online learning platform, suddenly that range becomes so much larger.”

In the case of WAB’s multicultural student body, a range of English-language skills, particularly among younger pupils, add another layer of complication into the mix.

“The real difficulty of [taking lessons online] was, how are we going to do this to accommodate the needs of such a diverse range of students, but do it in a way that’s relatively streamlined?” Jaima says.

So what does an average day look like?

For Angela and Jaima, communication and engagement with both students and parents has been paramount in ensuring they do not slip “through the cracks”.

The wider community is acutely aware of the predicament they are facing, and until the school closures are lifted, students and staff simply don’t have any other options.

But while online learning may be part and parcel of modern life, the pair are quick to admit that the transition to a virtual classroom has been a matter of trial and error.

“At first I thought, this will be great, we’ll just post one email for the week and it’s not too overwhelming,” Jaima says.

“It was the opposite, students felt overwhelmed because they were getting a weeks’ worth of work for each class and it was just too much.”

The school has used this feedback to hone its approach.

Students are given their weekly coursework each Monday, and are then tasked with devising a timetable for the days ahead (“For example, when are they Zooming with their teachers?” Angela says).

Teachers also upload a video of themselves every morning, welcoming students into the new day and outlining their daily tasks, which have already been posted online.


Infographic:
An example of the course material posted online for students at the Western Academy of Beijing.
(Supplied: Angela Steinmann)

“Every class in elementary has a class blog, all children also have their own blogs, so if they have to do work, they can take a picture or upload it to the blog, so their parent and teacher can give feedback,” says Angela.

“I spend a lot of time just in correspondence, checking in with students, tracking students, giving feedback, communicating with mentors and counsellors if you feel a student is getting too far behind,” adds Jaima.

Virtual classrooms in use in Australia

While Australia has so far been largely immune to the brunt of the crisis, the premise of online learning is not an entirely foreign concept.

Classes have already been cancelled in New South Wales, while similar scenes have been observed in Victoria, as more people test positive for coronavirus.

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In anticipation of further closures, the NSW Education Department has confirmed it is working with its major IT providers to create virtual classrooms so teachers can provide work to students over the internet.

This technology is already in use at Epping Boys High School, which is using Google Classroom across all year groups and subjects to provide daily online lessons for students in self-isolation. At Willoughby Girls High School, also in Sydney, students have access to lessons and content from Edmodo and Google Classroom.

While Queensland is yet to be affected by school closures, its education department has also confirmed it has “online learning materials and virtual classroom capability that can be used by schools where appropriate to support sustained curriculum delivery”.

But should Australian schools have to transition to online learning in the event of a shutdown, it’s may not mimic the experience of Beijing’s WAB.



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Should Australian schools have to transition to online learning in the event of a shutdown, it may not mimic the Beijing experience. (ABC News: Elise Pianegonda)

“The technical infrastructure in public schools just doesn’t exist,” says Dan Hogan, a public school teacher.

“You’d be lucky to find a public school in the country where each student in a class of 30 has a device like a tablet or a laptop. They always have to be shared between two, or three, or more.”

‘There are equity and access issues’

Australia has one of the largest resource gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools in the OECD, while research has found the gap between high and low socioeconomic high schools is widening.

Should schools be forced to pivot to an online curriculum, some fear this education divide could become more pronounced.

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“There are many students, either because of the failure of infrastructure in their community or the socioeconomic status of individuals where they don’t have access to a computer or suitable device, who will be unable to get access to any virtual learning spaces,” says Kevin Bates, president of the Queensland Teachers Union.

“I’m also concerned that the sort of work we would be expecting people to pick up would involve a set of teaching materials that many teachers have never used.

“There are equity and access issues, and there are issues associated with the practicality of having 40,000 teachers familiarise themselves with the curriculum documents and effectively deliver a program for students in such a short timeframe.”

While teachers have always used technology as an “integrated part of their daily work”, the NSW Teachers Federation says, delivering an entire school curriculum on online platforms will not be able to occur overnight.

“That will require the department to provide additional resources in the areas of IT, in terms of accessibility of course across the state,” says senior vice-president Amber Flohm.

“But also in professional learning, that’s not something that could be rolled out across the state overnight.”

What can Australia learn from the overseas experience?

Jaima concedes the transition to online learning was aided by their “incredibly well-resourced” school, which had already purchased online learning platforms and software for teachers to use in classes prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

But being able to streamline those tools, and ensuring teachers were competent in them, was a learning curve in and of itself.



Photo:

Jaima says the school had already purchased online learning platforms and software for teachers to use in class. (Western Academy of Beijing)

“We’ve had teachers teaching teachers sessions, because some teachers are more IT savvy than others,” Angela says.

“Everyone has had to upskill in certain programs just to get them up and running. And that includes kids and parents as well.”

With no end in sight, Angela and Jaima are looking towards the year ahead.

There are senior exams to plan for, and other milestones they need to take into consideration, should their new classroom become a longer-term fixture.

So what can Australia learn from their experience?

“Look after each other, check in with your colleagues. It’s going to be difficult, but persevere and stick with it,” says Jaima.

“Don’t underestimate the importance of connecting with others. The isolation is really hard to deal with,” adds Angela.


Video: Biosecurity expert Raina MacIntyre assesses Australia's response to the coronavirus

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Eye in the sky: The economic impact of coronavirus is visible in satellite imagery


China

The new virus that causes coronavirus disease COVID-19 is microscopic in size and easily transmitted within a tiny respiratory droplet — but its impact has been global.

In fact, some of its effects are already visible from space.

Satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies shows the global impact of coronavirus — in China, Japan, Iran and more — as usually crowded public spaces are left deserted.

The stark effects can be seen at a diverse range of locations, from the Great Mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia to outside the Space Mountain ride a Disneyland in Tokyo.

Coronavirus update: Follow news and developments from across Australia and the globe

Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China



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Tiananmen Square on Feb 21, 2019 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Tiananmen Square on Feb 11, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

The Great Mosque and Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia



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Great Mosque and Kaaba, Mecca on Feb 14, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Great Mosque and Kaaba, Mecca on March 3, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Highway in Wuhan, China



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Wuhan highway on Oct 17, 2019 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Wuhan highway on Feb 25, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Your questions on coronavirus answered

Avenue in Wuhan, China



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Wuhan avenue on Oct 17, 2019 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Wuhan avenue on Feb 25, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Dongdamen railway station in Wuhan, China



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Wuhan train station on Oct 17, 2019 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Wuhan train station on Feb 25, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Toll road in Wuhan, China



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Wuhan toll road on Oct 17, 2019 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Wuhan toll road on Feb 25, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China



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Location of Leishenshan pop-up hospital on Aug 3, 2019. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Leishenshan pop-up hospital in Wuhan on Mar 4, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Tehran International Airport, Iran



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Tehran Airport on Jan 11, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Tehran Airport on Feb 29, 2020. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Space Mountain ride at Tokyo Disneyland, Japan



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Crowds at Tokyo Disneyland on Feb 1, 2020. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Tokyo Disneyland on Mar 1, 2020. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Shrine of Fatima Masumeh, Iran



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Shrine of Fatima Masumeh on Sep 25, 2019. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Shrine of Fatima Masumeh on Mar 1, 2020 (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)

Huoshenshan ‘pop-up’ field hospital in Wuhan, China



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Location of Huoshenshan pop-up hospital on Apr 28, 2017. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)



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Huoshenshan pop-up hospital on Feb 22, 2020. (Supplied: Maxar Technologies)


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Trump administration slaps new rules on ‘draconian’ Chinese media operating in US


United States

The Trump administration says it will begin treating five major Chinese state-run media entities with US operations the same as foreign embassies, requiring them to register their employees and US properties with the State Department.

Key points:

  • US officials say the move comes after China intensified use of media to spread pro-Beijing propaganda overseas
  • President Xi Jinping sees media as a way to promote Chinese soft power abroad
  • Western media outlets operating in China already face harsh restrictions

Two senior State Department officials said the decision was made because China had been tightening state control over its media, and President Xi Jinping had made more aggressive use of them to spread pro-Beijing propaganda.

The control over both the content and editorial control have only strengthened over the course of Xi Jinping’s term in power, said one official.

“These guys are in fact arms of the CCP’s [Chinese Community Party’s] propaganda apparatus.”

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Beijing was not informed in advance of the decision and would be notified on Tuesday afternoon, one official said.

Beijing’s control of China’s state-owned media has become “more and more draconian,” the second official said. Both officials spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Tensions between the two superpowers have escalated since President Donald Trump came to office three years ago, with disputes ranging from trade tariffs to accusations of Chinese spying in the United States and to US support for Taiwan.



Photo:

Media freedom in China is among the worst in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. (Reuters: Thomas Peter)

Global ambitions for expanded influence

Tuesday’s decision, the officials said, is not linked to any recent developments in Sino-US relations and has been under consideration for some time.

The new determination is being applied to the Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International, China Daily and Hai Tian Development USA, the officials said.

When the international arm of China Central Television (CCTV) news rebranded and became CGTN in 2016, Mr Xi urged the media organisation in a congratulatory letter to “tell China stories well” and spread China’s voice.

The message was seen as part of Beijing’s ambition to build a new global narrative around China while also challenging liberal democracy as the ideal developmental and political framework.

The ABC’s Chinese service
The ABC Chinese Service provides trusted news, analysis, and features to keep you up-to-date with the stories that matter.

In late 2018, CGTN billboards began springing up across Australia, as the network became available on Foxtel and Fetch TV.

China Daily is an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party. Hai Tian Development USA distributes the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the party’s Central Committee.

Fairfax media — now taken over by Nine News — raised eyebrows when it included the China Watch lift-out in its newspapers on a monthly basis as part of a paid deal with China Daily, although it is understood to have ceased in November 2018.

Republican Florida senator Rick Scott applauded the State Department’s decision, tweeting he had “been saying for months now outlets like China Daily should clearly be marked as the Chinese propaganda that they are”.



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China Watch was a monthly supplement published by China Daily that used to be distributed in papers including the Sydney Morning Herald. (Supplied)

US a ‘far more liberal environment’

The five entities’ US operations will have to disclose their personnel rosters and hiring and firing decisions and register properties in the United States that they rent or own with the State Department, the officials said.

They also will have to seek advanced approval before they lease or purchase new US properties, they said.

Asked if there were concerns that Beijing would retaliate against Western media based in China, one official noted that foreign news outlets there already worked under strict rules and that the new disclosure rules imposed no restrictions on the five state-owned Chinese entities’ US operations.

“These guys operate in a far more liberal environment here in the United States than any foreign press enjoy in the People’s Republic of China,” the official said.



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Chinese President Xi Jinping urges CGTN to “tell China’s stories well”. (Reuters: Ludovic Marin)

Media freedom in China is among the worst in the world — ranking 176 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

A leaked 2013 government edict openly attacked Western media saying: “the West’s idea of journalism undermines our country’s principle that the media should be infused with the spirit of the party.”

Reuters/ABC

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


In China, there’s evidence that SARs syndrome has been at play again


China

It is too early to make a definitive judgement about how Beijing has handled the outbreak of the potentially deadly coronavirus in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China.

But it is already clear that any assessment will have to take into account not just the medical side of the virus’s spread.

Just as important in a public health crisis is how the authorities manage the disclosure of the information about the virus within the government, and to the public.

So far, the handling of the crisis seems to have underlined one of the ongoing problems with the authoritarian strictures of the party-state, which places a premium on the control of information in the name of maintaining stability.

Beijing’s had a test run in how not to handle a crisis

In such a system, lower-level officials have no incentive to report problems until Beijing allows them to do so. Under the rule of Xi Jinping, such restrictions have only grown tighter.

The difficulties of managing a public health crisis have been accentuated by this one’s timing — on the eve of Lunar New Year, when literally millions of people would have been coming from Wuhan, a transport hub.

Should Australians be worried? Australia has a number of measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus — but with warnings the disease has a week-long incubation period, carriers could already be in the country.

Any official shutting down Wuhan would also have been shutting down the new year, a time when millions of Chinese get to reunite and celebrate as a family.

Beijing has already had a test run in how not to handle a crisis of this kind, when the flu-like SARs (severe acute respiratory syndrome) began spreading in late 2002.

China initially delayed responding to requests for more information from the World Health Organisation when the virus first appeared in southern China in November 2002.

It wasn’t until February 2003 that Beijing told the WHO. As late as April, Beijing was still suppressing the numbers of people who were infected.

It took a courageous doctor at the military hospital in Beijing, who informed the foreign media about the true count of patients, to force Beijing to deal with the issue openly.



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The difficulties of managing a public health crisis have been accentuated by this one’s timing — on the eve of Lunar New Year. (Reuters via China Daily)

As a result, the epidemic took longer to control, it spread further, both in China and overseas, and more people died.

There was one other lesson for the whistle blowers. No one thanked them later. Just because they did good, they did not do well.

Early signs show SARs syndrome at play again

Fast forward to 2020, and it is instructive to look at what has, and hasn’t, changed.

From all the reports coming out of China, albeit in a haphazard fashion, the medical and public health staff has performed with the skill that you would expect from highly skilled professionals.

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They isolated and identified the virus quickly.

But from that point onwards, the early signs are that the SARs syndrome has been at play again.

In early January, eight people in Wuhan were detained for “spreading rumours” about the virus. The official police report said they had been spreading “fake news” which had harmed social stability.

Various officials in Wuhan continued to downplay the spread of the virus in the opening weeks of the year. As late as Tuesday evening, the Hubei provincial party secretary and governor hosted a lavish Lunar New Year event, despite reports that many of the performers were ill.

Could the virus have been contained?

But by then, the issue could no longer be contained.

With infections and deaths rising, the authorities in Wuhan issued an order on Wednesday effectively quarantining the city, no small thing given its size and importance as a transport hub in central China.

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One reason for the order was that so many people in Wuhan had not been able to find a bed in a hospital in the city that they had begun to hop on planes and go elsewhere in the country looking for treatment.

Hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai and Dalian were reporting coronavirus patients, too. Some have been diagnosed in Hong Kong, and as far as the US.

Could the virus have been contained, and its spread limited, if officials in Wuhan had levelled with both their bosses, and the public, earlier?

It is impossible to say, but at the moment, it certainly looks that way.

Richard McGregor is a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute. This piece first appeared on the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter blog.



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One reason for the order was that so many people in Wuhan had not been able to find a bed in a hospital. (Reuters)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


‘No way’ of stopping coronavirus from entering Australia, virus has no vaccine


China

Australia is ramping up airport screening of passengers arriving from China, after authorities in that country confirmed that a new strain of coronavirus has been passed from person to person, sparking fresh fears of a global epidemic.

Key points:

  • A Brisbane man who recently returned from Wuhan is being tested for the virus
  • The total number of worldwide cases of the virus is 222
  • There is no vaccine for the new virus

China’s National Health Commission said the virus, which causes pneumonia, had spread to new cities and that some medical staff had been infected by patients, the country’s official Xinhua news agency said.

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On Tuesday morning, it was confirmed a man was in isolation in his Brisbane home as Queensland Health authorities ran tests on whether he was carrying the new strain.

The outbreak, which began in the central city of Wuhan, has now spread to other cities including the capital Beijing and Shanghai. Five new cases were confirmed in Beijing and 14 more in Guangdong province. A new case was reported in Shanghai.

The number of cases has tripled to more than 220, and three people are known to have died.

Cases have been reported in Thailand, South Korea and Japan, all involving people who had visited Wuhan.

Today Australia’s chief medical officer said the risk to Australia was low but warned that the disease had an incubation period of about a week, during which time symptoms would not be apparent.

He said stricter screening measures would apply particularly to the three flights a week that arrived in Sydney from Wuhan.

Those flights will now be met by border security and biosecurity staff as well as New South Wales Health officials.


Video: A video circulating on Chinese social media apparently shows medics checking temperatures of passengers on a flight from Wuhan to Macau

(ABC News)

“We’re doing some careful modelling to see if there are any other flights from China that have a high proportion of Wuhan-origin passengers, and we may consider expanding that too,” he said.

“But we have to do the analysis to find out where they come from, because there are apparently 160 flights from China a week.”

There is no vaccine for the new virus, and China’s President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was now the top priority.

“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” he was quoted as saying by state television.

Adding to the difficulties of containing the virus, hundreds of millions of Chinese people will be travelling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.

Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have also stepped up screening of travellers from Wuhan.



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Medical staff at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, where patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated. (Reuters)

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said chief medical officer Brendan Murphy briefed him on the coronavirus on Tuesday.

He said precautions were being taken to protect Australians, adding: “We will be raising the level of our travel advice for Wuhan City to level 2 — exercise a high degree of caution. I urge all Australians travelling to check the DFAT Smart Traveller website for specific updates.”

He said state medical workers had initiated measures to mitigate the risk of infectious people entering the country.

“We are well prepared to respond to this situation and we will continue to monitor and take action where necessary,” he added.

Specialist in infectious disease epidemics and Wellcome Trust global health charity director, Sir Jeremy Farrar, said there was a need to be vigilant.

“Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast-approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high,” he said.

“There is more to come from this outbreak.”

The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-03 outbreak that also started in China.

Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.



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Pedestrians wear protective masks as they walk through a shopping district in Tokyo after the first case of pneumonia detected in Japan. (AP: Eugene Hoshiko)

Virus spreads beyond China’s borders

Overnight South Korea confirmed its first case, a 35-year-old Chinese national who had travelled from Wuhan, the fourth patient reported outside China.

Thailand has reported two confirmed cases of the virus, both of whom were Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

Japan also confirmed one case of a Japanese citizen who visited Wuhan.

A report by London Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by January 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms. Chinese health authorities have not commented directly on the report.

“This outbreak is extremely concerning. Uncertainty and gaps remain, but it is now clear that there is person-to-person transmission,” Sir Jeremy said.

The World Health Organisation said on Monday that “an animal source” appeared most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some “limited human-to-human transmission” occurred between close contacts.



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A computer artwork of a coronavirus, named after the corona, or crown, of surface proteins (outer dots) that are used to penetrate a host cell. (Science Photo Library: PASIEKA)

Shares in pharmaceutical firms and mask makers in China surged because of the outbreak.

“Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?,” said one commentator on Chinese social media platform Weibo

Many of the initial cases of the coronavirus were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, which has been closed as authorities investigate.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the Government needed to disclose all information and not repeat the mistakes made with SARS.

Chinese officials covered up the SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumours forced them to reveal the epidemic.

“We have made great strides in medicine, social affairs management and public opinion since 2003,” the editorial said.

“Concealment would be a serious blow to the government’s credibility and might trigger greater social panic.”



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A person wearing a white biohazard suit at the hospital treating patients in Wuhan.

ABC/wires

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Xi Jinping heralds ‘new era’ of China-Myanmar relations as he courts isolated Aung San Suu Kyi


China

China and Myanmar have inked dozens of deals to speed up infrastructure projects in the South-East Asian nation, as Beijing seeks to cement its hold over a neighbour increasingly isolated by the West.

Key points:

  • Xi Jinping has declared a “new era” of ties between China and Myanmar
  • Both countries have been accused of genocide against Muslims, with China defending Myanmar on the global stage
  • Chinese investment in the South-East Asian nation remains contentious locally

But no major new projects were agreed during the two-day visit by President Xi Jinping, the first of any Chinese leader in 19 years.

Analysts said Myanmar was generally cautious of investments by Beijing and was also being careful ahead of elections later this year.

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Still, Mr Xi and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi signed 33 agreements shoring up key projects that are part of the flagship Belt and Road Initiative, China’s vision of new trade routes described as a “21st-century silk road”.

They agreed to hasten the implementation of the China Myanmar Economic Corridor, a giant infrastructure scheme worth billions of dollars, with agreements on railways linking south-western China to the Indian Ocean, a deep sea-port in conflict-riven Rakhine state, a special economic zone on the border and a new city project in the commercial capital of Yangon.


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(ABC News)

“While a large number of different agreements have been signed, there is no Big Bang here,” said Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

“The overall impression is that Myanmar is being cautious about Chinese investment, especially ahead of elections planned later in the year.

“China will be hoping that this is an incremental step towards realising its mega-infrastructure goals and that further progress can be locked in over the coming months.”



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Xi Jinping received a warm reception on his two-day state visit to Myanmar.
(AP: Aung Shine Oo)

‘Derailed’ by the West

At a welcoming ceremony, Mr Xi hailed a “new era” of relations between the countries.

“We are drawing a future road map that will bring to life bilateral relations based on brotherly and sisterly closeness in order to overcome hardships together and provide assistance to each other,” Xi said.

Ms Suu Kyi called China “a great country playing an important role in the international affairs and the world economy” but urged for economic projects that avoid environmental degradation and benefit locals.



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Myanmar’s military has been accused of genocide against the Rohingya. (ABC News: Liam Cochrane)

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Mr Xi also met leaders from political parties in ethnic areas riven with civil conflict where Chinese infrastructure projects are underway.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt, joint-secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, one of the ethnic politicians invited to meet Mr Xi, said it was only a handshake.

“Our country is very small and powerless,” he said, “So they treat us that way.”

The two countries have historically had a fraught relationship, but have moved closer since 2017, when Myanmar was internationally condemned for its treatment of minority Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.



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A woman waits for aid in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters: Cathal McNaughton)

More than 730,000 Rohingya were forced to flee western Myanmar after a military crackdown that the United Nations has said was executed with “genocidal intent”.

China has defended the country on the global stage and is viewed as the biggest obstacle to the prosecution of its leaders at an international war crimes tribunal.

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A disappearing island, cyclone season and Rohingya refugees with nowhere else to go. What could go wrong?

Beijing itself has come under fire for its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, deemed by some observers a “cultural genocide”.

An article in Chinese state media ahead of the state visit said Myanmar had been “derailed” by its engagement with the West and only China was willing to “pull Myanmar from the sludge”.

“But after some turbulence, Myanmar realised there were double standards in the approach Western countries had taken on human rights issues and began to turn to China for diplomatic and economic help,” the article in the Global Times said.


Video: Uyghurs dancing in defiance of 'cultural genocide'

(ABC News)

Reuters/ABC

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Phase one of US-China trade deal signed


United States

The United States and China have announced an initial trade deal that will roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of US goods and services, defusing an 18-month conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

Key points:

  • The centrepiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase an additional $US200 billion of US farm products and other goods
  • Mr Trump said China would buy $US40-50 billion in additional US services and $US75 billion more in manufacturing goods
  • The deal fails to address many of the structural differences that led the Trump administration to start the trade war

Beijing and Washington portrayed their “Phase 1” agreement as a momentous step on Wednesday (local time) after months of start-stop talks punctuated by tit-for-tat tariffs that uprooted supply chains and stoked fears of a further slowdown in the global economy.

“Together we are righting the wrongs of the past and delivering a future of economic justice and security for American workers, farmers and families,” US President Donald Trump said as he touted the deal at the White House alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and other officials.

The US-China trade deal is more of a ceasefire
Questions remain as to how Donald Trump’s US-China trade deal will affect the global economy.

The centrepiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase at least an additional $US200 billion ($290 billion) of US farm products and other goods and services over two years, over a baseline of $US186 billion in purchases in 2017.

The deal would include $US50 billion in additional orders for US agricultural products, Mr Trump said, adding he was confident that US farmers would be able to meet the greater demand.

He also said China would buy $US40 billion to $US50 billion in additional US services, $US75 billion more in manufacturing goods, and $US50 billion more of energy supplies.

Officials from both countries have touted the deal as ushering in a new era for US-Sino relations, but it fails to address many of the structural differences that led the Trump administration to start the trade war.

These differences include Beijing’s long-standing practice of propping up state-owned companies, and flooding international markets with low-priced goods.

Trump’s trade wars The US-China trade war has been dominating headlines, but Beijing is not the only trading partner in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs.

Mr Trump, who has embraced an “America First” policy aimed at rebalancing global trade in favour of US companies and workers, said China had pledged action to confront the problem of pirated or counterfeited goods, and that the deal included strong protection of intellectual property rights.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Mr Donald Trump in a letter, read by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the signing of the deal in Washington, that he welcomes the Phase 1 trade deal reached with the US.

Mr Xi also told Mr Trump in the letter that he is willing to stay in close touch with the American leader and that the agreement shows how the two countries can resolve their differences and find solutions based on dialogue.

Meanwhile, Charles Schumer the Senate Minority Leader, slammed the news of the trade deal saying it “does next to nothing of substance for workers feeling the brutal, merciless weight of China’s trade and industrial abuse.”

Mr Schumer added: “I greatly fear that President Xi is laughing at us behind our backs for having given away so little at the expense of American workers, farmers and businesses.”

‘Radical shift in Chinese spending unlikely’

Earlier, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News the agreement would add 0.5 percentage points to US gross domestic product growth in both 2020 and 2021.



Photo:

Officials from both countries have touted the deal as ushering in a new era for US-Sino relations. (AP: Steve Helber)

But some analysts have expressed scepticism it will set US-China trade on a new trajectory.

“I find a radical shift in Chinese spending unlikely. I have low expectations for meeting stated goals,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group in Minneapolis.

“But I do think the whole negotiation has moved the football forward for both the US and China.”

The deal doesn’t end retaliatory tariffs on American farm exports, makes farmers “increasingly reliant” on Chinese state-controlled purchases, and doesn’t address “big structural changes,” Michelle Erickson-Jones, a wheat farmer and spokeswoman for Farmers for Free Trade, said in a statement.

What next in the US-China trade fight?
The US has now declared China is a “currency manipulator” — but what does that mean and what effect will it have on the trade war?

The Phase 1 deal, reached in December, cancelled planned US tariffs on Chinese-made cell-phones, toys and laptop computers and halved the tariff rate to 7.5 per cent on about $US120 billion worth of other Chinese goods, including flat panel televisions, Bluetooth headphones and footwear.

But it will leave in place 25 per cent tariffs on a vast, $US250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by US manufacturers, and China’s retaliatory tariffs on over $US100 billion in US goods.

Market turmoil and reduced investment tied to the trade war cut global growth in 2019 to its lowest rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund said in October.

Tariffs on Chinese imports have cost US companies $US46 billion. Evidence is mounting that tariffs have raised input costs for US manufacturers, eroding their competitiveness.

Mr Trump, who has been touting the Phase 1 deal as a pillar of his 2020 re-election campaign said he would agree to remove the remaining tariffs once the two sides had negotiated a “Phase 2” agreement.

He added that those negotiations would start soon.

He also said he would visit China in the not-too-distant future.

Reuters

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


‘We are basically living naked’: The complicated truth about China’s Social Credit System


China

阅读中文版本

Beijing is amassing a colossal amount of individual and company data as part of its ambitious plans to build a national Social Credit System pegged to be fully operational by 2020.

Key points:

  • A Social Credit System law is expected to be introduced in coming years
  • Localised scoring systems are being trialled by designated ‘demonstration cities’
  • The vastness of China means it could take years for the system to be fully implemented

The data-driven system, which has been widely condemned as “Orwellian” and often compared to a Black Mirror episode, is designed to monitor and engineer better individual and business behaviour by awarding the trustworthy and punishing the disobedient.

But analysts say 2020 is “not a magic date” at which the system will be fully implemented — rather, it’s the end of the initial planning period — and the country could see a new batch of policies come out this year, potentially in a fresh five-year social credit plan.

Corporate Social Credit System
Beijing announces one of the most significant developments in its Social Credit System ahead of a planned nationwide rollout of its controversial behavioural engineering system pegged for 2020.

Since the SCS blueprint was released in 2014, nominated cities and provinces have been trialling their own versions of the system, and millions of discredited individuals have been banned from luxury spending including air travel and boarding fast trains.

And in one of the latest and widest sweeping developments, Beijing announced a national corporate ranking system in September that was said to affect 33 million companies.

But to date, there is no national scoring system for individuals.

While many pieces of the SCS have already fallen into place after a flurry of new developments over the past year, there is still a lack of clarity around how exactly the system will run, which has made room for speculations and misunderstandings.

Why are people concerned about the SCS?



Photo:

The Shenzhen traffic police website publishes the details of jaywalkers. (Supplied: Shenzhen Traffic Police)

Before answering the question, it’s important to understand how the Social Credit System works.

Trivium China, a Beijing-based consulting firm, explained in a recently published report on the topic that the SCS is made up of three interconnected components: A master database, a blacklisting system and a punishment and rewards mechanism.

According to the report, provincial and city governments, state agencies and the central bank have already been funnelling their data into a “master database” called the National Credit Information Sharing Platform (NCISP).

Kendra Schaefer, head of digital research at Trivium China, told the ABC that different agencies had made various levels of progress hooking their datasets into the master database.

China’s social credit system
Beijing is making an ambitious attempt to create a social credit system, in a move designed to value and engineer better individual behaviour.

Ms Schaefer said she expected to see a greater number of agencies “getting more deeply plugged in” in 2020.

“But I’m not sure that all agencies will be completely plugged in and feeding data by the end of [this] year — it seems like a real big lift,” she added.

In recent years government agencies have also developed their own blacklists and red lists (for good behaviour) and have the power to blacklist companies and individuals that fall under their own jurisdiction.

In 2016, dozens of government agencies signed agreements to create a series of national blacklists known as the Joint Punishment System. This means individuals and companies that fail to comply with the law in one regulatory jurisdiction also face restrictions in other aspects of their lives or operations.

Rogier Creemers, a Chinese law researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, noted in a research paper published last year that the principle behind the punishments was “disproportionate sanction”, as summarised in one government paper as: “if trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.”

This means an offender who violates food safety regulations wouldn’t only be blacklisted and punished by the Food and Drug Administration, but other agencies would also take action against that person.

‘Plane bans and spending limits’: How do blacklists work?



Photo:

Local governments are using the system to target different misconducts including jaywalking. (Reuters: Thomas Peter)

In an interview last year, Mr Daum said the blacklist for court judgment defaulters was “most commonly confused with being the entire social credit system”.

He said people were put on the blacklist when they failed to carry out a court-ordered judgement, such as paying a court award.

“It has really wide-reaching consequences, including a plane ban, a ban on riding on the best trains, some that I really don’t care for, like your children can’t go to private schools,” Mr Daum explained.

“These are all called limits on high spending or high consumption.

“In China, the idea is that most of these [court] awards are going to be monetary and you shouldn’t be spending a lot of money if you haven’t paid back this award. Your money should be going to fix that problem.”

China’s ‘Xi Jinping thought’ app
China’s new hottest app on the block is a propaganda resource that teaches “Xi Jinping thought” and requires the Communist Party’s 90 million members to read it daily.

Another controversial feature of the blacklisting system is the naming and shaming of untrustworthy individuals into doing the right thing.

The blacklists are easily searchable on the public-facing part of the NCISP called Credit China. The website displays the full name of discredited individuals and their partially-redacted personal identification numbers.

Maya Wang, a researcher from Human Rights Watch, told CTV News last year that “even if the blacklists are only used to enforce court orders, they can still be used to violate people’s human rights because Chinese courts frequently make arbitrary decisions”.

Li Jinglin, a lawyer at Xinqiao law firm in Beijing, previously told the ABC that pilot social credit systems had also been used to target those who pose threats to the Communist Party’s rule or general “social stability” — dissidents and petitioners, as well as their families.

Will China’s 1.4 billion citizens really be ranked nationally?



Photo:

So far there are no plans for national scores for individuals — or at least none that have been reported. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)

It’s true that the central government keeps social credit records on everyone, but it doesn’t crunch that data into a national score, nor has Beijing announced any plans to do so — yet.

Some “demonstration cities”, however, are piloting their own scoring systems using data from the central social credit database, but the point scales vary from location to location. So far, it’s unclear whether all cities will eventually have a scoring system.

“Central authorities designated certain areas as pilots, encouraging them to innovate within the general framework laid out by national legal documents,” Mr Daum wrote on his China Law Translate website.

“In this relatively controlled range, the local governments can identify successful practices, or problem areas, that might be spread to other areas.”

China’s credit system expands
Irresponsible dog owners and dishonest e-commerce vendors are being punished under dozens of local credit scoring systems being rolled out across China.

In July, the eastern city of Nanjing announced jaywalking will be included in their individual social credit system.

Police said those who were caught jaywalking more than five times a year will be categorised as discredited individuals, reported Chinese state media, which also added that “public governance should prioritise problem-solving at the root cause rather than strict punishment.”

Meanwhile, the south-eastern city of Xiamen has a city-wide scoring system — based on NCISP data — which issues numerical scores on a 0-1000 scale to citizens registered on a social credit app, according to Trivium.

Citizens can view their scores and access perks on the Xiamen Egret Points App, which offers rewards including deposit-free city bike rental and discounts on parking.



Photo:

The Xiamen Egret Points app centres around a citizen’s social credit. (Trivium)

But while a lot of the public and media fixation has been on scoring systems, Mr Daum said they’re largely educational.

He said while Shanghai had a scoring system and users can see their score by logging onto the Honest Shanghai app, not many people know about it because it’s “not meaningful” to them.

Indeed, several Shanghai residents the ABC spoke to said they haven’t heard about the app even though it was launched in 2016.

Zhongping Huang, a Shanghai resident in his 30s, doesnt know anyone who has been punished under the system, but said he acknowledged how it could eventually have a wide impact.

He also told the ABC that there was “no privacy at all” in China because all of the data were “held by the state and can be queried at any time”.

“People attach great importance to privacy and human rights [in the West], while we are basically living naked,” Mr Huang said.

“As a one-party state, we have only paid attention to the appearances of development frameworks, but have ignored and have a lack of respect for a higher demand of human rights and privacy.”

Separate to the local governments’ point systems, last March the People’s Bank of China launched Baihang — the only company licensed in China to provide personal credit scores. Its shareholders primarily consist of China’s online lending giants including Sesame Credit and Tencent Credit.

According to the Financial Times, Baihang was created to cover “the 460 million Chinese who have no formal credit histories but who may be relying on the country’s vast fintech sector for loans” but the coverage has been “patchy” because of a lack of cooperation between Beijing and the major tech giants who are reluctant to handover the control of their customers loan data.

The Times quoted people familiar with the Baihang project as saying Tencent and Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial’s Sesame Credit have refused to pool their credit data with Baihang.

Is it accurate to call the Social Credit System ‘Orwellian’?



Photo:

Some CCTV cameras have facial recognition or infrared capabilities. (Supplied: Dahua Technologies)

The use of big-data collection and analysis combined with increased use of surveillance technology across China has given rise to concerns around eroding privacy and violation of human rights.

Delia Lin, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, told the ABC she believed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambition was to create “a completely transparent society”.

“[It’s known as] transparent social governance … it means that everyone looks naked; all your data is shown, there’s no privacy at all,” she said.

“[The Government] believes that people and companies cannot be trusted, [and] the only way to administer their behaviour is to have this strong surveillance, and very strict rewards and punishment system to put them in place, to monitor their behaviour and to make sure they behave in a way that the government wants them to.”

China’s ‘Muslim tracker’
China is closely monitoring 2.5 million people, exposing millions of records containing sensitive personal information on an unprotected online database.

Samantha Hoffman, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the ABC that while many places collect data for various purposes, the difference was the CCP’s intent.

“Social Credit is one part of a very massive surveillance state,” she said.

“The framing of Social Credit as ‘Orwellian’ I think is fine, because that’s ultimately what it is.

“But it also misses out on the part that social credit is also something that’s meant to solve problems, but it’s meant to solve problems within the framework of the solution ultimately being the party’s maintenance and expansion of power.”

The SCS isn’t only a cause for concern for individuals. In August, the European Chamber of Commerce in China published a report warning European companies operating in China to prepare for the rollout set for 2020.

It said companies’ behaviour will be continually monitored, with scores being adjusted accordingly, and businesses risked serious repercussions like sanctions or even blacklisting if they don’t comply.

“China’s Corporate Social Credit System is the most concerted attempt by any government to impose a self-regulating marketplace, and it could spell life or death for individual companies,” said Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

What else can we expect from Beijing in 2020?

Ms Schaefer said in addition to the next batch of social credit policies, the firm was also expecting the release of a Social Credit System law.

Why do the Chinese seem willing to give up their privacy for security?
The Chinese government’s move to roll out a Social Credit System begs the question of whether citizens are more willing to give up their privacy than in countries like Australia.

“The way we were conceptualising it, this first six-year time span was intended to set the regulatory foundation for Social Credit,” said Ms Schaefer, who also leads Trivium’s Social Credit System Watch project.

“[This] year, the big release that we’re expecting is … a foundational, comprehensive Social Credit law.”

Mr Daum, however, said the national Social Credit law could be years away because it was still being researched and a draft is yet to be released.

But he said four provincial-level governments including Shanghai, Zhejiang, Hebei and Hubei have already released their own regulations and the national law could broadly look similar to Shanghai’s.

Its regulation covered what information can be collected, what is considered untrustworthy behaviour, punishment measures, and what people can do to challenge incorrect information.

Can the Chinese Communist Party really pull it off?



Photo:

Experts say the biggest obstacle the government faced in implementing the social credit system is “corruption”. (AP: Nicolas Asfouri, pool)

The SCS is an ambitious work in progress and the vastness of China means it could take years, if not decades, for the social credit system to be completely implemented.

“I think it’s going to take a long time, because I think it’s bureaucratically challenging — it’s a big population, and getting all that data from all the different levels of government,” Mr Daum told the ABC .

“My guess is if you were to look at some of the lower population countries in Europe … they already have systems where the data is largely centralised and readily available.”

Mr Daum pointed to the Chinese Government itself as another challenge.

“It’s a big government and it’s not a terribly efficient government,” he said.

“It’s going to be very hard to get every policy put in place; especially when the rules for doing it aren’t so clear, who has what authority isn’t so clear, and getting all the county-level governments and the provincial-level governments to get information filed in a timely way is a real challenge.”

China’s bribery culture
Despite Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign, patients continue to slip doctors thousands of dollars in red envelopes.

Ms Schaefer said China’s current technological capabilities had also been overestimated by the West, as some records of offenses were still being submitted manually.

“In the West, we’re imagining people walking onto the subway and a camera automatically detects that you’re breaking a rule and that automatically is hooked into your file,” she said.

“I think that’s [the CCP’s] eventual aim, but right now, it’s a little bit laughable.”



Photo:

The mini app in WeChat marks out “fraudsters” within a 500 metre radius of the user. (Supplied: Naomi Zhou)

Indeed, when the ABC contact the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) — the government agency leading the establishment of the SCS — for a recent SCS story it said all media enquiries needed to be sent by fax.

Ms Hoffman said the biggest obstacle the government faced in implementing the social credit system was “corruption”.

“Part of the goal is to share information and coordinate. If you have corruption and people who are interested in protecting their own interests [over] the parties’, it’s a contest for power within the party that’s the problem,” she said.

According to Trivium, the central government is also using the SCS “to ensure lower levels of government are compliant with national directives, are paying their bills, and are meeting their policy targets”.

Dr Lin said while it was always difficult to predict what will happen in China, she was quite confident that the social credit system will be implemented despite all the obstacles because there wasn’t much resistance from the public.

The ABC contacted the Chinese Foreign Ministry and NDRC, but have not received a response by publication time.

Read the story in Chinese: 阅读中文版本

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Tear gas, water cannons and smashed ATMs mark Hong Kong new year protests


Hong Kong

A march drawing tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on New Year’s Day spiralled into chaotic scenes as police fired several rounds of tear gas and water cannon at crowds including families before halting the event.

Key points:

  • Largely peaceful protests became violent after some protesters smashed ATMs
  • Protesters have directed their ire at global banking group HSBC
  • Human chains formed down roads to help ferry supplies to people on the frontlines

The violence broke out during the largely peaceful march as masses of citizens pressed authorities for further concessions in the Chinese-ruled city.

In the Wanchai bar district, some protesters had spray-painted graffiti and smashed cash machines in an HSBC bank branch when riot police moved in and pepper-sprayed crowds. Tear gas was then fired into the crowds, making some children cry.



Photo:

People walk past fire set by protesters in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (AP: Vincent Yu)

The protesters, some with gas masks and clad in black, regrouped and formed their own lines as police blocked roads to prevent large crowds from completing the march as night fell.

Four Corners: Inside Hong Kong
Like a flash mob, they appear and then dissolve back into the city once their task is complete.

The atmosphere grew tense in several districts on Hong Kong island as hundreds of protesters dug in, forming road blocks, setting fires and throwing a few petrol bombs.

Human chains formed down roads to help ferry supplies to people on the front lines, including umbrellas and bricks.

Protesters have directed their ire at global banking group HSBC, alleging a link between the arrest of four members of a group that raised funds to support the protesters and an earlier closure of an HSBC account linked to the group. HSBC denies any connection.

A bronze lion at the bank’s headquarters was daubed with red paint and scorched by a fire.



Photo:

Protesters react as police fire tear gas during the protest. (AP: Vincent Yu)

A bank spokesman said: “We strongly condemn the acts of vandalism and damage directed at our premises repeatedly in the last few days. We believe these are unjustified.”

‘Hong Kong people are not happy’

Earlier in the day, under grey clouds, citizens young and old, many dressed in black and some masked, carried signs such as “Freedom is not free” before setting off.

“It’s hard to utter ‘Happy New Year’ because Hong Kong people are not happy,” said a man named Tung, who was walking with his two-year-old son, mother and niece.

“Unless the five demands are achieved, and police are held accountable for their brutality, then we can’t have a real happy new year.”

He was referring to the push for concessions from the government, including full democracy, an amnesty for the more than 6,500 people arrested so far, and a powerful, independent investigation into police actions.



Photo:

Police have used rubber bullets and occasional live rounds against protesters in addition to tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons. (Reuters: Tyrone Siu)

Along the route, a number of newly elected pro-democracy district politicians mingled with the crowds on their first day in office, some helping collect donations to assist the movement.

Youths also carried “Hong Kong Independence” flags and chanted that splitting the city from Chinese rule was the “only way out”.



Photo:

Protesters are calling for better governance and democratic reforms in Hong Kong. (Reuters: Navesh Chitrakar)

“The government has already started the oppression before the New Year began … whoever is being oppressed, we will stand with them,” said Jimmy Sham, one of the leaders of the Civil Human Rights Front that organised the march.

Hong Kong’s countdown to 2047 Hong Kong was handed back to China with no framework for what would happen after the year 2047, leaving the city to carve an identity out of two ideologically opposed empires.

The organisers also condemned the police decision to cancel the rally.

Thousands of Hong Kong revellers had earlier welcomed in 2020 on neon-lit promenades along Victoria Harbour, chanting the movement’s signature slogan — “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our Time” — for the final seconds before clocks struck midnight.

China’s President Xi Jinping said in a New Year’s speech that Beijing will “resolutely safeguard the prosperity and stability” of Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework.

Many people in Hong Kong are angered by Beijing’s tight grip on the city, which was promised a high degree of autonomy under this framework when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.



Photo:

A protester shows five demands gesture as Hong Kong people participate in the New Year’s Day demonstrations. (AP: Vincent Yu)

Beijing denies interference and blames the West for fomenting the unrest.

A group of 40 parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries had written an open letter to Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on New Year’s Eve, urging her to “seek genuine ways forward out of this crisis by addressing the grievances of Hong Kong people”.



Photo:

Tens of thousands flooded the streets to make their demands heard. (Reuters: Navesh Chitrakar)

The protest movement is supported by 59 per cent of the city’s residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.

Demonstrations have grown increasingly violent in recent months, at times paralysing the Asian financial centre.

Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and rocks, while police have responded with tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds. There have been several injuries.

Reuters

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Hong Kong rings in 2020 with democracy chants instead of harbour fireworks


Hong Kong

Thousands of Hong Kong revellers have welcomed in 2020 on neon-lit promenades along the picturesque Victoria Harbour, breaking into pro-democracy chants as the clocks struck midnight after more than half a year of unrest.

Key points:

  • Authorities cancelled new year fireworks over security concerns
  • Protesters urged people not to give up the fight for democracy in 2020
  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam called for a “new resolution” to start 2020

Protesters briefly blocked Nathan Road — a key artery leading through Kowloon to the harbour — after forming human chains across the Chinese-ruled city and marching through shopping malls, urging people not to give up the fight for democracy in 2020.

The protesters fled when police came to clear the road of umbrellas, street furniture and debris and a three-metre-tall skeleton of a metal Christmas tree. Several arrests were made.

Authorities had cancelled the popular new year fireworks for the first time in a decade, citing security concerns.

A Symphony of Lights took place instead, involving projections on the city’s tallest skyscrapers after the countdown to midnight.



Photo:

Riot police officers detain an anti-Government protester during a demonstration on New Year’s Eve outside Mong Kok police station. (Reuters: Tyrone Siu)

There were small-scale pyrotechnics on waterfront rooftops, but the grandiose fireworks launched from vessels in the centre of the harbour, broadcast around the world every year, were absent.

The carnival atmosphere on the harbour was interrupted as parts of the crowd of thousands watching the show began chanting protest slogans, such as “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” and “Five demands, not one less.”

The latter refers to the goals of the anti-Government movement, which include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.

The protesters are angry at what they see as creeping Beijing influence in the city, which was guaranteed wide-ranging autonomy when it returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing denies interference and blames the West for fomenting the unrest.

“I hope people can continue fighting in 2020,” 28-year-old engineer Eric Wong said.

“We should not forget the people in jail who could not count down to the new year with us.”

New year, new conflict

On Nathan Road, protesters in a chain stretching for several kilometres raised lit-up smartphones as passing cars and buses honked in support and tourists in party hats and 2020-shaped glasses took pictures.

Many protesters held up cards reading “Let’s keep fighting together in 2020”.

The chain later spilled over on to the road, and some protesters built barricades and hid behind umbrellas until police chased them away.

A water cannon truck, flanked by an armoured jeep, patrolled the road at midnight.



Photo:

Protesters demonstrate at Tsim Sha Tsui. (Reuters: Navesh Chitrakar)

“This year there are no fireworks, but there will probably be tear gas somewhere,” said 25-year-old IT worker Sam.

“For us it’s not really New Year’s Eve. We have to resist every day,” he said.

Dozens of people had earlier laid flowers at the Prince Edward metro station, scene of some of the most violent clashes with the police this summer.

The protests began in June in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

Carrie Lam calls for new beginnings in 2020

In a New Year’s Eve video message, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the unrest had caused sadness, anxiety, disappointment and rage.

“Let’s start 2020 with a new resolution, to restore order and harmony in society. So we can begin again, together,” Ms Lam said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping extended his best wishes to Hong Kong residents in a speech carried by state television.

Hong Kong’s countdown to 2047 Hong Kong was handed back to China with no framework for what would happen after the year 2047, leaving the city to carve an identity out of two ideologically opposed empires.

“Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can there be a home where people can live and work happily?” he said.

“We sincerely hope for the best for Hong Kong and Hong Kong compatriots.”

Police, who reject allegations of brutality and say they have shown restraint, have arrested nearly 6,500 people since the protests began escalating in what is the worst political crisis faced by the city in decades.

Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and rocks, with police responding with tear gas, water cannon, pepper spray, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds.

On January 1, tens of thousands of people are expected to join a pro-democracy march, starting from a park downtown and ending in the heart of the central financial district.

The previous march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front drew an estimated 800,000 people in early December.

Reuters/AP

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Trade deal between US and China could be signed next week


China

The Christmas rally on Wall Street has fizzled out despite the US and China edging closer to the formal signing of an initial trade deal as soon as next week.

Key points:

  • Protection of intellectual property, forced technology transfers and currency manipulation are at the heart of the deal
  • But the agreement is still being checked over “so both versions match”
  • The confirmation of the trade pact’s signing will come from Mr Trump, a White House aide said

The South China Morning Post reported that Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will arrive in Washington this week to sign the trade agreement.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said a trade pact was likely to be signed next week.

But he said confirmation would come from US President Donald Trump.

Mr Navarro said the 86-page agreement was still being translated and included clauses on protection of intellectual property, forced technology transfers and currency manipulation.

“Basically you need to get it translated into the Chinese and double checked so both versions match,” he told Fox News.

These are key issues for the US, which led Mr Trump to impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports and which saw Beijing retaliate.



Photo:

Mr Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese imports, prompting retaliation from Beijing. (Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)

In economic news, the US trade deficit narrowed to the lowest since 2016 in November.

The gap between imports and exports dropped by $US3.6 billion to $US63.2 billion.

Imports fell but exports rose.

US stocks fell from record highs on the second last trading day of the year.

The Dow Jones index lost 0.6 per cent, or 183 points, to 28,462.

Trump’s trade wars The US-China trade war has been dominating headlines, but Beijing is not the only trading partner in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.6 per cent as well, to 3,221.

And the Nasdaq fell below 9,000 and lost 0.7 per cent

In London, the FTSE 100 index fell 0.76 per cent to 7,587 as investors took profits.

Spot gold is higher at nearly $US1,515 an ounce as global economic concerns continued.

Brent crude rose to $US68.40 a barrel, boosted by optimism over a US-China trade deal.

The ASX SPI 200 index is down nearly 1 per cent to 6,677, which indicates a fall on the share market today.

And the Australian dollar has gained 0.3 per cent to nearly $0.70 on a lower greenback.



Photo:

The Christmas rally on Wall Street fizzled out as 2019 drew to a close. (Reuters: Brendan McDermid)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Dove Cameron – Slow Burn Lyrics


Play this song

[Verse 1]
Born in a hurry, always late
Haven’t been early since ’88
Texas is hot, I can be cold
Grandma cried when I pierced my nose
Good in a glass, good on green
Good when you’re putting your hands all over me

[Chorus]
I’m alright with a slow burn
Taking my time, let the world turn
I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright
If we burn it down and it takes all night
It’s a slow burn, yeah

[Verse 2]
In Tennessee, the sun’s goin’ down
But in Beijing, they’re heading out to work
You know the bar down the street don’t close for an hour
We should take a walk and look at all the flowers

[Chorus]
‘Cause I’m alright with a slow burn
Taking my time, let the world turn
I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright
If we burn it down and it takes all night
It’s a slow burn

[Bridge]
Whatever feels good

[Outro]
Old soul, waiting my turn
I know a few things, but I still got a lot to learn
So I’m alright with a slow burn, slow burn, slow burn
I’m alright with a slow burn


Future – Promise U That Lyrics


[Intro: Future & Lil Juice]
It ain’t no talk on this
You a bad lil’ bitch, don’t worry, ah
Yeah-yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah
(Tay Keith, fuck these niggas up)
Yeah

[Pre-Chorus: Future]
Cartier diamonds, my mascot
Tell your main nigga he your ex now
Finna push up, bring your ass out
Where you come from? Where you from now?
I keep a bad thing on me, yeah, yeah
Dreads on me like Beijing, yeah, yeah
After this, right back to him, like an accident
Yeah, yeah, yeah

[Chorus: Future]
Came in a car, you gon’ leave in a jet, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Came by myself, I’ma leave with your friends, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Came in a car, and you gon’ leave in a jet, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Never met no nigga richer than me, I can promise you that (Hell yeah)

[Verse 1: Future]
I know you don’t want no scrub, no-no-no, no-no-no
Baby, this thuggin’ love, no-no, yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Came up in the club, aw, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Tryna make some love, yah-yah, yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Ass like your mommy, know you won’t try me
Hop on the trolley just to see me
Came with nobody, leave with nobody
Reason you came, just to see me
Backstage pass with your ass out
You got no shame how you came out
Baby, I promise, I’ll respect game
Only thing that I can say is…

[Pre-Chorus: Future]
Cartier diamonds, my mascot
Tell your main nigga he your ex now
Finna push up, bring your ass out
Where you come from? Where you from now?
I keep a bad thing on me, yeah, yeah
Dreads on me like Beijing, yeah, yeah
After this, right back to him, like an accident
Yeah, yeah, yeah

[Chorus: Future]
Came in a car, you gon’ leave in a jet, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Came by myself, I’ma leave with your friends, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Came in a car, and you gon’ leave in a jet, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Never met no nigga richer than me, I can promise you that (Hell yeah)

[Post-Chorus: Future & Lil Juice]
Came in a dress, you gon’ leave in a mink, I can promise you that
(Promise you that, promise you that, promise you that)
Came in a dress, you gon’ leave in a mink, I can promise you that
(Tay Keith, fuck these niggas up)

[Verse 2: Future]
Permanent issues got me thinkin’ outside the box
They was sayin’ I was cocky, I don’t feel like I’m cocky enough
Yeah, he fuck you and I fuck you, I don’t wanna get caught carin’ too much
I can’t expect you to change when you did it for fame, yeah
I’m thinkin’ tropical, beaches and leeches, I’m thinkin’ private, oh
From the car to the jet, from the jet to the beach, got a million-some dollars on me
Got a milli’ on me with a Richard Mille on me, I’m the bigger homie
I don’t get no sleep, I made love on these corners

[Pre-Chorus: Future]
Cartier diamonds, my mascot
Tell your main nigga he your ex now
Finna push up, bring your ass out
Where you come from? Where you from now?
I keep a bad thing on me, yeah, yeah
Dreads on me like Beijing, yeah, yeah
After this, right back to him, like an accident
Yeah, yeah, yeah

[Chorus: Future]
Came in a car, you gon’ leave in a jet, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Came by myself, I’ma leave with your friends, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Came in a car, and you gon’ leave in a jet, I can promise you that (Yeah, yeah)
Never met no nigga richer than me, I can promise you that (Hell yeah)

[Post-Chorus: Future]
Never met no nigga flyer than me, I can promise you that (Promise you that)
Promise you that, promise you that, promise you that
Never met no nigga talkin’ to you when he fuck you like that

[Outro: Future]
I always wonder if she loyal (I always wonder)
I hope we on the same accord (Woo)
Let me fix all my rings
Let’s converse off codeine (Yeah)


Kacey Musgraves – Slow Burn


[Verse 1]
Born in a hurry, always late
Haven’t been early since ’88
Texas is hot, I can be cold
Grandma cried when I pierced my nose
Good in a glass, good on green
Good when you’re putting your hands all over me

[Chorus]
I’m alright with a slow burn
Taking my time, let the world turn
I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright
If we burn it down and it takes all night
It’s a slow burn, yeah

[Verse 2]
In Tennessee, the sun’s goin’ down
But in Beijing, they’re heading out to work
You know the bar down the street don’t close for an hour
We should take a walk and look at all the flowers

[Chorus]
‘Cause I’m alright with a slow burn
Taking my time, let the world turn
I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright
If we burn it down and it takes all night
It’s a slow burn

[Bridge]
Whatever feels good

[Outro]
Old soul, waiting my turn
I know a few things, but I still got a lot to learn
So I’m alright with a slow burn, slow burn, slow burn
I’m alright with a slow burn


DJ Premier – Our Streets (feat. A$AP Ferg)


[Chorus: DJ Premier & A$AP Ferg]
Ferg, Ferg
Check it, check it, check it
Pull up, pull up, pull up
Yo what up, neph’, neph’?
(See this is Harlem, these our streets)
Turn the music back up
A$AP
Let’s go

[Verse 1: A$AP Ferg]
I got with Primo, I’m just pressin’ the cheat code
We on a new level with the C-notes
I’m from where kids hustled on the block and rolled cee-lo
And niggas stay strapped like Girbauds
T-Nice with me week to week though
Life was different when they got him for that R.I.C.O
For a couple kilos
Coulda had ’em underground, he was livin’ life illegal
Now he gettin’ right and our pockets lookin’ chicho
Sippin’ cappuccino on a jet to Cannes
Couple models gettin’ lit, they the best in France
Got Leonardo dough, catch me if you can
We had to kill Beijing and next Japan, man
This beat hot, I could catch a tan
My demographic in L.A. all Mexican
I love my supporters, they keep the check in hand
So every time I get a chance, I’ma bless the fam
What up, what up?

[Chorus: DJ Premier & A$AP Ferg]
Check it, check it, check it
Pull up, pull up, pull up
Yo what up, neph’, neph’?
(See this is Harlem, these our streets)
Turn the music back up
A$AP
Check it, check it, check it
Pull up, pull up, pull up
Yo what up, neph’, neph’?
(See this is Harlem, these our streets)
Turn the music back up
A$AP

[Verse 2: A$AP Ferg]
Done created a dream world, slept with my dream girl
Brought mama that new house, diamonds and mean pearls
Done went to Africa, talked to the have-nots
Donated some uniforms, teach ’em how to have guap
Primo put the soul in it, I make the track hot
And this thing forever, got the game in a padlock
I just want somethin’ real, I’m tired of the ass shots
Don’t wanna go to the club, I’m tired of them trap spots
My generation’s stuck on stupid
Showin’ guns on the ‘Gram, but no one use it
Sometimes I feel like I’m about to lose it
Because the fake win when y’all know what the truth is
It’s me, the F-E-R to the fuckin’ G
My bars is Gang Starr, nobody can fuck with me
Rest in peace Guru, nobody can fuck with he
You rappers is coocoo, better wake up out your fuckin’ dream

[Chorus: DJ Premier & A$AP Ferg]
Check it, check it, check it
Pull up, pull up, pull up
Yo what up, neph’, neph’?
(See this is Harlem, these our streets)
Turn the music back up
A$AP
Check it, check it, check it
Pull up, pull up, pull up
Yo what up, neph’, neph’?
(See this is Harlem, these our streets)
Turn the music back up
A$AP

[Outro: A$AP Ferg]
A$AP
A$AP
A$AP


YOUNG THUG – Cruise Ship lyrics


[Intro]
BL$$D
Yeah, yeah
Future, baby, Thugger Thugger
Ayo Chef
Pockets
Everything I got came from a lick
Ice on all my watches, on a ship
Underneath the turf’s the worst it’s gon’ get (it’s gon’ get)
Whipped up water on my wrist, think I’m a fish

[Chorus]
Play dip and dab out the bag (dab out the bag)
I got cribs, all know that (I got cribs, all know that)
You want problems for somethin’ (you want problems for somethin’)
Need to get you some racks (need to get you some racks)
She gon’ bring it to daddy (she gon’ bring it to daddy)
Eat the cake out her panties (eat the cake out her panties)
I was cool as a cat (I was cool as a cat)
Stay all facts
If I wouldn’t have rapped, I’d still be rich (still rich)
Three million dollar house, came from evictions (hood rich)
Out here on a jet and a cruise ship (cruise ship)
Last night I stole a yacht to cruise in it (cruise in it)
If I wouldn’t have rapped, I’d still be rich (hood rich)
If I ain’t have this sh*t, I’d still be lit (hood rich)
If I f*ck these hoes, then I’m trippin’ (I’m trippin’)
I can’t f*ck these hoes, they might try to pull the trigger
Ain’t no slippin’ (let’s go)

[Verse]
The coupe is outside and I’m styled in the best
I see you killin’ these niggas ’cause you’re doin’ it the best
Solitaries ain’t nothing to me
Coughin’ these like I got lukemi’
Forreal, la familia, I go gorilla, I’m part of the Bape team
Fuck you thought? Supreme on the quilt, hang low, it’s a drag queen
I’m in a bronze Benz, I think it’s the wagon
Ever since mom’s titty, bitch I was flaggin’
She got some water on, she my Cancun ting (she my Cancun ting)
I got some black diamonds, my wrist is on Beijing (my wrist is on Beijing)
I’m tellin’ all of my hoes give their orders to the maid (hold on, turn up)
I got 20 bitches with me and they ain’t showin’ shade
I got 20 closets, I could dress accordin’ to the wave
I’m with 20 models but I dress accordin’ to the babe
I’m goin’ all in by my bro and my paper
Ain’t got no f*ckin’ neighbors, ain’t got no neighbors
Yeah
No neighbors, oh

[Chorus]
Play dip and dab out the bag (dab out the bag)
I got cribs, all know that (I got cribs, all know that)
You want problems for somethin’ (you want problems for somethin’)
Need to get you some racks (need to get you some racks)
She gon’ bring it to daddy (she gon’ bring it to daddy)
Eat the cake out her panties (eat the cake out her panties)
I was cool as a cat (I was cool as a cat)
Stay all facts
If I wouldn’t have rapped, I’d still be rich (still rich)
Three million dollar house, came from evictions (hood rich)
Out here on a jet and a cruise ship (cruise ship)
Last night I stole a yacht to cruise in it (cruise in it)
If I wouldn’t have rapped, I’d still be rich (hood rich)
If I ain’t have this sh*t, I’d still be lit (hood rich)
If I f*ck these hoes, then I’m trippin’ (I’m trippin’)
I can’t f*ck these hoes, they might try to pull the trigger
Ain’t no slippin’ (let’s go)