China Detains Two For Social Media Comments About COVID-19

The ruling Chinese Communist Party is aiming for total control of a one-way flow of information, observers say.

China Detains Two For Social Media Comments About COVID-19

Authorities in China are cracking down on information relating to the coronavirus, as a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases hits the southern province of Guangdong.

China reported 21 new coronavirus disease infections on June 9, compared with 16 patients on the previous day, the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Six of the newly confirmed cases were local transmissions in Guangdong. The provincial capital Guangzhou has reported 115 local infections in the recent outbreak that started May 21, state media reported.

Authorities in Guangzhou started mass testing local residents, with nearly 28 million nucleic acid samples taken since the operation started on May 26, health officials told reporters on June 8.

But there is considerable public skepticism over whether the government is under-reporting the outbreak.

A resident of the central city of Wuhan surnamed Guo said he found the numbers in Guangdong suspicious.

"It is said that there are 170,000 medical staff in Guangzhou, which should be enough to treat these patients," Guo said. "Why then are 6,500 medical staff being transferred into Guangzhou from other places to support [local hospitals]?"

He said it was unlikely that anyone within the healthcare system would speak out about the true situation on the ground, however.

"They will get detained even if they just say a few words," Wu said. "They won't let ordinary people say anything."

'Inappropriate comments'

The Shantou Daily newspaper reported that two men were held recently under administrative detention for "rumor-mongering" about the pandemic.

"Chaonan police investigated and dealt with two rumors involving the pandemic, and the two men involved were administratively detained by the public security bureau in accordance with the law," the paper reported.

One of them, surnamed Zhuang, was detained on June 1 for making "inappropriate comments" on the social media platform WeChat, and held for five days for "spreading rumors and disrupting public order," it said.

Another WeChat user surnamed Zhou was detained on June 5 for saying he had tested positive for COVID-19 and sentenced to 10 days' administrative detention, the paper reported.

A Beijing resident surnamed Liu told RFA: "You're not allowed to tell the truth in this pandemic. If you do, and someone retweets it online, you're finished."

"This goes to show how afraid the government is of the truth; it's very strict now."

Legal scholar Li Lin said the authorities are clearly exercising greater and greater control over public speech.

"It's becoming more and more obvious, this tendency towards a higher degree of control," Li told RFA. "They want the [ruling Chinese Communist] Party [CCP] to control everything."

"Information is only allowed to flow in one direction, to the people, and they have to just receive notice of arrangements passively," Li said. "Nobody is allowed to discuss anything or release any information."

"This means that there is no way for the public to participate in public affairs, and [the CCP] actually controls everything," he said.

Reported by Qiao Long and Gigi Lee for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Avoiding pitfalls in the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Author: Shada Islam, College of Europe Implementing Europe’s strategy for a stronger ‘strategic focus, presence and action’ in the Indo-Pacific will be difficult. EU policymakers face the herculean task of identifying core areas where the bloc can make a difference in the region while avoiding those where EU engagement would do more harm than good. […] The post Avoiding pitfalls in the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy first appeared on East Asia Forum.

Avoiding pitfalls in the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Author: Shada Islam, College of Europe

Implementing Europe’s strategy for a stronger ‘strategic focus, presence and action’ in the Indo-Pacific will be difficult. EU policymakers face the herculean task of identifying core areas where the bloc can make a difference in the region while avoiding those where EU engagement would do more harm than good.

Germany, France and the Netherlands already have their own national Indo-Pacific strategies. As does the United Kingdom, now outside the European Union. Policymakers in Brussels hope that a collective EU strategy can augment national ones, and help the bloc strengthen its profile in the Indo-Pacific amid changing global power balances. The European Union is not content to watch great power politics from the sidelines.

Fleshing out the details of a more wholistic EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific will be difficult. Reconciling conflicting interests and ensuring coordination among EU member states to implement it will be even more challenging. A key issue will be finding a balance between the EU’s interest in expanding its economic presence in the region and its desire to support global democracy and human rights. In the interest of both Europe and Asia, EU engagement must avoid certain strategic pitfalls.

First, although neither China nor the United States are mentioned explicitly in the EU document, rivalry between the two countries looms large over the bloc’s approach to the Indo-Pacific. The headline goals of the new EU strategy, agreed by ministers on 19 April, highlight the ‘intense geopolitical competition’ underway in the region between the United States and China.

The European Union needs to recognise that to make a difference in the Indo-Pacific, it must work to lower the temperature, not add to it. The European Union can do so by encouraging a broader, more inclusive and nuanced conversation in the region that is not dominated by hard security ideas. This means continuing to resist pressure to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or to emulate its hard security stance and implicit anti-China bias.

The European Union, with its significant market and regulatory power, should focus on trade and investments, climate change, sustainable development goals and building digital connectivity networks.

Second, with its existing network of trade and investment agreements, the European Union should engage with existing efforts at economic integration in the Asia Pacific. This would mean, for instance, joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership signed in November 2020 or exploring entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The bloc should seriously reflect on negotiating an EU–ASEAN free trade agreement, however daunting it may appear.

Third, while US–China rivalry grabs headlines, it would be a mistake to simplify or neglect the region’s other complex realities. The EU’s hopes of promoting values will also have to take account of the rising nationalism and populism in the region, with democracies coming under threat.

Fourth, the European Union should resist the temptation to over-romanticise its friends and over-vilify its competitors. Building a special relationship with India following the recent EU–India virtual summit or the new strategic partnership signed with ASEAN does not mean being blind to their weaknesses in dealing with serious governance challenges. While the EU’s embrace of India makes geopolitical sense to European policymakers looking to counterbalance China’s influence, the new strategy must not make the mistake of neglecting the opportunity to deepen Europe’s engagement with other South Asian countries.

Fifth, the European Union should resist the pressure to fall in line with the US framing of China as an ‘existential threat’. EU attitudes towards China are hardening following recent tit-for-tat sanctions over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang which have endangered the ratification of the EU–⁠China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment signed last year.

Still, China is vitally important for the European Union’s economic recovery and global climate change mitigation ambitions. While Washington foresees an uneasy relationship with China shaped by either ‘cooperative rivalry’, ‘managed competition’ or ‘competitive co-existence’, the focus in Brussels remains on dealing with China as a partner, competitor and systemic rival. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have warned against forming a united front against Beijing.

Sixth, the European Union can contribute to ongoing regulatory work in the region. Its connectivity blueprint could be an important contribution to the Indo-Pacific by providing norms and standards for infrastructure and digital projects. Brussels and Tokyo, which is pushing the idea of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, have already signed a connectivity partnership which they hope will provide an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. A similar connectivity agreement was reached with India. If well implemented, the bloc could use its considerable regulatory power — the so-called Brussels effect — to provide a blueprint for cooperative, sustainable ‘Blue Economy’ endeavours in the Indo-Pacific.

Competition for influence in the region is likely to get tougher. The US–China rivalry is intensifying, the United Kingdom is showing off its naval power and France is reasserting its status as a resident Indo-Pacific power. To stand out, the European Union must play to its strength as an economic power, not get caught up in unending US–China competition.

Shada Islam is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Natolin, and a Solvay Fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The post Avoiding pitfalls in the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy first appeared on East Asia Forum.
Source : East Asia Forum More   

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