Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Security increases in Beijing after terror attacks

Beijing has become a city in lock-down with increased security checks, and armed police and army patrols posted at stations and key locations. The heightened security comes in the wake of several terror attacks in the restive Xinjiang as well as the south-western Yunnan province and the capital itself. It also comes in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

Security checks

Travelling on Beijing's subway has always been fraught with problems of overcrowding, but this week's security checks have done little to alleviate the pain for millions of commuters who travel on the Beijing metro every day.

In a country long concerned about domestic insurrection and political protests, as well as local disputes, travellers on public transport have long been used to using airport style X-ray machines.

However, such checks could be avoided if travelling light. Indeed if guns, knives or other dangerous items were carried in pockets of a coat, a commuter could easily pass officers directing those with bags to the X-ray machine.

This week no-one can avoid the checks, bag or no bag. At stations all over the capital passengers now find themselves penned in, herded along narrow corridors towards security gates.

Commuters reaching the end of the line then subjected to body checks as well as the usual bag screenings. At stations in the city's north, subway staff said passengers had to wait between 20-30 minutes to get through the security line, up from about 10-15 minutes prior to the new screening requirements.

Whilst some commuters saw the need for the increased security, others were dismissive and said the checks were merely for show since not all stations were implementing the same stringent measures. According to the South China Morning Post only nine stations were affected by the new security [WSJ / SCMP / RT / Time / Shanghaiist / Sky News].

Terror response

The heightened security is a clear sign the authorities are not going to slacken their response to the recent attacks. In fact there are reports that orders have been issued allowing SWAT teams to shoot terrorists on sight, though it is unclear what constitutes a terrorist.

Such orders could result in serious mistakes as was seen in London in 2005 when a man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was mistakenly shot by armed police [tvnewswatch: Catalogue of errors in de Menezes shooting Aug 2005].

Following that incident the IPPC blasted the Metropolitan police commissioner [tvnewswatch: IPPC report blasts Asst commissioner Aug 2007] and there were long running inquiries. However an inquest brought only an open verdict [tvnewswatch: Open verdict in de Menezes inquest Dec 2008]. Meanwhile a corporate criminal prosecution of the Metropolitan Police, brought under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, alleging that the police service had failed in its duty of care to Menezes, resulted in a guilty verdict and fine [Wikipedia].

Tiananmen anniversary

The likelihood of similar inquiries and prosecutions in a country such as China is remote. Indeed as the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre approaches, there is still no official acknowledgement of the death toll, estimated as high as 3,000 civilians.

In the run up to the anniversary activists have been locked up. "The response by the Chinese authorities to the 25th anniversary has been harsher than in previous years, as they persist with trying to wipe the events of 4 June from memory," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Some individuals are still serving long prison sentences whilst others remain in hiding [Telegraph].

Those attempting to rekindle the past find the strong arm of the law on their shoulder. Even seemingly harmless gestures, like posting a selfie in Tiananmen Square while flashing a V for victory, have led to detentions according to the New York Times. Meanwhile the police have been warning Western journalists to stay away from the square in the coming days or "face grave consequences".

Voices cannot be silenced beyond China's borders, nor even in Hong Kong which is run under different rules. On the 4th of June many dissidents and some of those who escaped China at the time of the Tiananmen protests will gather at events in the US, Taiwan and Hong Kong [Bloomberg].

Mothers who lost sons and daughters in the protests also try to keep the memory of the massacre alive [NDTV]. But they, like anyone challenging Beijing's grip on power, face a formidable enemy.

Beijing too faces difficult challenges. In an attempt to keep the peace, prevent dissent and further terror attacks, China's authorities run the risk of stirring up the hornet's nest even more.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, May 26, 2014

Voter apathy helps UKIP success

With UKIP [United Kingdom Independence Party] having secured the most number of the seats for Britain in the European election the other main parties are reeling and re-examining their strategy with only a year to go before the general election.

But while UKIP's leader revelled in his party's achievement, the result was not as much a success as many are claiming.

Voter apathy

Both in Britain and across Europe voter turnout was low. In some European countries the percentage was as low as 13%. Britain saw a slight increase on the 2009 European election, but turnout was considerably smaller than seen at general elections.

In fact with only 36% of the electorate turning out to polling stations across the country, UKIP's 29% share amounts to only 11% of the entire country's electorate. Indeed while Nigel Farage insists that the majority of Britain is fed up with Europe, immigration and the other three major parties, his party's real share of votes was hardly a mandate from the British people.

Scare tactics

There has been much criticism from both the three major parties, and those opposed to UKIP, that there has been far too much media coverage for a party that does not have one MP in the British parliament. There has also been some controversy over the negative stories surrounding some of UKIP's candidates was counterproductive.

The party has been labelled racist and Farage himself has been likened to Hitler. Meanwhile the popular press have fallen into UKIP's hands, printing sensationalist and overblown stories concerning immigration, non-English speaking migrants and benefit claims.

These issues are certainly something that should be tackled. Even with open borders there has to be a measure of how benefits are paid out, how foreign criminals are dealt with and how Britain is affected by EU laws.

Counter arguments

One party which lost out considerably was the Liberal Democrats. The party was in disarray after it only managed to hold on to only one of its 12 MEPs.

The party had maintained that the only way to tackle the issues Britain was facing, whilst being a part of the European Union, was to hold a strong voice in Europe and to fight Britain's corner. The most pro-European party of the main three lost out however, either through apathy of voters or a failure to convince the electorate of the importance of maintaining a strong presence in the European parliament.

Speaking the day after the results were announced, party leader Nick Clegg said the Liberal Democrats should not backtrack on what the party stands for. "We should not lose our nerve," Clegg told the BBC. "We need to explain our case more forcefully," he insisted.

In answer to a question as to whether he might step down as the leader he said the idea had not crossed his mind. In fact he was resolute, saying instead that the party needed to be "resilient and united." [BBC]

Other losers

The Labour party finished in second place, in terms of total votes, but its vote share was up by nearly 10% on 2009. The result was hailed by Ed Miliband as a success  and showed the party was "making progress".

However he conceded Labour has "further to go" in order to achieve a win at next year's general election. There was "deep discontent" in the UK and Labour must show it can "answer the call for change" Miliband said.

However as regards a referendum on Europe, Miliband said the party would not be changing its position. Labour has said it will only hold a public vote if there are any plans for further powers to be transferred from the UK to the EU and opposes the Conservatives' pledge to hold an in-out referendum in 2017 [BBC].

The Conservatives lost out mainly to UKIP with areas once Tory strongholds turning from blue to purple. UKIP gained 23 MEPs, with the Tories having 19, behind Labour which has 20. The Conservative share of the vote was 23.9%, behind Labour on 25.4% and UKIP on 27.5%.

Nonetheless, David Cameron insisted that his party could still win the next election .  

Forward to 2015

While UKIP are no doubt looking to repeat their success in next years general election they will have an uphill battle. After many years and a concentrated effort on only a few seats the Green Party have still only managed to secure one seat in parliament.

The first-past-the-post system will play more into the hands of Labour and the Conservatives than it will Farage's party.

Voter turnout is much higher in general elections than both European and council elections. Furthermore, as many political commentators have said, the electorate often use local and European elections to vent anger, returning to their fold for the national vote.


UKIP's success certainly shows disillusionment with Europe, but so too does the low turnout. And while the political barrel needed a shake, UKIP's taking of so many seats in the parliament will actually do nothing to the status quo. The European project will carry on regardless given most of the MEPs remain pro-European.

Indeed, UKIP's positions may damage Britain's standing in Europe especially if they don't fight for Britain's corner within Europe. The danger is that UKIP MEPs may merely squander their time in the European Parliament offering up anti-European speeches rather than taking part in proper debate and  ensuring policies are made that are in the best interests of Britain as well as Europe as a whole.

There is also an irony that UKIPs 23 MEPs will now join the gravy train they so much despise, lining their pockets with taxpayers money whilst criticising the driver, crew and the fact there is even a train upon which they are riding.

Meanwhile, those parties which once fought for Britain's position will be less effective, given they are now much fewer in number.

As regards voter apathy there is the suggestion that compulsory voting be implemented. Of course this would not necessarily improve things. Even in countries where such policies exist there are still those who abstain. By itself such laws are meaningless if people are ill informed.

There needs to be a greater understanding about Europe and its workings, how it benefits its member states and how things might be improved. The debate needs to be more reasoned rather than the sensationalist tabloid headlines seen in recent months.

The same is true of council elections. There needs to be more transparency, even perhaps to the degree of all council meetings being televised perhaps through the Internet. Only when people are properly informed can they make informed decisions.

Winston Churchill once said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried from time to time.." In order to preserve that democracy the people need to participate. By not becoming educated in the issues there is the danger of the electorate become disillusioned and apathetic.

Churchill is also supposed to have said that "The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." After the recent local and European elections such thoughts might be conjured up in the minds of many.

Results: UK / EU wide 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Terror attack leaves 31 dead in Xinjiang, China

At least 31 have been killed and more than 90 injured in a terrorist attack in Urumqi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang province in China. The attack is the latest in a string of attacks believed to have been perpetrated by Uighur separatists, a mainly Muslim group many of whom seek independence.

News downplayed

The attackers reportedly crashed two cars into shoppers at a market in the centre of the city and threw explosives from their vehicles. Photographs posted to Chinese social networks showed bodies strewn in the streets and flames leaping into the sky from the area near to the incident.

The Ministry of Public Security called it a "violent terrorist incident", though information about incidents in the region, where ethnic tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese continue, is tightly controlled. The news was largely downplayed in Chinese media and eyewitness accounts and pictures posted on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, were deleted by censors.

Reports were also scant on Western media too. Whilst Sky News, the BBC and CNN all carried reports, most were brief. Foreign reporters are mostly banned from the region making it difficult to gather information about incidents except through official sources and social media.


According to Xinhua the attackers struck at 07:50 local time, Thursday, at an open air market at Park North Street near Renmin Park. In response to the attack, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability, the news agency said.
However as reported earlier this month, China will have a difficult time in stemming what appears to be a growing terrorist insurgency. Whilst security controls are tight, in what is essentially a police state, the country is vast, making it easy for terrorists to hide amongst the general population. Speaking on Al Jazeera, Roderic Wye, an Associate Fellow with the Asia Programme at Chatham House, said the attacks were likely to have been perpetrated by Uighur separatists but that there was likely to be some outside influences from the wider radical Muslim population beyond China's borders.

Xinjiang, which is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, has seen a spate of attacks in the past year. In October a four wheel drive vehicle was driven into a crowd in Tiananmen Square before exploding in flames injuring 38 and killing 5 including three attackers [Wikipedia]. In March this year 29 people died and some 143 were injured after four people attacked civilians at Kunming railway station in Yunnan province [Wikipedia]. And in April this year at least three died and 79 were wounded after a knife attack and suicide bomb blast at Urumqi station which coincided with a visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to the city.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

US swipes at China over cyberespionage

China has acted angrily to the US issuing several indictments naming 5 members of the People's Liberation Army and their involvement in a number of cyberattacks on American companies.

The unprecedented move comes a few months after the security firm Mandiant released a detailed dossier pointing to a nondescript building in Shanghai where it said China was launching a series of cyberattacks and conducting cyberespionage operations on a massive scale. [See also: tvnewswatch: Chinas growing hacking army Feb 2013 / tvnewswatch: China angry over US accusations of hacking May 2013]

Scare tactics

The release of the indictments may be intended to scare Chinese hackers into submission. By naming the individuals it would be clear to China that the US now has the capability to trace the origins of the attacks, not only to the country, town or city but to an actual individual. While the indictments are unlikely to result in any extraditions, the people named may well feel a little more uncomfortable than they did prior to the FBI posting their details.

Indeed, these individuals will certainly not be able to freely travel outside of China now that they run the risk of ending up behind bars in a US prison on charges which could result in sentences of up to 240 years.

In the highly unusual move, the men were named in the indictment document complete with photographs. Huang Zhenyu (黄振宇), Wen Xinyu (文新宇), Sun Kailiang (孙凯良), Gu Chunhui (顾春晖) and Wang Dong (王东) were named in the charges for what the US says is a widespread problem [Indictment / Indictment PDF].

Earlier Monday, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the men, all members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), "maintained unauthorized access to victim computers to steal information from these entities that would be useful" to the victims' competitors in China.

Holder said some of the "victims" included U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, the United Steel Workers Union and SolarWorld [BBC / Guardian / Daily Mail].


However, China has accused the United States of "hypocrisy" and "double standards" following its decision to charge the five Chinese army officers with cybertheft against major American businesses.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing even took the step of summoning US Ambassador Max Baucus late Monday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, as tensions between the two countries threatened to escalate into a full-scale diplomatic incident [Washington Post].

Meanwhile China's defence ministry put out a strongly-worded statement on its website on Tuesday saying that China's government and its military "had never engaged in any cyberespionage activities" [].

It also took aim at the US, saying, "For a long time, the US has possessed the technology and essential infrastructure needed to conduct large-scale systematic cyberthefts and surveillance on foreign government leaders, businesses and individuals. This is a fact which the whole world knows."

"The US' deceitful nature and its practice of double standards when it comes to cybersecurity have long been exposed, from the Wikileaks incident to the Edward Snowden affair."

Snowden became the main pivot to China's criticism from several quarters. A day after the United States announced indictments against five members of the Chinese military, China's ambassador to the US also accused America of hypocrisy and cited the whistleblower during an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour [Full transcript].

"It's really amazing to see that some people still believe they have moral high ground and credibility to accuse others, if we consider the Snowden revelations and so on and so forth," Cui Tiankai said [BBC / CNN / Guardian / Telegraph].

Indeed the revelations concerning the NSA and Prism make the US's position all the more difficult. There is also the accusation that the United States also practices cyberespionage, both on friendly and less friendly countries.

Nonetheless, even if true the advantages taken by the US are somewhat different to its counterparts, at least in respect to the United States stated aim. Much of the US surveillance program is concerned with security, both domestic and international.

However China's cyberespionage is on a very different scale and its motives are varied. As well as defensive cyberespionage, China is engaged in IP theft on a grand scale, be it industrial or military. In addition there is also a growing number of actual cyberattacks emanating from China which are crippling foreign competitors computer systems and costing companies millions of dollars.

Hitting back

Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is focused on making China pay a price. "Right now there is no incentive for the Chinese to stop doing this," The New York Times quoted Rogers as saying in February 2013. "If we don't create a high price, it's only going to keep accelerating."

It was "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the Chinese government and military was behind growing cyberattacks against the United States, Rogers said, adding that the US was losing the war to prevent such attacks.

"They use their military and intelligence structure to steal intellectual property from American businesses, and European businesses, and Asian businesses, re-purpose it and then compete in the international market against the United States," Rogers told ABC's This Week.

Eliot Engel, a New York Democratic party representative and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that there had to be greater consequences for Chinese cyberhacking and cyberespionage, and called for sanctions and indictments against those responsible, as well as limiting access to visas.

"I think we have to make it very clear to them that they – this cannot be business as usual," Engel said. "If they're going to continue to do this to the extent that they're doing it, there's a price to pay."

This week Rogers' call for greater action took a step forward as the FBI posted the indictments on its website. Certainly the individuals concerned are unlikely to get a US visa, unless they really want to stand trial for cyberespionage. But whilst China may have received a small punch on the nose, it was hardly a forceful blow. Indeed, despite the flow of rhetoric coming from the state media, China was not even bloodied from this latest swipe by the United States.

The indictments were unprecedented, but the US needs to be a lot more forceful in order to effect any behavioural change by China or others engaged in cyberattacks. It perhaps also needs to level with its own people and allies over the revelations concerning Snowden and attempt to reclaim the moral high-ground.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Radical cleric Abu Hamza guilty of terror offences

Radical cleric Abu Hamza faces life inside a US prison after being found guilty of several terror related charges.

Hamza had tried to portray himself as "a preacher of faith" but a jury was unanimous in its decision that the cleric had been involved in supporting terrorism.

Known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, he was tried under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa having been extradited to the United States in 2012 after a long running legal battle by US authorities.

Reacting to the verdict Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said, "I am pleased that Abu Hamza has finally faced justice. He used every opportunity, over many years, to frustrate and delay the extradition process." The verdict was also welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron who said he plans to reform Britain's relationship with the European court of human rights to prevent future extradition delays.

Hamza came to prominence following the 2001 terror attacks in the US and was often seen at the Finsbury Park mosque in London where his radical preachings drew significant press attention. Due to his having lost his arms and been blinded in one eye, whilst supposedly tackling a landmine in Afghanistan, much of the UK tabloid press nicknamed him "Hook" in allusion to the fictional pirate Captain Hook.

The truth behind his loss of limbs is open to debate with Hamza himself having changed his story several times. He has claimed he was maimed whilst fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. However, during his trial in the United States, Hamza stated that his injuries occurred whilst working with explosives with the Pakistani military in Lahore.

Abu Hamza was arrested in May 2004 on a US arrest warrant and eventually flown from RAF Mildenhall to the US in October 2012.

The 11 charges against him included allegations that he arranged satellite communications for a group of kidnappers in Yemen who carried out a deadly attack in which four hostages were killed [].

He was eventually also found guilty of conspiring in 1999-2000 to establish an al-Qaeda training camp in Bly, Oregon, among other acts. In addition he was convicted of various crimes including hostage taking, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and abetting religious war in Afghanistan.

Hamza, who has already served a UK prison sentence for using his sermons at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London to incite murder and racial hatred, is due to be sentenced on the 9th September and could face a life term in a federal prison.

While many people have expressed relief and cheered the successful conviction, there has also been anger that the extradition and trial took so long. Survivors of the Yemen hostage situation were particularly scathing in their criticism. Laurence Whitehouse and his wife Margaret were part of a group of 16 Western tourists ambushed by armed men in December 1998. Margaret and three others, including two more Britons, were shot dead after being held for 26 hours as the Yemeni Army mounted a heavy-handed operation to free them. Whilst pleased at the verdict, Mr Whitehouse told The Telegraph, "This has taken a long time, even though there was evidence of his involvement early on."

Another hostage, Eric Firkins, 70, also expressed concern that the Islamist preacher had been allowed to breed hate on the streets for so long. "I was angry the Government was that sensitive to racial issues that they didn't want to antagonise Muslims by arresting the preacher."

Meanwhile there have been allegations that British security services failed to act on information received about Hamza and his terror activities [Telegraph]. However Anjem Choudary, claimed Abu Hamza was a "victim of the war on terror" and insisted the preacher had a "divine permit" to lie about his role as an alleged MI5 informant. Choudary, a British Muslim social and political activist, often labelled an extremist by the UK press, insisted that much of what had been said about Hamza was propaganda. "Sheikh Abu Hamza is the latest in a long line of Islamic activists and intellectuals who have been targeted by the American and British regimes in the war on Muslims. I believe he will gain paradise," he told the Telegraph.

Sky News / BBC / Guardian / Telegraph / Daily Mail / MirrorExpress / Wikipedia

[Pictured: Abu Hamza al-Masri, also known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, and his eldest son Mohammed Mustafa Kamel, at a rally in London in 2002. In 1999 Mohammed Mustafa Kamel (at the time 17 years old), and his stepson, Mohsin Ghalain, were arrested in Yemen. They were convicted of being part of a bomb plot involving eight Britons and two Algerians, and were imprisoned for three years and seven years respectively. The prosecution alleged that Abu Hamza had sent them to Yemen to carry out terrorist attacks. The defence argued that the men had been tortured and called the trial a "travesty of justice" / Read more: BBC / Metro / Telegraph]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, May 15, 2014

EU ruling that may change history

The EU has ruled that Google and other search engines must delete references and links to data connected to an individual in what has been hailed as a victory for people wanting to be forgotten on the Internet.

However the ruling made by a Spanish court could potentially have far reaching consequences which could ultimately lead to history being rewritten or deleted.

Information in the pre-Internet age

Before the advent of the Internet finding information was down to one's skills in seeking out books at local libraries or articles buried in newspapers stored in underground vaults. Even then one might need an understanding of the Dewey Decimal System and other indexing systems. While sometimes difficult to find, most back editions of a newspapers were readily available and books and encyclopaedias could be thumbed through. Most libraries would stock telephone directories of a given area and by cross referencing the information with that of the electoral register, a journalist or anyone else could dig up all sorts of data about any given individual. With a few pounds in pocket one could even get copies of birth, marriage or death certificates from registry offices, thus creating a detailed dossier on the background of a person one was interested in.

But nowadays digging up such information is less easy and may become all the more difficult. Libraries have streamlined their reference sections. Some no longer stock the electoral register, telephone directories have been discarded long ago, and the encyclopaedias have almost been consigned to history. Indeed the Encyclopaedia Britannica has itself decided to stop printing books in favour of online or digital editions in 2012 [Telegraph].

Disadvantages of online data

There is an advantage of online data. It can be sought out quickly with the aid of computers or search tools. Information in stories or on databases can be updated and mistakes corrected, whilst a printed version without the advantage of foresight cannot. But there are disadvantages too. Pages on the Internet can disappear, be deleted or simply be buried so deeply in the mountain of available information as to become impossible to find.

Whilst some organisations such as the Internet Archive have attempted to preserve some webpages from the past, there are vast amounts of information disappearing everyday that were once easily accessible and in the public domain.

Deletion of online resources

Of course much of this information could be considered junk. When Yahoo shut down Geocities, a popular blogging and webhosting platform many were outraged, especially those who had created pages on the online space. While many pages were undoubtedly the personal ramblings of individuals other pages were in depth explorations into cultural history, conspiracy theories and other musings.

Newspapers and media organisations have also deleted online content. For newspapers the information may still exist in hard copy, buried in the dark recesses of a national library, but for some organisations they have only ever been online. For example many articles published by Fox News at the time of 9/11 are now longer available. Indeed many links older than a few years may be deleted.

This situation is bad in that vast swathes of history, and how it was reported at the time, have been consigned to the digital dustbin.

Repercussions of EU ruling

However the problem could become much worse after one Mario Costeja González sought to have information about him removed from the Internet. The Spanish lawyer complained that entering his name in a Google Search led to the display of legal notices dating back to 1998 and published in the online version of La Vanguardia that detailed his debts and the forced sale of his property [].

The court ruled in his favour and Google must now remove links which lead to the references about González' financial past.

While some have hailed the decision a victory, there are others who believe it could create further problems. The information González sought to have removed was not libellous or defamatory, it was merely historical, even if somewhat uncomfortable for the man in question.

Shooting the messenger

Indeed the ruling does not require the paper to destroy such records or articles, only that Google should not index and deliver search results. But herein lies the problem. Whilst Google, Bing and Yahoo might be obliged to comply, other search engines not doing business in Europe may simply ignore the ruling. Duck Duck Go, Russia's Yandex and China's Baidu could in theory still throw up links to the Spanish lawyer's financial past.

Even where search engines comply it has been likened to the removal of the name of a book within a library's database while the book itself remains on the shelf. Furthermore others have pointed out that Google is only doing what it and other search engines do, that of indexing the Internet and making it searchable. Meanwhile the party that was 'guilty' of producing the offending item is left alone.

Google is nonetheless reeling with at least 1,000 take-down requests having been made according to the Telegraph.

Setting precedents

There is another worrying aspect to the EU ruling. In essence a precedent has been set allowing someone to have data removed from the Internet they don't like, albeit by the fact it becomes unsearchable. While González is one individual whom few may have any real interest [until now], there may be many individuals and organisations who would like to have their data removed, feeling it too is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".

Moving down this road could further lead the world into a dystopia envisaged by George Orwell. In his book 1984 he wrote of Memory Holes, a mechanism which allowed the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records, such as from a web site or other archive, particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened. Of course Orwell did not foresee the creation of the Internet, but its existence allows the removal of unwanted information much easier.

The scenario also conjures up Ray Bradbury's dark vision of the future from Fahrenheit 451 where all books are illegal and burned. With libraries disappearing and all information shifting to the ephemeral virtual space that is the Internet, there'll be no need to actually ban the books. Nonetheless the Index on Censorship claimed the ruling was a violation of "the fundamental principles of freedom of expression" and "akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books." [IBTimes / Reason] Others have suggested it would be like destroying other indexing systems like Palmers Index which sought to catalogue and cross reference the back editions of The Times from 1790 to 1905 [CBC].

Censorship and Intranets

Another of those opposing the deletion of data is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who believes it is a slippery slope that could erode the Internet and lead to greater censorship. Describing the move as "astonishing" Wales said it was "one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen" [BBC / IBTimes].

Meanwhile in the Guardian, journalist James Ball described the ruling as "either an eerie parallel with China's domestic censorship of search results, or a huge incentive for tech investment to get the hell out of Europe". Indeed China regularly deletes information deemed unfitting for its 'harmonious society'. Blog posts, tweets, and even news articles disappear into a memory hole. Indeed some information is never published in the first place, thus many in China are ignorant of the Tiananmen Massacre, the great famine in which millions died during the Great Leap Forward, or the destruction of history during the Cultural Revolution.

In addition China also blocks and censors any foreign website that doesn't toe the line. Thus YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times and Bloomberg are just some of many platforms which cannot be accessed in the Middle Kingdom.

But what of this ruling. Would companies decide to shift out of Europe in order to avoid having to comply with a mountain of similar complaints. And if they did would such sites be blocked in a China like censorship sweep. Following the revelations over NSA snooping Germany's Angela Merkel has herself talked of a separate European Internet [FT].

Whatever happens as the issue unfurls, it will be painful and confusing for all concerned [NYT / Business Week]


There is an irony in all this for Mario González. His attempt to delete history and wipe away the past has instead rekindled it. More has now been written about González' past financial history than was ever mentioned previously. Le Vangaudia, can still display the webpage concerned, and while Google may not index it , the link will doubtlessly be posted in many places on the Internet. Indeed the Guardian reprinted the offending article itself on its own webpage.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

China on verge of a War on Terror

At least 6 people have been injured following a knife attack at a railway station in Guangzhou, China. The attack has raised concerns that China is experiencing its own War on Terror.

It was not immediately clear how many people were involved in the attack, but one person was shot and then detained by police. One shopkeeper who witnessed the attack said the perpetrators had sat on steps outside the station for two hours before, at 11am, letting out a shout and launching their attack on passengers with half metre long knives.

Chinese state run media reported that police gunned down one of the attackers, captured a second and said two attackers were still at large. Some reports say the men were wearing "white hats", though it is not clear whether these were taqiyah or kufi often worn by Muslims.

Spate of attacks

And while there was no information on the motivation for the attack, it comes a week after an attack at a station in Urumqi, in the western region in Xinjiang [BBC / Reuters]. At least 3 people were killed and 79 injured after a believed suicide bomber detonated a device [CNN / Daily Mail].

It also follows an attack at Kunming station in March that killed 29 people [Wikipedia / tvnewswatch: Kunming terror attacks leave dozens dead many injured] and a terror attack in October 2013 when a four wheel drive vehicle was deliberately driven into a crowd in Tiananmen Square before bursting into flames [Wikipedia].

Chinese authorities have blamed both these attacks on separatists from the Uighur minority group, which lives in Xinjiang [BBC / VoA / Daily Mail]. China's leaders have vowed to tackle the terrorists head on with president Xi Jinping promising "decisive action" [Xinhua].

However, China may be facing only the beginning of what could become its War on Terror [Wikipedia]. It is a war that may be difficult to win [FT]. The roots of separatist violence goes back many years and there is deeply ingrained suspicions and hostility on both sides [CFR / Foreign Affairs].

Growing backlash

Many Uighurs complain that their language and religion are routinely suppressed. As in Tibet, another restive autonomous region, Beijing has practised a policy of assimilation, flooding Xinjiang with Han Chinese who now comprise 40% of the population.

And while the attacks have been perpetrated by a minority there is a danger that resentment and suspicions will increase tensions. The People's Daily has sensibly called for people to remain calm and not to retaliate. "Don't turn your anger for the terrorists into hostility toward an ethnic group," the paper said.

But there are signs that the situation on the ground is very different. tvnewswatch has learned that students in the middle of their studies were ordered to return to Xinjiang from Yunnan after the Kunming attack.  Uighurs say they are being refused reservations in hotels when they travel outside Xinjiang and recently the district police in Guangxi province, which borders Yunnan, warned, "If anyone discovers people from Xinjiang living, doing business or travelling here, please immediately report them." [NYT Sinosphere].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Max Clifford jailed for 8 years for sex assaults

Defiant to the end the so-called 'King of Spin' Max Clifford was last night spending his first night in prison after being sentenced to 8 years for indecently assaulting a number of girls and women in what some say would be considered rape should the offences have taken place today [BBC].

No apology

After being found guilty the shamed publicist admitted it was "not the best day" of his life but refused to offer any form of apology to the victims.

Before entering court he merely said that he stood by his previous statements that his accusers were "fantasists" and "liars". Talking to Sky's Tom Parmenter the former PR guru said, "I stand by everything I've said in the past - everything."

Lost everything

For the 71 year old who had everything he will likely lose it all. His high-profile PR business is set to close and he may also find himself without his wife of four years. Last night there was speculation that wife Jo Clifford, formerly Jo Westwood, may file for divorce.

According to the Daily Mail his wife had not been seen sporting her wedding ring and was 'very, very angry" over the whole affair. One friend told the paper she was "just waiting for guilty verdicts and then she's going to divorce him for everything he's got."

Max Clifford's wife had spent the trial well away from the courtroom rather than playing the dutiful wife and standing by her man. However she has declined to comment on the rumours or suggestions she has spoken to top London divorce lawyer Raymond Tooth.

A former PA for the publicist they married in April 2010, seven years after the death of Clifford's first wife, Liz.


Clifford's sentencing was cheered not only by his victims in court but by many outside the courtroom who had faced humiliation and embarrassment by the 'King of Spin'.

Former Conservative minister David Mellor said he "exults" in Max Clifford's jailing saying the disgraced PR guru "delighted in humiliating his victims".

Mellor had been one of those victims after Clifford brokered deals with tabloids for kiss-and-tell stories with Antonia de Sancha who reveal details about an affair with the minister. Speaking of the jailing Mellor told the Daily Telegraph it showed "there is a God".

Even those who bought his stories had few good words for the man. Former editor of the Sun newspaper Kelvin MacKenzie described Clifford as a "vile individual" when speaking on the BBC's Any Questions. Despite having bought stories from him and having known him some 30 years added that one "couldn't find anybody who has a good word to say about Max Clifford."

Long fall

Life will now be very different for the man who arguably ruined hundreds of people's lives in order to feather his lavish lifestyle. He will leave behind his large house in  a private road in Hersham for a small prison cell. He will say goodbye to his outdoor heated swimming pool where he used to swim daily, though he may have access to a gym. And of course he'll have no housekeeper as such, indeed he might find himself to be someone else's bitch if prison life is all it's rumoured to be.

For someone who played with and controlled so many people's lives, Clifford has fallen off a very tall cliff indeed. And he's certainly come down with a bump [Guardian / Independent].

tvnewswatch, London, UK