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German ambassador warns that internet controls could harm companies, isolate China

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China’s internet restrictions have struck a “new blow” against foreign companies working there, Germany’s ambassador said on Monday, warning that such moves could undermine Beijing’s political and commercial ties with the world.

China’s ongoing clampdown on cyberspace has seen WhatsApp, the messaging service run by Facebook, periodically unavailable in the past few weeks ahead of twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress that opens on Wednesday.

The government also has been tightening control over virtual private networks (VPNs) that allow users to tunnel through China’s “Great Firewall” system, which blocks outlawed online content.

And its controversial Cybersecurity Law adopted late last year has been criticized by foreign business and governments for unclear provisions mandating security reviews and for data to be stored on servers in China.

“Unrestricted internet access via VPN is vital if China wants to take maximum advantage of international cooperation in research and development as well as academic and cultural exchange,” German Ambassador Michael Clauss said in a statement.

The higher the digital wall grows, the less attractive living and working in China will be for professionals, researchers or artists, Clauss said, adding that repeated requests to discuss the issue with Chinese authorities “have not led to meaningful dialogue so far”.

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“In the ‘offline’ world, our overlapping economic and political interests bring us closer together, but this trend may not be sustainable if excessive cyber controls drive us apart,” Clauss said.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, which regulates the internet, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese officials say the country has a sovereign right to govern the internet as it sees fit, and that its expansive national security and cybersecurity regulations are needed to address threats such as hacking and terrorism.

China’s cyber law also mandates companies store crucial data within China and pass security reviews. Critics say such measures could unfairly target foreign firms or put business secrets at risk.

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After pushback from overseas business groups, China agreed to an 18-month phase-in period from June, but fundamental concerns about the law remain.

Clauss’s comments come at a sensitive time for China, as President Xi Jinping looks to consolidate his power for a second five-year term as the nation’s leader during the upcoming congress.

Beijing has tightened controls on Chinese society since Xi assumed power, from online censorship to a crackdown on activists and non-governmental organizations.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Iran ups pressure, sets date to surpass uranium stockpile limit

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Iran said Monday it will surpass from June 27 its uranium stockpile limit set under the nuclear deal with world powers, turning up the pressure after the US walked away from the landmark pact last year.

"Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilogrammes reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time... we will pass this limit," Iran's atomic energy organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at a press conference broadcast live.

The move "will be reversed once other parties live up to their commitments," he added, speaking from the Arak nuclear plant south-west of Tehran.

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Morning Joe guest reveals why even Ivanka is afraid to deliver bad news to Trump: ‘He’ll explode’

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President Donald Trump's inner circle is growing smaller and smaller, and the few aides he trusts are afraid to deliver any bad news to him -- and panelists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" agreed the situation was dangerous.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire if the president trusted any of his advisers, and the White House correspondent said he may still seek out counsel from Ivanka Trump.

"He might listen to his daughter, who is in there, but no," Lemire said. "That has been what's happened over the last year and a half, in particular, is the erosion of the guardrails, the erosion of adults in the room who could walk in there and say something. Mind you, it didn't always work, (but) now those people don't even exist."

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2020 Election

New Republican group wants to register more voters to keep Texas red

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The push by the group, a super PAC called Engage Texas, comes as national Democrats zero in on the state in 2020.

With national Democrats looking to make Texas a battleground, a new Republican group is launching to register hundreds of thousands of new voters here and convince them to help keep the state red in 2020.

The group, a super PAC named Engage Texas, is the brainchild of some of the state's biggest GOP donors, and it is led by a former top staffer at the Republican National Committee. It comes as Texas Republicans look to gain ground in an area where their Democratic counterparts have dominated in recent years: signing up new voters.

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