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China launches political policing task force: state media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has launched a special taskforce to ramp up political policing to maintain social stability, said the official Procuratorial Daily, the latest move to rein in dissent over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus and protests in Hong Kong.

The taskforce should “crack down on all kinds of infiltration, subversion, sabotage, violent terrorist activities, ethnic separatist activities, and extreme religious activities,” according to the undated notes from a meeting of the taskforce published in the paper on Monday.

The news of the taskforce came on the same day that a Beijing law professor who has been an outspoken critic of China’s ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping was taken away by authorities.

The main responsibility of the taskforce is to safeguard China’s political system. “Political security is related to national safety and people’s well-being,” according to the notes.

Referencing the fight against coronavirus, the notes said a government can only guarantee its people’s safety if it maintains a stable political environment.

The taskforce is part of the “Build a Peaceful China” coordination group set up in April and led by Guo Shengkun, China’s top law enforcement official.

It’s launch comes after China’s parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong at the end of June which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Hong Kong has been rocked by large, and sometimes violent, pro-democracy protests since mid-2019.

The new security laws have been criticised by pro-democracy activists, lawyers and foreign governments who fear it would be used to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The day after the law came into effect, one man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.

(Reporting by Engen Tham and Wang Jing; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Judge wants players to connect with fans on social media – theScore

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New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has enjoyed a resurgent 2020 season after missing large chunks of 2019 due to injury.

But it’s not just on-field success that he’s hoping to be noticed for. Judge is looking to connect with fans over social media as a way to reach out, particularly while fans are not permitted in ballparks.

“Those little moments, those little memories you can make, I know fans never forget,” Judge told Marly Rivera of ESPN. “But even us as players, that’s something I always look forward to and I never forget.”

Judge added that Major League Baseball could benefit from top players engaging with fans more often via social media and cited one of the world’s most visible and well-known professional athletes as an inspiration.

“In baseball, a lot of our superstars aren’t out there. But I think social media is going to start slowly helping us out. A lot more guys are getting on social media. A lot more are reaching out to fans, interacting.

“That’s one thing I see LeBron James do a lot all the time, he’s talking with fans, he’s always getting the message out there, putting his opinion out there and talking with people. That’s where it starts with us, just being more vocal and letting the fans see the personal side of us.”

Judge is one of the most recognizable talents in baseball, and his jersey has been the top seller over the last three seasons, Rivera notes.

A two-time All-Star, Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year in 2017 after recording the rookie record for home runs at 52 (New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso then hit 53 in 2019) and finished second in MVP voting to Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve that same year.

He hit 27 homers in both 2018 and 2019 but played in only 112 and 102 games, respectively, due to injuries. He has looked like a world-beater so far in 2020, crushing an MLB-leading nine home runs with 20 RBIs and a 1.101 OPS through 17 contests.

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'We are all choking': Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai speaks out after arrest – theglobeandmail.com

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Hong Kong media tycoon and newspaper founder Jimmy Lai, center, walks out from a police station after being bailed out in Hong Kong on Aug. 12, 2020.

The Associated Press

The tightening legal regime in Hong Kong is suffocating a city that has long enjoyed liberties unavailable in other parts of China, says Jimmy Lai, the publishing tycoon arrested this week under a national security law imposed by Beijing.

“The oxygen is getting thin and we are all choking,” Mr. Lai said Thursday in an online discussion a day after he was released on bail. “But when we are choking, we are still taking care of each other – and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom.”

Mr. Lai was arrested Monday and accused of colluding with foreign powers and conspiracy to defraud. He was released from police custody just after midnight Wednesday.

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His arrest has raised concerns at Next Digital, the publishing firm he founded, that he could be sent to mainland China for prosecution – and almost certain imprisonment – under the terms of the new national security law.

On Monday police also raided tabloid Apple Daily, one of Next Digital’s most important holdings.

On Thursday, Lau Siu-kai, a vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies who has been described in the city’s press as a spokesman for Beijing, argued that Next Digital “should not be considered a normal media organization” and should instead be seen as a political operation.

“The police operation at Next Media headquarters and their management-level offices involved documents and evidence of violations of the national security law,” he told the Beijing-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper. “It is a case of the government enforcing the law at a political group, but it is not targeting a news organization.” The People’s Daily, one of Beijing’s central state media organs, said Mr. Lai’s release “did not mean that he can escape from precise punishment under the city’s law.”

But Mr. Lai, who has been a vocal scourge of the Chinese Communist Party, has remained defiant. Accused of foreign collusion, he nonetheless appeared in the online broadcast Thursday alongside Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation. “There’s an enormous amount of men and women in Congress following your fate. You have America’s support,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

Mr. Lai responded by saying the voices of the American people are the best form of succour for Hong Kong because if “they voice out in support of Hong Kong, the politicians will have to listen and react. And that will be a very good saviour for us.”

More than a dozen of Hong Kong’s new national security police came to Mr. Lai’s home Monday morning, arriving shortly after he had completed his morning exercises. Still sweating, he asked if he could wash before being arrested. “You have to be very fast and you can’t close your door,” he was told. “We have to watch you.”

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Initially worried that he would be taken to mainland China, Mr. Lai was relieved to discover that none of the officers spoke Mandarin. “Because I knew that I won’t be sent to China at least.”

Police arrested a total of 10 people in Hong Kong Monday on national security grounds, including two of Mr. Lai’s sons, four of his executives, a freelance journalist for Britain’s ITV news network and Agnes Chow, one of the top young political activists in the city. The arrests took place 40 days after the imposition of the new law.

Mr. Lai did not address the substance of the allegations against him. He had predicted his own arrest under the law. But he expressed surprise that the police would act so quickly, particularly following the outcry from the international community, which has included the cancellation of extradition treaties with Hong Kong by Canada and other countries – out of concerns people sent to the city would be redirected to face trial in mainland China – and the U.S. imposition of sanctions against the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.

Mr. Lai believed authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing would initially “keep a low profile” in implementing the new law, he said, to maintain calm among investors and the business community.

Instead, he was led out of his home in handcuffs and held by police for more than a day and a half. He acknowledged that Hong Kong’s democracy movement is much less powerful than China’s Communist Party. “This is a long fight,” he said.

But, he added, the incompatibility between China’s authoritarian system and the liberal democratic order threatens turbulence for years to come unless Beijing alters course. “People want China to realize that without assimilating to international Western values, there won’t be peace in international trade or politics or diplomacy.”

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Though his future is uncertain – the accusations against him are punishable with life in prison – he emerged from custody more calm than when he entered.

His time in detention, he said, afforded him time to contemplate whether he would have made the same decisions in life if he knew they would lead to the charges he now faces.

He concluded that character is destiny, a realization that came with a sense of divine blessing. “It’s like God telling me, ‘Don’t fear. Just do what you do. I am with you,’” said Mr. Lai, a practising Catholic.

It was a feeling, he said, substantiated by the reaction to his arrest: the raucous group that gathered outside a police station after midnight to wish him well upon his release Wednesday; the crowds who have bought hundreds of thousands of copies a day this week of Apple Daily; the investors who have massively elevated Next Digital share prices.

“It’s just reaffirmed that whatever I have done wrong in the past, at least what I am doing now is right,” he said. “And it’s almost a message that: ‘Let’s go on.’”

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily responded with defiance on Tuesday to the arrest of owner Jimmy Lai, promising to ‘fight on’ in a front-page headline above an image of Lai in handcuffs. Ryan Brooks reports. Reuters

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Vietnam health ministry to buy Russian COVID-19 vaccine -state media – The Journal Pioneer

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By Phuong Nguyen

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has registered to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine, state television reported on Friday, as it fights a new outbreak after going several months with no local cases.

Russia said on Wednesday that it would roll out the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine within two weeks, rejecting the concerns of experts who said it should not have been approved before completing large-scale trials.

“In the meantime, Vietnam will still continue developing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine,” state broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) said, citing the Ministry of Health.

Vietnam has signed up for 50-150 million doses of the vaccine, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. Some will be a “donation” from Russia, Tuoi Tre said, with Vietnam paying for the rest.

The ministry did not say when it expected to receive the vaccine, or how much it would cost. Last month, the ministry said Vietnam would have a home-grown vaccine available by the end of 2021.

Vietnam was lauded for suppressing an earlier outbreak contagion through aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantining, but it is now racing to control infections in multiple locations linked to the popular tourist city of Danang, where a new outbreak was detected on July 25.

Vietnam has reported a total of 911 infections, with 21 deaths. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said the risk of wider contagion is very high, and that the next few days are critical.

The head of Vietnam’s coronavirus taskforce, Vu Duc Dam, said on Friday that Vietnam now had no choice but to “live safely with the virus”.

“We are implementing the anti-virus measures of a poor country, so everyone has to stay alert and know how to protect themselves from the virus,” Dam said, according to state media.

(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson and Kevin Liffey)

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