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Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law: top aide – The Globe and Mail

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In this file photo taken on June 16, 2020, millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai, 72, poses during an interview with AFP at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong.

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai became the highest-profile arrest under a new national security law on Monday, detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as scores of police searched the offices of his Apple Daily newspaper.

Lai, 71, has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing, which imposed the sweeping new law on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.

His arrest comes amid Beijing’s crackdown against pro-democracy opposition in the city and further stokes concerns about media and other freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997.

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It “bears out the worst fears that Hong Kong’s National Security Law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom,” said Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program co-ordinator. “Jimmy Lai should be released at once and any charges dropped.”

Ryan Law, Apple Daily’s chief editor, told Reuters the paper would not intimidated by the raid.

“Business as usual,” he said.

The new security law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.

Lai had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he has met senior officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor.”

Hong Kong police said they had arrested seven men, aged 39-72, on suspicion of breaching the new security law, without naming them, adding that further arrests were possible.

Apple Daily, which posted on its Facebook page a livestream of dozens of police officers entering its premises, reported Lai was taken away from his home early on Monday. The paper said one of Lai’s sons, Ian, was also arrested at his home.

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In the live feed, officers were seen roaming through the newsroom, rifling through files.

Staff were asked to show identity documents. Some executive offices were sealed off with red cordons. The police later wheeled in stacks of empty plastic containers.

Lai himself was brought back to the office in handcuffs later. One Apple Daily reporter asked Lai what he thinks of his arrest, and Lai responded: “They have to arrest me, what can I think?”

Police said they had a court warrant. The law allows police to search premises without one “under exceptional circumstances,” and also allows seizing documents, equipment and financial assets.

‘HARASSMENT’

An Apple Daily source said that other senior executives in the company were among those targeted and that police were searching their homes.

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“We are arranging lawyers and so on to defend ourselves. We see this as straight harassment,” the source said, adding that Lai was arrested on suspicion of sedition, criminal fraud and colluding with foreign forces.

Shares of media company Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily, plunged as much as 15.5%.

Prominent young activist Joshua Wong said on Twitter he “strongly” condemned Lai’s arrest. The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it was “extremely concerned.”

Answering questions on Lai’s arrest, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei: “China should not treat Hong Kong this way.”

“We still urge the Chinese government to keep its promise and respect Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom,” Su said.

The law has steered China further on a collision course with the West, prompting countries including Australia, Canada and Britain to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong.

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On major cases in Hong Kong, the central government in Beijing can claim jurisdiction. The legislation allows agents to take suspects across the border for trials in Communist Party-controlled courts.

CHILLING EFFECT

Lai was also arrested this year on illegal assembly charges, along with other leading activists, relating to protests last year.

In an interview with Reuters in May, Lai pledged to stay in Hong Kong and continue to fight for democracy even though he expected to be one of the targets of the new legislation.

Before Monday, 15 people had been arrested under the law, including four aged 16-21 late last month.

The new legislation has sent a chill through Hong Kong. Activists have disbanded their organizations, while some have fled the city altogether, prompting, in some cases, arrest warrants in their name for suspected violation of the new law.

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the territory’s current and former police chiefs and eight other top officials for what Washington says is their role in curtailing political freedoms in the territory, drawing mockery and condemnation from Beijing.

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Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said the law, needed to plug security loopholes, will not affect rights and freedoms and will only target a few “troublemakers.”

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French media: Raspy-voiced singer Juliette Greco dead at 93 – Preeceville Progress

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PARIS — Juliette Greco, a French singer, actress, cultural icon and muse to existentialist philosophers of the country’s post-War period, has died aged 93, French media said Wednesday.

They said Greco died in her Ramatuelle house in the south of France, near Saint Tropez.

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The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, tweeted that “a very grand lady, an immense artist has gone.”

With expressive eyes inherited from her Greek ancestors and an impossibly deep, raspy voice — acquired from years of cigarette-smoking — Greco immortalized some of France’s most recognizable songs in an enduring seven-decade career, including the classics “Soul le ciel de Paris” (Under the Parisian sky) and “Je hais les dimanches” (I hate Sundays).

Greco was born in Montpellier on February 7, 1927, and went on to become a French music and fashion icon whose bobbed hair, Cleopatra-style eye-lines and demure black clothes became synonymous with the rebellious 1960s.

In March, 2016, Greco suffered a stroke while she was stopping off in Lyon as part of her tour, and cancelled the rest of her concerts. It was the same year that her only daughter, Laurence-Marie, died, of cancer.

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Some social media stars chafe at COVID restrictions, angering authorities – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A handful of social media stars and influencers have publicly flouted rules aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic and even encouraged others to do so, and authorities from the Netherlands to the United States are not happy.

The online dissent comes as the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States passed 200,000 and many countries in Europe are grappling with a second wave of infections.

“I say ‘NO’ to all measures until the government can verifiably justify this policy,” a group of young Dutch entertainers wrote in a series of Instagram posts coordinated with organisers of protests against the restrictions.

The online celebrities have several million followers on Instagram between them.

They include 21-year-old singer and Instagram model Famke Louise, who took part in a Dutch government campaign promoting social distancing rules in the spring but has now switched sides.

“We can only get control of the government if we stick together,” she posted on Monday night. “I’m opting out.”

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, who is battling new infections that jumped at a rate of more than 60% in the Netherlands this week to pass 100,000, criticised that attitude.

“We have to ask questions and being critical is certainly allowed, but just saying ‘I am opting out’ isn’t an option,” he said. “It’s irresponsible because they have huge influence on young people. We need our youth, we need everyone to keep the virus under control.”

The debate in the Netherlands is playing out the world over between people frustrated about restrictions on their lives and those who support governments’ attempts to stop the virus, which has infected more than 31 million people.

Popular TikTok “influencers” Bryce Hall and Blake Gray were charged in the United States for throwing parties in Los Angeles at which hundreds of revellers were pictured ignoring social distancing rules.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said that with a combined 19 million followers on TikTok, the stars should be “modelling good behaviour – not brazenly violating the law and posting videos about it.”

In Britain, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher has voiced doubts about the effectiveness of wearing masks, while Van Morrison is releasing three songs to protest against “the way the government has taken away personal freedoms,” his website said.

He is donating profits from the tracks to musicians who have suffered financial hardship because of the coronavirus, according to the BBC.

But flouting government rules faces a backlash of its own, and social media campaigns including the #WearADamnMask hashtag have attracted support from major stars.

U.S. actors Bryan Cranston and Tom Hanks, both of whom contracted the virus and recovered, have also made public appeals for people to wear masks as a courtesy to others.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Advertisers agree deal with social media on steps to curb harmful content – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have agreed with big advertisers on first steps to curb harmful content online, following boycotts of social media platforms that advertisers had accused of tolerating hate speech.

The agreement comes three months after Facebook was hit by a boycott from major advertisers in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody.

Advertisers have complained for years that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from appearing alongside hate speech, fake news and other harmful content. Big tech companies, meanwhile, want to be seen as taking action on the issue to fend off calls for more regulation.

Under the deal, announced on Wednesday by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonised reporting standards.

The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors, and to give advertisers more control of what content is displayed alongside their ads. The deal comes less than six weeks before a polarising U.S. presidential election.

“This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online,” said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers. “…Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Carolyn Everson, Vice President for Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, said the agreement “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

SCEPTICAL

Campaigners who want more regulation of social media companies have been sceptical of voluntary measures such as those announced on Wednesday.

“Any progress in reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed. However, up to now voluntary action from social media companies has rarely lived up to its initial promises. So time will tell how much of a difference this latest industry-led initiative will make,” David Babbs of UK-based group Clean Up the Internet told Reuters by email.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign behind the Facebook boycott is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, two of the oldest and biggest anti-racism campaign groups in the United States. The campaign did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a statement last week, it said: “Facebook’s failures lead to real-life violence and sow division, and we’re calling on the company to improve its policies. We need to urge people to vote and demand Facebook stop undermining our democracy. Enough is enough.”

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Peter Graff)

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