China Xinhua

China Focus: China’s first Mars mission faces unprecedented challenges – Xinhua | – Xinhua

A Mars probe is launched on a Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, July 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

BEIJING, July 26 (Xinhua) — China’s Mars spacecraft has embarked on a long journey with great risks and challenges to the Earth’s neighbor.

China’s first Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1 (meaning Questions to Heaven) aims to orbit, land on and rove Mars in one mission, an unprecedented achievement.

Mars will be a focus of China’s deep space exploration, and the Mars mission has a higher starting point because China laid good foundations and accumulated experience in its lunar exploration program, said Geng Yan, an official at the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration.

China is a latecomer in planetary exploration. Chinese space experts believe that the goal of exploration should be reachable, but not too easy.

“We hope the mission will be innovative and help push forward scientific and technological development,” Geng said.

However, the challenges are also unprecedented.

Although China has achieved a series of successes in lunar exploration with four probes sent to the moon, Mars poses new difficulties for Chinese spacecraft designers.

One of the biggest differences between the moon and Mars is that the moon has no atmosphere, while Mars has a thin atmosphere. Landing on the moon requires no aerodynamic shape or parachute. The engineers want to use the atmosphere of Mars to help slow the spacecraft, but have only a limited understanding of the unstable atmosphere, Geng said.

A Mars probe is launched on a Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, July 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

The difference in gravity also calls for differences in the design of Mars and lunar rovers. The solar panels of Mars probe are unlike those of lunar probes due to the different light intensity.

The probe designers also worry about the sandstorms on Mars, and have tried to minimize the risk of damage by sand and dust.

The average Earth-Moon distance is about 380,000 km, while the distance to Mars is up to 400 million km, which is a major challenge for communication and control, Geng said.

“China’s Tianwen-1 mission includes an orbiter and a rover, so actually we’re sending two probes to Mars together,” said Geng.

The designers of the spacecraft had to take into account all aspects of orbiting, landing and roving in one mission.

More than 40 Mars missions have been launched since the 1960s, but only about half have succeeded. The success rate for landing is even lower, and only the United States has succeeded in soft landing on Mars.

“We only have a limited understanding of Mars. There are still many uncertainties about the environment and great risks,” said Geng.

The design of the aerodynamic shape and the parachute of the Mars probe are quite different from those of the return capsule of a manned spacecraft on Earth, said Geng.

There are many key steps requiring the spacecraft to be highly reliable.

The team had a short research and development time and challenges in testing the spacecraft on Earth. “It’s immensely difficult to simulate the environment of Mars, and we conducted many special tests of the parachute of the entry capsule and the rover,” said Geng.

If China can succeed in orbiting, landing and roving on the red planet in Tianwen-1, it will take the challenge of collecting and bringing back samples in the next Mars mission, as well as exploring asteroids and the Jovian system, Geng added.

Read More

China officials

Officials Push U.S.-China Relations Toward Point of No Return – The New York Times

Top aides to President Trump want to leave a lasting legacy of ruptured ties between the two powers. China’s aggression has been helping their cause.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Edward WongSteven Lee Myers

WASHINGTON — Step by step, blow by blow, the United States and China are dismantling decades of political, economic and social engagement, setting the stage for a new era of confrontation shaped by the views of the most hawkish voices on both sides.

With President Trump trailing badly in the polls as the election nears, his national security officials have intensified their attack on China in recent weeks, targeting its officials, diplomats and executives. While the strategy has reinforced a key campaign message, some American officials, worried Mr. Trump will lose, are also trying to engineer irreversible changes, according to people familiar with the thinking.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has inflamed the fight, brushing aside international concern about the country’s rising authoritarianism to consolidate his own political power and to crack down on basic freedoms, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong. By doing so, he has hardened attitudes in Washington, fueling a clash that at least some in China believe could be dangerous to the country’s interests.

The combined effect could prove to be Mr. Trump’s most consequential foreign policy legacy, even if it’s not one he has consistently pursued: the entrenchment of a fundamental strategic and ideological confrontation between the world’s two largest economies.

A state of broad and intense competition is the end goal of the president’s hawkish advisers. In their view, confrontation and coercion, aggression and antagonism should be the status quo with the Chinese Communist Party, no matter who is leading the United States next year. They call it “reciprocity.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a speech on Thursday that the relationship should be based on the principle of “distrust and verify,” saying that the diplomatic opening orchestrated by President Richard M. Nixon nearly half a century ago had ultimately undermined American interests.

“We must admit a hard truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come: that if we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We must not continue it and we must not return to it.”


Credit…Mark Felix/Agence France-Presse

The events of the last week brought relations to yet another low, accelerating the downward spiral.

On Tuesday, the State Department ordered China to shut down its Houston consulate, prompting diplomats there to burn documents in a courtyard. On Friday, in retaliation, China ordered the United States to close its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu. The Chinese Foreign Ministry the next day denounced what it called “forced entry” into the Houston consulate by U.S. law enforcement officers on Friday afternoon.

In between, the Department of Justice announced criminal charges against four members of the People’s Liberation Army for lying about their status in order to operate as undercover intelligence operatives in the United States. All four have been arrested. One, Tang Juan, who was studying at the University of California, Davis, ignited a diplomatic standoff when she sought refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, but was taken into custody on Thursday night.

This comes on top of a month in which the administration announced sanctions on senior Chinese officials, including a member of the ruling Politburo, over the mass internment of Muslims; revoked the special status of Hong Kong in diplomatic and trade relations; and declared that China’s vast maritime claims in the South China Sea were illegal.


Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

The administration has also imposed a travel ban on Chinese students at graduate level or higher with ties to military institutions in China. Officials are discussing whether to do the same to members of the Communist Party and their families, a sweeping move that could put 270 million people on a blacklist.

“Below the president, Secretary Pompeo and other members of the administration appear to have broader goals,” said Ryan Hass, a China director on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council who is now at the Brookings Institution.

“They want to reorient the U.S.-China relationship toward an all-encompassing systemic rivalry that cannot be reversed by the outcome of the upcoming U.S. election,” he said. “They believe this reorientation is needed to put the United States on a competitive footing against its 21st-century geostrategic rival.”

From the start, Mr. Trump has vowed to change the relationship with China, but mainly when it comes to trade. Early this year, the negotiated truce in the countries’ trade war was hailed by some aides as a signature accomplishment. That deal is still in effect, though hanging by a thread, overshadowed by the broader fight.

Beyond China, few of the administration’s foreign policy goals have been fully achieved. Mr. Trump’s personal diplomacy with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has done nothing to end the country’s nuclear weapons program.

His withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has further alienated allies and made that country’s leaders even more belligerent. His effort to change the government in Venezuela failed. His promised withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan has yet to occur.

In Beijing, some officials and analysts have publicly dismissed many of the Trump administration’s moves as campaign politics, accusing Mr. Pompeo and others of promoting a Cold War mentality to score points for an uphill re-election fight. There is a growing recognition, though, that the conflict’s roots run deeper.

The breadth of the administration’s campaign has vindicated those in China — and possibly Mr. Xi himself — who have long suspected that the United States will never accept the country’s growing economic and military might, or its authoritarian political system.

“It’s not just electoral considerations,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. “It is also a natural escalation and a result of the inherent contradictions between China and the United States.”

Already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, some Chinese officials have sought to avoid open conflict with the United States. They have urged the Trump administration to reconsider each of its actions and called for cooperation, not confrontation, albeit without offering significant concessions of their own.


Credit…Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“With global anti-China sentiment at its highest level in decades, Chinese officials have indicated an interest in exploring potential offramps to the current death spiral in U.S.-China relations,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, a political scientist at Cornell University who studies Chinese foreign policy and public opinion.

“Beijing isn’t spoiling for an all-out fight with the United States,” she said, “but at a minimum the Chinese government will retaliate to show the world — and a prospective Biden administration — that China won’t be intimidated or pushed around.”


Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Given the size of each nation’s economy and their entwinement, there are limits to the unwinding of relations, or what some Trump officials call “decoupling.” In the United States, tycoons and business executives, who exercise enormous sway among politicians of both parties, will continue to push for a more moderate approach, as members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet who represent Wall Street interests have done. China is making leaps in science, technology and education that Americans and citizens of other Western nations will want to share in. In his Thursday speech, even Mr. Pompeo acknowledged, “China is deeply integrated into the global economy.”

Only two weeks ago, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, called on the United States to step back from confrontation and work with China. In reality, officials in Beijing appear resigned to the likelihood that nothing will change for the better before next year.

“There is very little China can do to take the initiative,” said Wu Qiang, an independent analyst in Beijing. “It has very few proactive options.”


Credit…David Mcnew/Getty Images

Mr. Trump whipsaws in his language on China. He has called Mr. Xi “a very, very good friend” and even privately encouraged him to keep building mass internment camps for Muslims and handle the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters his way, according to a new book by John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser. When he last spoke with Mr. Xi, he expressed “much respect!” on Twitter.

With the election looming, Mr. Trump’s tone has changed. He has returned to bashing China, as he did in 2016, blaming Beijing for the pandemic and even referring to the coronavirus with a racist phrase, “Kung Flu.” His campaign aides have made aggressive rhetoric on China a pillar of their strategy, believing it could help energize voters.

The heated language, combined with the administration’s policy actions, could actually be having a galvanizing effect on Chinese citizens, some analysts and political figures in Beijing say.

“I strongly urge American people to re-elect Trump because his team has many crazy members like Pompeo,” Hu Xijin, the editor of the nationalist newspaper Global Times, wrote on Twitter on Friday. “They help China strengthen solidarity and cohesion in a special way.”

The relationship might not change course even if former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeats Mr. Trump in November. The idea of orienting American policy toward competition with China has had robust bipartisan support over the last three-and-a-half years.

The Chinese government’s initial mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak and its actions in Hong Kong, which is widely seen as a beacon of liberal values within China, have been signal moments this year, contributing to the tectonic shift in views across the political spectrum.

The China hawks in the administration have seized on them to publicly push their perspective: that the Chinese Communist Party seeks to expand its ideology and authoritarian vision worldwide, and that citizens of liberal nations must wake up to the dangers and gird themselves for a conflict that could last for decades.

Since late June, the administration has rolled out four top officials to make that case.

Attorney General William P. Barr accused American companies of “corporate appeasement,” while Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, said his agency was opening a new China-related counterintelligence investigation every 10 hours.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, warned that the Chinese Communist Party aimed to remake the world in its image. “The effort to control thought beyond the borders of China is well underway,” he said.

Mr. Pompeo’s speech on Thursday was meant as the punctuation mark. He chose the presidential library of the man credited with opening up U.S.-China relations to declare the policy a failure.

“President Nixon once said he feared he had created a ‘Frankenstein’ by opening the world to the C.C.P.,” Mr. Pompeo said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party, “and here we are.”

Edward Wong reported from Washington, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul, South Korea. Claire Fu contributed research from Beijing.

Read More

China Fortifies

China Fortifies Hong Kong’s Role as Financial Powerhouse – The Wall Street Journal

China’s tightening grip on Hong Kong has some in the West predicting the city’s days as a global financial center are numbered. Beijing, however, is betting the former British colony will grow into a bigger and more lucrative capital-raising hub for Chinese businesses.

In recent weeks, China’s swift imposition of a new national-security law on Hong Kong has led expatriates to consider leaving, unnerved technology companies and chilled discourse among the city’s 7.5 million populace. The Group of Seven nations warned the law…

Read More

China launches

China launches ambitious attempt to land rover on Mars –

BEIJING — China launched its most ambitious Mars mission yet on Thursday in a bold attempt to join the United States in successfully landing a spacecraft on the red planet.

Engines blazing orange, a Long March-5 carrier rocket took off under clear skies around 12:40 p.m. from Hainan Island, south of China’s mainland. Hundreds of space enthusiasts cried out excitedly on a beach across the bay from the launch site.

“This is a kind of hope, a kind of strength,” said Li Dapeng, co-founder of the China branch of the Mars Society, an international enthusiast group. He wore a Mars Society T shirt, and was there with his wife, 11-year-old son and 2,000 others on the beach to watch the launch.

A security guard is silhouetted near a display depicting rovers on Mars during an exhibition in Beijing on July 23, 2020. Ng Han Guan / AP

Launch commander Zhang Xueyu announced to cheers in the control room that the rocket was flying normally about 45 minutes later. “The Mars rover has accurately entered the scheduled orbit,” he said in brief remarks shown live on state broadcaster CCTV.

China’s space agency said that the rocket carried the probe for 36 minutes before successfully placing it on the looping path that will take it beyond Earth’s orbit and eventually into Mars’ more distant orbit around the sun.

Liu Tongjie, spokesman for the mission, said in a press briefing that the launch was a “key step of China marching towards farther deep space.” He said that China’s aim wasn’t to compete with other countries, but to peacefully explore the universe.

It marked the second flight to Mars this week, after a United Arab Emirates orbiter blasted off on a rocket from Japan on Monday. And the U.S. is aiming to launch Perseverance, its most sophisticated Mars rover ever, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, next week.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

“It’s amazing that another nation has launched the case for Mars,” said Dr. Katarina Miljkovic, a planetary scientist at Curtin University in Australia, adding that the world was no longer in a space race. “It’s more like this marathon of space that we all want to be running.”

China’s tandem spacecraft — with both an orbiter and a rover — will take seven months to reach Mars, like the others. If all goes well, Tianwen-1, or “quest for heavenly truth,” will look for underground water, if it’s present, as well as evidence of possible ancient life.

This isn’t China’s first attempt at Mars. In 2011, a Chinese orbiter accompanying a Russian mission was lost when the spacecraft failed to get out of Earth’s orbit after launching from Kazakhstan, eventually burning up in the atmosphere.

This time, China is going at it alone. It also is fast-tracking, launching an orbiter and rover on the same mission instead of stringing them out.

China’s secretive space program has developed rapidly in recent decades. Yang Liwei became the first Chinese astronaut in 2003, and last year, Chang’e-4 became the first spacecraft from any country to land on the far side of the moon.

Conquering Mars would put China in an elite club.

“There is a whole lot of prestige riding on this,” said Dean Cheng, an expert on Chinese aerospace programs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

The launch was “gutsy,” said Dr. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The next challenge is for the probe to be “still working when it gets to Mars and survives entry and landing.”

Landing on Mars is notoriously difficult. Only the U.S. has successfully landed a spacecraft on Martian soil, doing it eight times since 1976. NASA’s InSight and Curiosity rovers still operate today. Six other spacecraft are exploring Mars from orbit: three American, two European and one from India.

Unlike the two other Mars missions launching this month, China has tightly controlled information about the program — even withholding any name for its rover. National security concerns led the U.S. to curb cooperation between NASA and China’s space program.

In an article published earlier this month in Nature Astronomy, mission chief engineer Wan Weixing said Tianwen-1 would slip into orbit around Mars in February and look for a landing site on Utopia Planitia — a plain where NASA has detected possible evidence of underground ice. Wan died in May from cancer.

The landing would then be attempted in April or May, according to the article. If all goes well, the 240-kilogram (530-pound) golf cart-sized, solar-powered rover is expected to operate for about three months, and the orbiter for two years.

There is uncertainty even after the rover lands on Mars, said Liu Tongjie. “For instance, if there is a sand storm, it needs to modify its mode of work to prevent sands falling on solar panel, which will affect its ability to get energy,” he said.

Though small compared to America’s hulking, car-sized 1,025-kilogram (2,260-pound) Perseverance, it’s almost twice as big as the two rovers China has sent to the moon in 2013 and 2019. Perseverance is expected to operate for at least two years.

This Mars-launching season — which occurs every 26 months when Earth and Mars are at their closest — is especially busy.

The UAE spacecraft Amal, or Hope, which will orbit Mars but not land, is the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. NASA’s Perseverance rover is up next.

“At no other time in our history have we seen anything like what is unfolding with these three unique missions to Mars. Each of them is a science and engineering marvel,” the Space Foundation’s chief executive officer Thomas Zelibor said in an online panel discussion earlier this week.

China’s road to Mars hit a few bumps: A Long March-5 rocket, nicknamed “Fat 5” because of its bulky shape, failed to launch earlier this year. The coronavirus pandemic forced scientists to work from home. In March, when instruments needed to be transported from Beijing to Shanghai, three team members drove 12 hours to deliver them.

While China is joining the U.S., Russia and Europe in creating a satellite-based global navigation system, experts say it isn’t trying to overtake the U.S. lead in space exploration.

Instead, Cheng of the Heritage Foundation said China is in a “slow race” with Japan and India to establish itself as Asia’s space power.

Read More

China sheltering

China sheltering fugitive military-linked biologist in US, FBI says – Fox News

Good morning and welcome to Fox News First. Here’s what you need to know as you start your day …

China harboring fugitive military-linked biologist in US: FBI

A biology researcher who falsely denied a role within the Chinese military to obtain a visa and gain entry into the U.S. is being sheltered in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, court documents filed by the FBI say.

The filing is part of a document that cites other cases in which Chinese nationals allegedly lied on their U.S. visa applications by hiding their military affiliations.

Tang Juan, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, indicated on her J-1 visa application that she “had never served in the military, but open source investigation revealed photographs of her in the uniform of the Civilian Cadre of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], and that she had been employed as a researcher at the Air Force Military Medical University, which is another name for FMMU [Fourth Military Medical University],” the FBI claimed.

Later, during an interview with FBI agents on June 20, Tang “denied serving in the Chinese military, claimed she did not know the meaning of the insignia on her uniform, and that wearing a military uniform was required for attendance at FMMU because it was a military school.” CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON OUR TOP STORY.

Other related developments:

– Daughter of imprisoned Uighur scholar speaks out 7 years after he was arrested boarding flight to US

– McFarland: Trump is first leader to finally ‘fight back’ against China amid decades-long Cold War

– Gordon Chang reacts to Houston consulate order: China is ‘deliberately stoking racial tensions’

– China threatens retaliation after US orders closure of Houston consulate

Portland mayor joins protesters – who demand that he resign

The mayor of Portland, Ore., joined protesters for an outdoor demonstration Wednesday night, but instead of finding harmony within the group, Ted Wheeler was unceremoniously told to resign.

Protesters who projected four key demands on the side of the Multnomah County justice building – including defunding the police department by 50 percent and freeing all protesters from jail – also listed his resignation as a demand.

The demonstrators said the city should redirect money from the police into the community – “especially the Black community.”

When Wheeler began to speak, however, shouts and taunts from the crowd nearly drowned him out. So he thanked attendees for coming out to oppose the Trump administration’s “occupation” of the city and asked them to continue to resist the presence of federal agents. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Other related developments:

– Oregon governor compares federal officers to ‘secret police abducting people’

– Oregon Democrats formally request investigations into DHS, DOJ response to Portland riots

DHS chief promises ‘we will not retreat’ from Portland despite criticism, tells rioters ‘find another line of work’

– Acting DHS secretary hits back at Portland mayor’s ‘completely irresponsible’ claim that feds are ‘escalating’ unrest

Geraldo Rivera blasts Biden’s ‘flamboyant’ Trump racism claim

Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera wasted little time Wednesday night coming to the defense of President Trump after 2020 presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden accused the president of being a racist.

In an interview on “Hannity,” Rivera told the primetime host if Trump uttered a similarly “unhinged” comment about Biden, Democrats and the mainstream media would be quick to “blow him up.”

“He’s not a racist. I’ve known him 45 years,” Rivera asserted.

“For Biden to say he is the first racist ever elected, that shows how disconnected Joe Biden is. Twelve United States presidents were slaveholders,” Rivera argued. “Joe should do a little research before he makes flamboyant charge like that. So unhinged from reality.” CLICK HERE FOR MORE



– North Carolina man who hit $10M lottery jackpot charged with murder

– Trump volunteers to take coronavirus vaccine ‘first’ or ‘last,’ defends Birx in interview with Dr. Marc Siegel

– Lady Liberty stands tall – amid lightning strike in NY Harbor

– Derek Chauvin, fired Minneapolis police officer, and his wife charged with tax crimes

– Tom Cotton rips NY Times for running China scientist’s op-ed slamming US virus response


White House, GOP agree on virus testing in new aid bill

– Coronavirus made the stock market an investment favorite for 28% of Americans: study

– Austin wins Tesla’s new factory, Musk thanks Tulsa

#TheFlashback: CLICK HERE to find out what happened on “This Day in History.”


Sean Hannity disparaged the violent crime wave striking major US cities such as Portland, Chicago and New York City, citing Democrat mayors and governors, whom he says have failed in their most basic duties – their most basic responsibilities – to maintain law and order.

Not signed up yet for Fox News First? Click here to find out what you’re missing.

Click here to find out what’s on Fox News, Fox Business, and Fox News Radio today!

Fox News First is compiled by Fox News’ Bryan Robinson. This edition was produced by Jack Durschlag. Thank you for making us your first choice in the morning! See you in your inbox first thing Friday.

Read More

China launch

China is about to launch a trio of spacecraft to Mars — including a rover – The Verge

Early on July 23rd, China is slated to launch its most ambitious space mission yet, sending a trio of spacecraft to Mars — including a rover to explore the planet’s surface. If successful, China will become the second nation to land and operate a rover on the Red Planet.

The mission is named Tianwen-1 — after the long poem “Tianwen,” which means “Questions to Heaven” — and it entails sending an orbiter, a lander, and a rover to Mars. The three spacecraft will launch on top of one of China’s most powerful rockets, the Long March 5, and then travel through deep space together to the Red Planet. While the orbiter studies Mars from above, the lander and rover will make the daring plunge to the surface. The lander is tasked with touching down gently on the ground in one piece, keeping the rover safe and providing a platform for the wheeled vehicle to roll out and explore.

Tianwen-1 is the latest in a long line of increasingly complex space projects that China has tackled over the last decade. The country became the first nation in history to land and operate a rover on the far side of the Moon last year. China remains focused on lunar exploration, with plans to launch a mission at the end of this year to bring back samples from the lunar surface.

Now, with Tianwen-1, China is embarking on what could be its first big interplanetary mission. It has even bolder projects planned for the future, such as visiting an asteroid and visiting Jupiter in the 2030s. “They’re definitely on a long-term quest for lunar and planetary Solar System exploration,” James Head, a planetary geoscientist at Brown University who has worked with scientists in the Chinese Space Program, tells The Verge.

Of course, Mars missions are no easy feat, and China’s first attempt to reach the Red Planet didn’t even make it beyond Earth. In 2011, the country attempted to send an orbiter to Mars called Yinghuo-1, piggybacking on a much larger Russian spacecraft bound for the planet called Phobos-Grunt. But the launch of the vehicle on a Ukrainian rocket ultimately failed, destroying Phobos-Grunt and the Chinese spacecraft.

China is handling both the launch and the spacecraft development for Tianwen-1. If the ambitious mission succeeds, China will become one of only a handful of countries to reach and orbit Mars. China’s goal of landing on the Red Planet during this trip is an even bigger move. Only the United States and the Soviet Union have ever landed on Mars, and only the US has successfully operated a rover on the planet. “It will demonstrate that China is a full-spectrum space power,” David Burbach, a professor at the Naval War College who studies China’s space program, tells The Verge, speaking in a personal capacity. “That they’re able to check all the boxes of what a major space power is able to do.”

As is the case with most Chinese missions, details surrounding this launch are relatively scarce. But China has provided some general information about the overall structure of the mission. The three spacecraft will spend about seven months journeying to Mars, reaching the planet sometime in February 2021. That month will also mark the arrival of the United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter, which launched on July 19th, as well as the arrival of NASA’s new Perseverance rover, which is set to launch on July 30th.

Once Tianwen-1 arrives, the trio will stay in orbit for about two to three months, while China surveys their potential landing site. “Basically they want to validate with their own data the characteristics of the site,” says Head, adding, “You build up confidence every day that you’re in Martian orbit until you reach a decision about when to proceed down to the surface.” China is aiming to land in an area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia, according to the mission’s chief scientist writing in Nature Astronomy. Utopia Planitia is the same region on Mars where NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Tianwen-1’s rover has a long list of scientific tasks ahead of it, including mapping out Martian geography, looking for any water-ice in the Martian soil, measuring the climate of Mars at the surface, and more. The rover is equipped with six instruments, including its most exciting tool, a ground-penetrating radar that may be able to identify different rocks and even search for reservoirs of water-ice underneath the surface.

To get to the surface, the lander and rover pair will perform an audacious seven- to eight-minute descent to the surface of Mars, according to China’s state-run media agency Xinhua News. The process will be similar to how NASA lands its spacecraft on Mars. First, the spacecraft will rely on Mars’ thin atmosphere to cushion their fall, slowing them down substantially after coming out of orbit. They’ll then deploy a parachute for about a minute and a half to slow down even further. Finally, the lander will ignite an onboard engine to hover over the surface for a few moments and then touch down gently.


An artistic rendering of the Tianwen-1 rover and lander on Mars.
Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

Confirmation about the landing’s success or failure will likely rely on official word from China. “They make a very big deal when things succeed; they’re relatively quiet until it’s clear that they’ve succeeded,” says Burbach. “If it goes into orbit, they’ll make a big deal about that. If the landing is successful, I’m sure there will be a lot of attention to that.” As for the orbiter, it will serve as a relay, providing communications between Earth and the rover. It’ll also attempt to survey Mars from above with seven of its own instruments.

But first, the mission has to launch successfully. Airspace closures over the launch site at Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in southern China indicate the launch could occur around 12:45AM ET on July 23rd, according to Andrew Jones, a freelance journalist covering China’s spaceflight program. If the launch on the 23rd gets scrubbed, China will have until early August to try again. This launch will be just the fourth launch of the Long March 5, and its track record hasn’t been perfect. While its debut flight went relatively well in 2016, the second launch of the Long March 5 in 2017 ended in failure. China spent up to two years diagnosing the problem and redesigning the machinery in the engines responsible for the failure. Fortunately, the vehicle returned to flight successfully in 2019. If that launch had failed, it’s doubtful Tianwen-1 would have been able to go up this summer.

“This new rocket was designed to take them to the next level,” Jones tells The Verge. “So they’ll be able to launch a space station, carry out a lunar sample return mission and start sending missions to the [lunar] South Pole.” Jones added: “If this launch had failed, they would have a lot of explaining to do as to why basically all these big ambitious space missions which were planned would be delayed again.”

A successful mission would certainly bring even more prestige — and more attention — to China’s blossoming space program. In the US, it will likely renew heated discussions among lawmakers and space policy experts about China’s growing dominance in the space world. However, Burbach says a mission based on science should not be of concern to the US. “If you find a Chinese mission to Mars worrying, it means that you find it worrying that China is a competent science and engineering country, with a capable rocket program overall,” he says. He notes that China has done missions in space that have been cause for concern — such as conducting a test in 2007 to destroy a satellite, creating hundreds of pieces of debris. But a science mission is not something he worries about. “If anything I think it’s an opportunity to allow some additional cooperation with the Chinese technical community,” says Burbach.

While Tianwen-1 could further elevate China on the global stage, the country also sees these missions as a way to inspire youth in the country, according to Jones. “Engaging in these kinds of really challenging high technology areas is something which boosts the economy,” he says. “It also inspires people, just like with the Apollo missions, to get involved in STEM and to pursue these kinds of these kinds of careers that can lead into exploration and all kinds of areas of science and technology.”

Hopefully, if these spacecraft do succeed, we’ll also have a little more insight into Mars. “Every time we go to a different place on Mars we learn something completely new,” says Head. “That’s why it’s so important to have abundant surface exploration and rovers. It just provides a new area; it will be entirely new things, no doubt. And that will complement our overall picture of Mars.”

Read More

Business China

US warship challenges China in South China Sea after claims rejection – Business Insider – Business Insider

  • A US Navy destroyer challenged China in the South China Sea with a freedom-of-navigation operation on Tuesday.
  • The USS Ralph Johnson sailed near the disputed Spratly Islands, the Navy said, adding in a statement that “unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas.”
  • The operation, one of at least six such operations this year, comes after the US State Department officially rejected most of China’s sea claims, declaring its maritime efforts to assert sovereignty unlawful.

After the US State Department declared Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea and efforts to assert dominance unlawful, the US Navy destroyer USS Ralph Johnson further challenged China with a sail-by operation Tuesday.

The Navy released a couple photos on Tuesday of the destroyer sailing near the contested Spratly Islands, and a Navy spokesman confirmed the ship conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation in the area.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) steams near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Ralph Johnson is deployed conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts for a free and open Indo-Pacific.U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Collier


“This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in


law by challenging the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan,” the Navy said in a statement.

“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas,” the service added.

“The United States upholds freedom of navigation as a principle,” the Navy said later in its statement. “As long as some countries continue to claim and assert limits on rights that exceed their authority under international law, the United States will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of the sea guaranteed to all. No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.”


The US is aligning its South China Sea policy with a 2016 international arbitration tribunal ruling and officially rejecting many of China’s claims to the contested waterway, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday.

“Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo said, adding, “The PRC’s predatory world view has no place in the 21st century.”
While China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei all have overlapping claims to the strategic South China Sea, China is among the most aggressive in enforcing its claims. Chinese military outposts can be found in the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands, despite a 2016 arbitration tribunal ruling that discredited many of China’s claims.Advertisement

Beijing rejected the ruling by the international Permanent Court of Arbitration, which made the decision at the request of the Philippines after China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal, and has continued to pursue its interests.

Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Paul Vance, from Lilburn, Ga., assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), scans the horizon using a telescopic alidade, July 14, near the Spratly Islands in the South China SeaU.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Collier

Much to China’s frustration, the US routinely challenges Beijing’s restrictions on innocent passage and excessive claims through regular freedom-of-navigation operations.Advertisement

The Navy has conducted at least six such operations this year alone, as well as multiple presence operations. The Air Force also routinely conducts bomber overflights in the region.

Earlier this month, the US sent two carrier strike groups into the South China Sea to conduct dual carrier operations at the same time the Chinese military was conducting exercises in the area.

In recent months, the US military has stepped up its activities in the South China Sea in response to what the Pentagon described as “increasing opportunistic activity by the PRC to coerce its neighbors and press its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea while the region and the world is focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” a global crisis that has triggered an apparent escalation in US-China tensions.Advertisement

David Stillwell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, strongly criticized China’s efforts to enforce its will in the South China Sea as “gangster tactics” at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Tuesday. He said the US “will not let China claim the South China Sea as its own,” USNI News reported.

Pompeo’s statement Monday provided clarity on the US position in the South China Sea, where Stillwell said the US will not remain neutral. The statement clears the way for potentially tougher US responses.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the US statement on the South China Sea “irresponsible.”Advertisement

“It violates and distorts international law, deliberately stokes territorial and maritime disputes, and undermines regional peace and stability,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said Tuesday.

He later stated: “We strongly deplore and firmly oppose the wrong move by the US and urge it to stop stirring up trouble on the South China Sea issue and stop continuing down the wrong path.”

Read More

China Dominates

China Dominates P.P.E. Manufacturing – The New York Times

BEIJING — Alarmed at China’s stranglehold over supplies of masks, gowns, test kits and other front-line weapons for batting the coronavirus, countries around the world have set up their own factories to cope with this pandemic and outbreaks of the future.

When the outbreak subsides, those factories may struggle to survive. China has laid the groundwork to dominate the market for protective and medical supplies for years to come.

Factory owners get cheap land, courtesy of the Chinese government. Loans and subsidies are plentiful. Chinese hospitals are often told to buy locally, giving China’s suppliers a vast and captive market.

Once vaccines emerge, demand will plummet. Factories will close. But Chinese companies are likely to have the lowest costs by far and be best positioned for the next global outbreak.

“The Chinese have been successful weaving global personal protection equipment dominance with supply-chain command and control,” said Omar Allam, a former Canadian trade official trying to establish production of in-demand N95 medical respirators in his country.

China’s grip on the market is a testament to its drive to dominate important cogs in the global industrial machine.



N95 masks being made at the QYK Brands factory in Anaheim, Calif., on equipment imported from China.CreditCredit…Photographs and Video by Bryan Denton

For years, China’s leaders have worried that the country depended too much on foreign sources for everything from medical supplies to microchips to airliners. It has used subsidies, economic targets and other government inducements to emerge as a powerhouse in those important industries.

When Chinese leaders grew concerned about pollution and dependence on foreign oil, for example, they helped local makers of solar panels, wind turbines and high-speed rail equipment clobber the competition. They have taken similar steps to dominate industries of the future, like the next generation of wireless data transmission, known as 5G.

The state’s heavy involvement in its economy has led to waste and graft that could slow China’s growth. But the policies have often proved effective in building industries that can withstand losses and tough foreign competition. Medical supplies may be similar.

“There will be massive consolidation after the epidemic,” said Howard Yu, a professor of management and innovation at the Institute for Management Development, a business school in Switzerland. “It will be exactly the same dynamics as in green energy, 5G and high-speed rail.”


Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, China already exported more respirators, surgical masks, medical goggles and protective garments than the rest of the world combined, the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated.

Beijing’s coronavirus response has only added to that dominance. It increased mask production nearly 12-fold in February alone. It can now make 150 tons per day of the specialized fabric used for masks, said Bob McIlvaine, who runs a namesake research and consulting firm in Northfield, Ill. That is five times what China could make before the outbreak, and 15 times the output of U.S. companies even after they ramped up production this spring.

American companies have been reluctant to make big investments in fabric manufacturing because they worry that mask demand will be temporary. But Texas required on Thursday that most residents wear masks in public places, part of a broader embrace of face masks in recent days.

“It is a huge mistake to assume that the market will disappear,” Mr. McIlvaine said.

Ma Zhaoxu, vice minister of foreign affairs, said that from March through May, China exported 70.6 billion masks. The entire world produced about 20 billion all of last year, with China accounting for half.

Other countries now want self-reliance. Earlier in the pandemic, China sometimes decided which countries received crucial supplies and demanded profuse and public thanks in exchange.


Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

President Emmanuel Macron of France pledged in March to produce homegrown masks and respirators by the end of this year. Peter Navarro, President Trump’s industrial policy adviser, has begun a push for the federal government to buy American-made pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

China, however, has a head start.

In 2005, after the outbreak of SARS, which killed 350 people in China, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced that it had developed respirators that better fit Chinese faces. In 2010, the government’s five-year economic plan ordered a “focus on developing basic equipment and medical materials that have high demand, wide application and are mainly imported.”

China also foresaw the importance of nucleic acid test kits, which can detect coronavirus infections. In 2017, the Ministry of Science and Technology identified the kits as a “targeted development” industry.

The ministry’s decision was part of the country’s $300 billion “Made in China 2025” industrial policy to replace imports in many key industries, including medical devices. The ministry called for raising China’s share of the local market by 30 to 40 percentage points in each category of medical supplies.

Chinese makers of medical gear enjoyed generous government subsidies. Shenzhen Mindray, a maker of ventilators and other intensive care equipment, received up to $16.6 million a year over the past three years, according to company documents. Winner Medical, a mask manufacturer, received $3 million to $4 million a year. Guangzhou Improve, a producer of masks and test kits, received $2.5 million to $5 million a year.


Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Shenzhen Mindray and Winner Medical declined to comment, while Guangzhou Improve did not respond to numerous requests.

Hospitals began to buy locally. Three years ago, the central government required purchasers to buy from domestic producers that could meet requirements. Local governments followed. Sichuan Province, for example, cut in half the number of categories for which medical equipment and supplies could be imported. Only the top hospitals could import anything, the provincial government said, while lower-ranked hospitals had to buy everything in China.

At least three other large, populous provinces — Liaoning, Hubei and Shandong — made similar announcements.


Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Such efforts helped put China firmly at the front of the industry, as Rakesh Tammabattula discovered. An entrepreneur in the Los Angeles suburbs, he shifted his business making nutrition supplements and moisturizer to the production of medical masks and hand sanitizer in response to the epidemic. To do that, he needed a machine that could compress and cut fabric to make masks.

  • Updated June 30, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

He discovered that the machines were made only in China. He had to charter a jet to fly the huge device — 36 feet long, six feet high and five feet wide — from southern China to Los Angeles.

“It’s not that we can’t make this,” said Mr. Tammabattula, the chief executive of QYK Brands. “It’s just that we haven’t focused on it.”

The Chinese government played a major role in this year’s medical-equipment build-out.

Sinopec, a state-owned Chinese oil company, said it had worked closely with the Chinese Communist Party as it set out to build a factory to make the particle-trapping fabric needed for surgical masks and respirators.



QYK Brands flew this fabric-compressing machine in from China, the only country that makes it.CreditCredit…Photographs and Video by Bryan Denton

At one site, 600 engineers and workers labored in shifts day and night for 35 consecutive days to build a factory that would normally take a year to construct. A “party member assault team” worked 20 hours straight on Feb. 26 to prepare a warehouse for the project, according to the company.

Officials also accelerated efforts to make land available for new factories. The city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province transferred 1.6 acres to the Jiande Chaomei Daily Chemical Company on Feb. 15 for an emergency expansion of respirator production. Lanxi, a county in Zhejiang, transferred land to the Baihao New Materials Company by the end of February for respirator production. Officials in Guangdong Province and the city of Jinan in Shandong Province approved more lenient land policies for medical supply businesses as well.

Government support for the medical supply industry is continuing. Guangzhou Aoyuan Biotech Company decided this year to expand from its usual business of making disinfectant into the manufacture of N95 masks. A top local official immediately visited the company, arranged land for it in an industrial park and approved all of the necessary forms.


Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

A few economic policy experts in China contend that their country may be going too far. According to Tianyancha, a Chinese data service, more than 67,000 companies have registered in China this year to make or trade masks. Many start-ups with poor quality control have already run into trouble. The Chinese government has imposed increasingly stringent customs inspections on exports.

“Many mask-manufacturing enterprises — especially the small and medium enterprises that came into the picture much later and do not possess strong foundations — would have to face closure when they have a surplus of masks and profits begin to plunge,” wrote Cai Enze, a retired deputy mayor and economic planner in central China, in an essay in April. “That marks the start of a crisis.”

Still, the broader industry in China appears to be better prepared for the future.

In Los Angeles, Mr. Tammabattula has found that even producing hand sanitizer is hard. He has been unable to find any company in the United States that still makes plastic bottles with pump handles. He imports them, on expensive chartered aircraft, from China.

Mr. Tammabattula has applied for a federal loan for small businesses trying to produce medical supplies, but the paperwork has proved extensive, daunting and slow, he said.

“If we were to compare to the Chinese government,” Mr. Tammabattula said, “there’s just no support for domestic manufacturing.”


Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Coral Yang contributed research from Shanghai.

Read More

China Warns

China warns US after Congress passes sanctions bill on Hong Kong –

China has promised to take “all necessary countermeasures” if the United States pressed ahead with legislation penalising banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s draconian new national security law on Hong Kong.

The warning on Friday came after the US Senate unanimously approved the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, sending it to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

“This US move has grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs and seriously violated international law, as well as the basic norms governing international relations,” the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s National People’s Congress said.

“If the US side is bent on going down the wrong path, China will resolutely respond with all necessary countermeasures.”

Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism over its decision to impose a law outlawing “acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces” in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy protesters in the city as well as foreign governments say the law breaches the “one country, two systems” principle enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British treaty that guaranteed the autonomy of Hong Kong.

The law has triggered alarm among democracy activists and rights groups. Demosisto, a pro-democracy group led by Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, disbanded hours after the legislation was passed, while prominent group member Nathan Law said on Friday that he had left the global financial hub.

The 26-year-old said he made the decision to leave after criticising the new law at a US congressional hearing he attended via livestream on Wednesday. “Of course, I knew my speech and appearance would put my own safety in serious jeopardy given the circumstances,” he wrote on Twitter.

“As a global-facing activist, the choice I have are stark: to stay silent from now on, or to keep engaging in private diplomacy so I can warn the world of the threat of Chinese authoritarian expansion. I made the decision when I agreed to testify before the US Congress.”

Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, reporting from Hong Kong, said Law did not close his whereabouts for security reasons and is “just one among a number of political figures who’ve fled as a result of the national security law”.

“Joshua Wong and prominent Demosisto member Agnes Chow – we do not know where they are at the moment. We think they must be in the city as they face criminal charges and are not allowed to leave as a result.”

Wong and Chow face charges of taking part in an unlawful assembly in August last year, during mass protests against a now-withdrawn extradition bill with mainland China. It was those demonstrations – which lasted for months and at times descended into violence – that prompted Beijing’s move to impose the security law.


Nathan Law, centre, walks past the media outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong [Isaac Lawrence/ AFP]

Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong say the law, which bypasses Hong Kong’s legislature, is necessary to restore order and stability in the city and will only target a handful of “trouble-makers”.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s local government confirmed that a popular protest slogan used over the last year – “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” – was now illegal. The rallying cry appears on placards at rallies, is printed on clothes and accessories and scribbled on post-it notes on walls across the city.

“The slogan ‘Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times’ nowadays connotes “Hong Kong independence”, or separating the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) from the People’s Republic of China, altering the legal status of the HKSAR, or subverting the state power,” the government said in a statement late on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule, police arrested about 370 people during protests against the legislation, with 10 of those involving violations of the new law

The United Kingdom has announced plans to allow millions of Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas status to relocate with their families and eventually apply for citizenship. Australia said it was considering similar action, while Taiwan has opened an office to help Hong Kong people wanting to flee the city.

Read More

China National

China’s new national security law in Hong Kong is already chilling free speech –

At 11pm local time on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s government unveiled the text of a draconian new national security law that gives the Chinese government vast new powers to crackdown on free speech and dissent in Hong Kong.

Drafted in secrecy by top Chinese officials in Beijing — and not seen by the public until that very moment — the law criminalizes “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”

Those who commit such acts — which experts say are vaguely defined in the law, and thus allow for an extremely broad interpretation by authorities — face severe punishment, up to and including life in prison.

“The things that you talk about, you write about, you publish about, and even the people you know about, that you have connection with, can be potentially at risk of being prosecuted under this law,” Ho-Fung Hung, a political economy professor at Johns Hopkins University who focuses on China and East Asia, told Vox.

And, according to the New York Times, “The law opens the way for defendants in important cases to stand trial before courts in mainland China, where convictions are usually assured and penalties are often harsh.”

The law went into effect immediately. Less than 24 hours later, Hong Kong police announced the first arrest under the new policy.

And they weren’t subtle about it: They immediately posted photos on their official Twitter account of the young man they’d arrested. His alleged offense? Holding a pro-Hong Kong independence flag.

Chinese state media quickly reported the story of the first arrest — but they made sure to blur out the offending images of the pro-independence flag itself, lest they commit the same grievous act of promoting such a seditious idea (something the Hong Kong Police Force apparently didn’t think to do before tweeting the photos).

For many Hong Kong watchers, these images marked the beginning of the end of the freedoms that Hong Kong, unlike the rest of mainland China, had enjoyed for decades.

The law effectively ends “one country, one system”

The “one country, two systems” principle — enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto constitution — has been in place ever since Britain handed back control of the territory to China in 1997.

As Vox’s Jen Kirby explains, “The ‘one country’ part means [Hong Hong] is officially part of China, while the ‘two systems’ part gives it a degree of autonomy, including rights like freedom of the press that are absent in mainland China. China is supposed to abide by this arrangement until 2047, but it has been eroding those freedoms and trying to bring Hong Kong more tightly under its control for years.” Kirby continues:

Last spring, Hong Kong’s legislature tried to pass an extradition bill that critics feared would allow the Chinese government to arbitrarily detain Hongkongers. That ignited massive protests, leading to months of unrest that sometimes turned violent. The bill was withdrawn, but the demonstrations continued, as the fight transformed into a larger battle to protect Hong Kong’s democratic institutions.

But Beijing’s imposition of this new national security law is the most direct and dramatic move China has made toward erasing those freedoms once and for all.

“[The National Security Law] is a complete destruction of the rule of law in Hong Kong and threatens every aspect of freedom the people of Hong Kong enjoyed under the international human rights standards or the Basic Law,” Lee Cheuk Yan, a veteran Hong Kong politician and activist, told US lawmakers during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the new law on Wednesday.

On July 1, 2020, Hong Kong residents awoke to discover a barge with a large banner reading “Celebrate the National Security Law” floating in the waters of Victoria Harbor.
Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

And Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, told Vox, “This law really eliminates ‘one country, two systems.’”

But Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists aren’t cowed — or at least, not yet

Pro-democracy supporters hold a Hong Kong independence flag and shout slogans during a rally against the national security law as riot police secure an area in a shopping mall in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020.
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam held a press conference to announce the new law — a law drafted without her input and whose full details even she didn’t know until just the day before.

Outside, thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets to protest against — and in direct defiance of — it, despite a heavy police presence.

Riot police deployed around the city held up large purple banners that read: “This is a police warning. You are displaying flags or banners / chanting slogans / or conducting yourselves with an intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offenses under the ‘HKSAR National Security Law.’ You may be arrested and prosecuted.”

By the end of the day, nearly 400 people had been arrested, including 10 who were specifically arrested for violating the new law.

Riot police detain a man as they raise a warning flag during a demonstration on July 1, 2020, against a new national security law imposed by Beijing.
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020.
Dale de la Rey/AFP via Getty Images

But experts fear that despite this initial strong opposition, the law’s chilling effect will happen eventually.

“People will be intimidated. They will charge people and they will sentence them,” Glaser said. “The Chinese have this saying, ‘kill the chicken to scare the monkey.’ They will look for very early cases that they can prosecute so that they can demonstrate their resolve in the hope of intimidating other people from challenging their authority.”

Johns Hopkins’s Hung also said the law could have major implications for September’s Hong Kong legislative elections, because the Chinese government could use the new law as a legal basis to suppress pro-democracy candidates.

“Under the new law, many of the slogans, many of the opinions are going to be illegal,” Hung said.

There’s already precedent for Chinese election officials intervening in Hong Kong’s legislative elections — in 2016, a number of candidates were disqualified for allegedly supporting Hong Kong independence, Hung said.

“I think that the Chinese were nervous after the last round of the district elections that there could be many Democrats who would be elected and, potentially, the pro-China legislature would lose legislators,” Glaser said.

“I think that if candidates do not moderate what they say, that they will be prevented from running under the law,” Glaser added. “They could easily be arrested.”

In fact, that has already happened: one pro-democracy lawmaker, the Democratic Party’s Andrew Wan, was arrested during the protests Wednesday.

It’s a stark example of just how quickly life has changed in Hong Kong, literally overnight.

Read More