Chinese consulates involved in espionage scheme, US officials say

WASHINGTON — Chinese consulates in more than two dozen US cities are aiding undercover Communist Party soldiers posing as students to engage in espionage, senior government officials said Friday.

The bombshell revelation comes after two Chinese military assets at the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, were arrested and charged Tuesday with trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research.

“The individuals charged there are a microcosm, we believe, of a broader network of individuals in more than 25 cities,” a senior Department of Justice official said.

“That network is supported through the consulates here. Consulates have been giving individuals in that network guidance on how to evade and obstruct our investigation,” he said.

The official said the Houston bust was “merely the tip of the iceberg” and raised the alarm about consulates being exploited for “espionage” because of their sovereign status.

On Thursday evening, US officials also arrested a woman who was being harbored in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco and charged her as part of a scheme in which members of the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army, lied about their visa status.

“The espionage and influence activities run out of a consulate can rise, ultimately to a level that threatens our national security,” the DOJ official said.

Chinese hackers charged with trying to steal vaccine research

The arrests made Tuesday came after a long period of stalled negotiations when officials from China’s ruling Communist Party refused to respect American sovereignty, officials said.

“For years we’ve been asking the PRC to stop these malign criminal activities,” a senior State Department official said.

“The Chinese Communist Party has been getting away with this for too long. The time is now to act and that’s what we have done,” he added.

The US government has been ramping up attacks on China as the Communist country faces intense international scrutiny for hiding the origins of the coronavirus, stealing American intellectual property and detaining minority groups such as the indigenous Uighurs.

In a scathing speech Thursday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US would no longer ignore China’s “totalitarian” rule and espionage in the US.

“For too many decades, our leaders have ignored or downplayed the words of brave Chinese dissidents who have warned us about the nature of the regime we’re facing. We can’t ignore it any longer,” he said.

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Russia and China confirm strengthening of strategic partnership

Moscow, Jul 8 (Plenglish) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed on Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping the strategic partnership, including the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the defense of the sovereignty of the States.

During a telephone conversation, Xi congratulated Putin on the successful holding of the popular vote on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Kremlin press indicated.

Both sides stressed the great importance of approving the amendments to strengthen Russia’s State and the sustainable socio-economic development of this nation.

Putin and Xi expressed strong mutual support for the protection of sovereignty, prevention of interference in internal affairs from abroad, and guarantees of the supremacy of international law.

Russia’s president thanked his Chinese peer for sending a representative delegation and a unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to participate in the parade to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

In the talk, a positive assessment was made of the level reached by the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries; the clearest expression was the mutual aid that Russia and China provided during the most difficult period of the fight against the pandemic.

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Trump is weighing TikTok’s fate, national security adviser says

President Trump is considering whether to ban Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday.

TikTok allows users to post creative video compilations and is extremely popular among teens, rivaling US-based Instagram and Snapchat.

“The president is looking very closely at TikTok and WeChat, and some of these other applications that the Chinese are using to obtain data — personal, private, intimate data on Americans and then taking it back to Beijing, where they can use it for malign purposes,” O’Brien told reporters on the White House driveway.

The Trump administration is preparing “a significant rollout of measures with respect to China,” O’Brien said.

Trump and US officials are angered by China allegedly withholding early information about COVID-19, leaving other countries unprepared for its wave of death and economic ruin. And the Trump administration is seeking to punish China for enacting a new national security law that effectively ended political freedoms in Hong Kong.

“This is one of the biggest stories of the decade. We have Hong Kong that’s basically been annexed by the People’s Republic of China, by the Communist Party of China, and they’re imposing their will on a free and democratic people,” O’Brien said.

TikTok on the clock? Pompeo says US mulling ban of Chinese apps
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that “we’re looking at” TikTok and that Americans should use the social network “only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

A federal inter-agency group called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States reportedly is investigating national security concerns about TikTok.

Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department officials reportedly are investigating TikTok’s safeguards for children’s privacy.

TikTok said this week it has “never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” that the company takes “safety seriously for all our users” and that in the US, they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”

In 2017, China enacted the “National Intelligence Law,” which states that “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”

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China reciprocates control on four US media organizations

Beijing, Jul 1 (Prensa Latina) China on Wednesday announced immediate controls on four media organizations from the United States, in tune with similar actions taken recently against the offices of the Chinese press in Washington.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news conference that in seven days, the offices of the Associated Press, United Press International, CBS and NPR must report in writing about their staff, finance, operations and properties here.

The actions are countermeasures that are completely necessary in response to the US unreasonable oppression against Chinese media.

The spokesman called on Washington to rectify its erroneous acts and stop harassing the Chinese press.

That way, China is implementing its warning about giving a strong response if Washington insists on hindering the operations of its media on US soil, adding fuel to the tensions between the two powers.

Last month, the White House announced the decision to treat as embassies the offices of CCTV, China News Service and the newspaper People’s Daily and Global Times.

In February, the US restricted to 100 the number of employees at the offices of Xinhua News Agency, CGTN, China Radio International and the newspapers China Daily and the People’s Daily on US soil.

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WHO fears coronavirus pandemic ‘not even close to being over’

The World Health Organization warned Monday that “the worst is yet to come” from the global coronavirus pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing that the world should brace for the continued spread of the deadly virus, which has already infected more than 10 million people worldwide and killed more than 500,000 over the past six months, CBS News said.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world — and our lives — would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” he said.

“We all want this to be over,” Ghebreyesus added. “We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over. Most people remain susceptible, the virus still has a lot of room to move.”

WHO sending team to China to investigate coronavirus origins

Ghebreyesus also said the global health agency would send a team to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated, in an attempt to identify the cause of the pandemic.

“We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,” he said. “We will be sending a team next week to China to prepare for that.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US accounts for about one-quarter of the global COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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European Union to speed up space ambitions to keep pace with US, China

PARIS – The European Union will plow more money into rocket launches, satellite communication and space exploration to preserve its often unsung successes in space and keep up with US and Chinese ambitions, its space chief said on Sunday.

Over the past decades, Europe has sought to build independent access to space from U.S. and Russian pioneers to help its industry, with successes such as Ariane rockets or GPS-rival satnav Galileo.

But the recent emergence of U.S. competitor SpaceX and its reusable rockets as well as China’s rapid advances, including the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon last year, is giving new urgency to Europe’s ambitions.

“Space is one of Europe’s strong points, and we’re giving ourselves the means to speed up,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton, whose brief includes the space sector, told Reuters in an interview.

Breton, the former French head of IT company Atos, said that for the first time, the EU budget will be used to support new technology to launch rockets, including reusable ones.

The EU will for the first time sign a 1 billion euro agreement with Arianespace with guaranteed orders to give it more visibility, in exchange for more innovation.

“SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, so Ariane 6 is a necessary step, but not the ultimate aim: we must start thinking now about Ariane 7,” Breton said.

Breton, who hopes the European Commission will provide 16 billion euros for space in its next budget, said he would propose a 1 billion euro European Space Fund to boost startups. He also wants to launch a competition to give free access to satellites and launchers to startups, to spur innovation.

For the Galileo satnav system, Breton said he would bring forward to the end of 2024 instead of 2027 the rollout of a new generation of satellites, “the most modern in the world”, that can interact with each other and provide a more precise signal.

He wants to launch a new satellite system that can give high-speed Internet access to all Europeans, and begin work on a Space Traffic Management system to avoid collisions, made more likely with the rapid increase in the number of satellites.

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China to Increase U.S. Agricultural Imports after Secret Trade Talks: Report

China will increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products following secret talks between the two nations held in Hawaii, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

China is a vital market for American soybeans, corn, ethanol, meat, and other agricultural products. But Beijing, which committed to buying $36.5 billion in American agricultural goods under the terms of a phase-one trade deal signed by President Trump and Chinese premier Xi Jinping, had only purchased $4.65 billion worth through the first four months of 2020.

The talks on Wednesday, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese foreign-policy chief Yang Jiechi, were intended to smooth conflicts over the trade deal.

“During my meeting with CCP Politburo Member Yang Jiechi, he recommitted to completing and honoring all of the obligations of Phase 1 of the trade deal between our two countries,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter following the meeting.

The Chinese commerce ministry did not respond to Bloomberg‘s request for comment.

Phase one of the trade deal went into effect just before the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China ballooned into a global pandemic. Relations between the U.S. and China have soured considerably since then, with American officials blaming China for not preventing the spread of the virus. The two nations were already in the midst of a trade war, with each imposing tariffs on exports from the other.

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Video song set in Cuba reaches popularity on China’s social networks

Beijing, Jun 12 (Prensa Latina) The video song ‘Mojito,’ recorded in Cuba, is reaching popularity today on China’s social networks, where it obtained over 30 million views without having a 24-hour premiere.

Since its release on internet platforms on Friday, the song by popular singer Jay Chou has gone viral among his followers in the country.

The artist chose as the title of the romantic melody that of the famous Cuban drink Mojito, a mixture of rum, sugar, peppermint leaves, lemon juice and water.

In addition, he filmed the video in unmistakable places in Havana such as the malecon waterfront and streets of Old Havana, in the company of musicians from Cuba and traditional Chinese instruments such as Shamao.

‘Cuba has always been the place I want to go, because there are all kinds of vintage cars in several colors, everyone knows that I have loved the vintage cars of the past, so this time I also went to Cuba for the song Mojito,’ stated Jay Chou to the MV channel.

The also producer, actor and director enjoys wide recognition in his country, across Asia and among the Chinese diaspora.

He has sold over 25 million albums worldwide and in 2007 was recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential People in China by the British ‘think tank’ Chatham House.

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