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Westlake Legal Group > Politics and Government

Real-Time Surveillance Will Test the British Tolerance for Cameras

CARDIFF, Wales — A few hours before a recent Wales-Ireland rugby match in Cardiff, amid throngs of fans dressed in team colors of red and green, and sidewalk merchants selling scarves and flags, police officers popped out of a white van.

The officers stopped a man carrying a large Starbucks coffee, asked him a series of questions and then arrested him. A camera attached to the van had captured his image, and facial recognition technology used by the city identified him as someone wanted on suspicion of assault.

The presence of the cameras, and the local police’s use of the software, is at the center of a debate in Britain that’s testing the country’s longstanding acceptance of surveillance.

Britain has traditionally sacrificed privacy more than other Western democracies, mostly in the name of security. The government’s use of thousands of closed-circuit cameras and its ability to monitor digital communications have been influenced by domestic bombings during years of conflict involving Northern Ireland and attacks since Sept. 11, 2001.

But now a new generation of cameras is beginning to be used. Like the one perched on the top of the Cardiff police van, these cameras feed into facial recognition software, enabling real-time identity checks — raising new concerns among public officials, civil society groups and citizens. Some members of Parliament have called for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition software. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said there was “serious and widespread concern” about the technology. Britain’s top privacy regulator, Elizabeth Denham, is investigating its use by the police and private businesses.

And this month, in a case that has been closely watched because there is little legal precedent in the country on the use of facial recognition, a British High Court ruled against a man from Cardiff, the capital of Wales, who sued to end the use of facial recognition by the South Wales Police. The man, Ed Bridges, said the police had violated his privacy and human rights by scanning his face without consent on at least two occasions — once when he was shopping, and again when he attended a political rally. He has vowed to appeal the decision.

“Technology is driving forward, and legislation and regulation follows ever so slowly behind,” said Tony Porter, Britain’s surveillance camera commissioner, who oversees compliance with the country’s surveillance camera code of practice. “It would be wrong for me to suggest the balance is right.”

Britain’s experience mirrors debates about the technology in the United States and elsewhere in Europe. Critics say the technology is an intrusion of privacy, akin to constant identification checks of an unsuspecting public, and has questionable accuracy, particularly at identifying people who aren’t white men.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160144890_51d99fe5-4687-417a-abbd-c3115b9bcfb3-articleLarge Real-Time Surveillance Will Test the British Tolerance for Cameras Surveillance of Citizens by Government Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Privacy Politics and Government London (England) Great Britain facial recognition software Computer Vision Cardiff (Wales) cameras

A Cardiff man who sued to end the use of facial recognition by the South Wales Police lost a ruling by the British High Court this month. CreditFrancesca Jones for The New York Times

In May, San Francisco became the first American city to ban the technology, and some other cities have followed. Some members of Congress want to limit its use across the United States, with Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, comparing the technology to George Orwell’s “1984” and a threat to free speech and privacy. A school in Sweden was fined after using facial recognition to keep attendance. The European Commission is considering new restrictions.

Britain’s use of facial recognition technology is nowhere close to as widespread as that used in China, where the government uses it in a variety of ways, including to track ethnic Muslims in the country’s western region. Opponents of the software say its use in a democratic country needs to be more carefully considered, not left to the police to determine.

But the British public has already grown accustomed to the use of surveillance cameras. The roughly 420,000 closed-circuit television cameras in London are more than in any other city except Beijing, equaling about 48 cameras per 1,000 people, more than Beijing, according to a 2017 report by the Brookings Institution. A recent government poll showed a mixed reaction to facial recognition, with about half of the people surveyed supporting its use if certain privacy safeguards were in place.

The South Wales police have arrested 58 people using facial recognition technology since 2017.CreditFrancesca Jones for The New York Times

The Metropolitan Police Service in London tested facial recognition technology 10 times from 2016 until July of this year. Officers were often stationed in a control center near the cameras monitoring computers with a real-time feed of what was being recorded. The system sent an alert when it had identified a person who matched someone on the watch list. If officers agreed it was a match, they would radio to police officers on the street to pick up the person.

During one deployment near a subway station in London, officers detained a person intentionally seeking to obscure his face from the cameras to avoid detection. He was released after being ordered to pay a fine. In other instances, researchers found that the system flagged people who had been wanted for a past crime that had already been dealt with by the legal system.

Daragh Murray, a researcher at Essex University who spent time observing the use of facial recognition technology by the London police, said officials discussed integrating the technology in cameras around the city, including on buses.

“They were seeing it as the first step in a much bigger deployment,” said Mr. Murray, who published a 128-page report in July on use of the technology in London. He added, “The potential for really invasive technology is very high, but it can also be incredibly useful under certain circumstances.”

The technology has been most widely used by the South Wales Police after it received funding for systems from the Home Office, the agency that oversees domestic security across Britain. The police force uses the cameras about twice per month at large events like the Wales-Ireland rugby match, which was held at a stadium that fits more than 70,000 fans. At the national air show in July, more than 21,000 faces were scanned, according to the police. The system identified seven people from a watch list — four incorrectly.

Stephen Williams, who volunteers for the Socialist Party in Cardiff, said police vans with facial recognition cameras were now frequent sights at busy events.CreditFrancesca Jones for The New York Times

In Cardiff, the largest city in Wales, vans carrying facial recognition cameras have become a common sight over the past year. On game days, the vehicles have taken the place of vans the police used to detain fans causing trouble, said Stephen Williams, 57, who volunteers for the Socialist Party at a table nearby. “On most occasions, if it’s a busy event, you’ll see a van there,” he said.

The South Wales Police said the technology was necessary to make up for years of budget cuts by the central government. “We are having to do more with less,” said Alun Michael, the South Wales police and crime commissioner. He said the technology was “no different than a police officer standing on the corner looking out for individuals and if he recognizes somebody, saying, ‘I want to talk to you.’”

The police said that since 2017, 58 people had been arrested after being identified by the technology.

New questions are being raised about facial recognition’s use extending beyond the police to private companies. This month, after a report was published by the Financial Times, a large London property developer acknowledged that it used the technology at Kings Cross, a commercial and transit hub.

Critics say there has been a lack of transparency about the technology’s use, particularly about the creation of watch lists, which are considered the backbone of the technology because they determine which faces a camera system is hunting for. In tests in Britain, the police often programmed the system to look for a few thousand wanted people, according to a research paper published in July. But the potential could be far greater: Another government report said that as of July 2016, there were over 16 million images of people who had been taken into custody in the country’s Police National Database that could be searchable with facial recognition software.

Critics of the technology in Britain say there is little transparency about its use, particularly about the creation of watch lists of wanted individuals.CreditFrancesca Jones for The New York Times

Silkie Carlo, the executive director of Big Brother Watch, a British privacy group calling for a ban on the technology’s use, said the murky way watch lists were created showed that police departments and private companies, not elected officials, were making public policy about the use of facial recognition.

“We’ve skipped some real fundamental steps in the debate,” Ms. Carlo said. “Policymakers have arrived so late in the discussion and don’t fully understand the implications and the big picture.”

Sandra Wachter, an associate professor at Oxford University who focuses on technology ethics, said that even if the technology could be proven to identify wanted people accurately, laws were needed to specify when the technology could be used, how watch lists were created and shared, and the length of time images could be stored.

“We still need rules around accountability,” she said, “which right now I don’t think we really do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Is Trump’s America Tougher on Asylum Than Other Western Countries?

BERLIN — The Supreme Court this week allowed the Trump administration to move forward with a plan to bar most migrants, particularly Central Americans, from seeking asylum in the United States.

Under President Trump’s plan, migrants cannot apply for asylum unless they have already tried — and failed — to receive it in one of the countries they passed through on their way to the United States. Guatemalans would be sent back to Mexico, for example, while people from El Salvador and Honduras would be returned to Guatemala.

Given how unsafe those countries can be for their own citizens — much less for migrants — the move has been portrayed by critics as another deviation from global rights standards under Mr. Trump. It follows his frequent attempts to expand barriers along the United States-Mexico border, as well as a deterioration in the treatment of migrants after they reach America.

But Mr. Trump’s plan is also in keeping with a wider international trend of curtailing the right to asylum, as Western nations try to curb migration from the global south, where the overwhelming majority of displaced people live.

To stifle record levels of migration to Europe in 2015 and 2016, the continent’s big powers reached deals with neighboring countries like Turkey to keep migrants from European shores. Australia, determined to stop maritime migration from Indonesia, now deports asylum seekers to its neighbors in the Pacific Ocean. Israel tried to send African migrants to Rwanda.

“It is currently the objective of most countries of the global north to prevent migrants” from entering their territory, said François Crépeau, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on migrant rights and an expert on international refugee law at McGill University.

“Probably the U.S. are taking actions a bit further from what the Europeans are doing,” said Mr. Crépeau. “But the Europeans have also been very good at getting neighboring countries to do their dirty work.”

The United Nations refugee convention of 1951 provides the basis for American asylum laws. Unlike the Trump plan, it does not prevent refugees from traveling through several countries before landing in the United States and seeking asylum.

But it does ban signatories to the convention, like the United States, from deporting asylum seekers to countries where their safety is at risk, a process formally known as “refoulement.”

Most Western countries have usually interpreted this in a broad sense — refusing to deport people to countries that may not be at war, but still do not provide refugees with most of the protections required by the 1951 convention. Countries like Guatemala and Mexico, where homicide rates are high and migrants are often especially vulnerable to extortion, kidnapping and violence, could fall into that category, some experts say.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the countries of the Northern Triangle and Mexico itself are not safe, and that the people passing through those countries are at risk of human rights violations,” said Jeff Crisp, an expert on migration at Chatham House, a London-based research group, referring to the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

“Returning people to those countries could be considered in violation of the non-refoulement principle,” Dr. Crisp added.

Even so, there is no international court or authority that can overrule Mr. Trump’s plan. The Supreme Court’s ruling is provisional, and it is expected to take up the case again. But that will take many months.

The Trump administration is also pushing Mexico and Central American countries to agree to accept migrants. Guatemala has, but the plan must still be ratified by the Guatemalan Congress.

Mexico, by contrast, has said it won’t sign a so-called safe third country agreement with the United States to accept asylum claims from migrants who arrive on its soil, even if they are hoping to reach the United States.

“The court’s decision is astonishing,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Thursday about the Supreme Court ruling.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_114968270_fdd7b984-a0f2-4b3b-8fb2-5882dd053269-articleLarge Is Trump’s America Tougher on Asylum Than Other Western Countries? United States United Nations Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Spain Refugees and Displaced Persons Politics and Government Morocco Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration European Union Europe Australia Asylum, Right of Africa

One of the compounds of the Offshore Processing Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.CreditAshley Gilbertson for The New York Times

Since 2012, most asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat have been deported to processing centers in the nearby countries of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where they are held while their asylum applications are assessed.

Rights groups like Amnesty International say that asylum seekers at these centers face severe abuse. And even if granted asylum, the migrants are still barred from resettlement in Australia. Instead, they must live in Nauru, Papua New Guinea or, in a few cases, Cambodia.

Last year, Israel was forced to cancel a comparable deal with Rwanda, in which African asylum seekers would be deported from Tel Aviv to Kigali, after a public backlash.

The concept was pioneered in 1990s by Presidents George Bush and his successor, President Clinton, who authorized American Coast Guard vessels to intercept boats loaded with Haitian refugees and take them to Guantánamo Bay for processing.

Afghan migrants among the makeshift tents just outside Moria in the Greek Island of Lesbos.CreditMauricio Lima for The New York Times

European politicians have often spoken of sending migrants for processing in non-European countries, but the plan has never been successfully enacted.

In 2015 and 2016, more than one million migrants reached Greece from Turkey, most of them making their way to wealthier countries like Germany.

To stop this, the European Union pledged more than $6 billion to Turkey. In return, Turkey tightened up its border restrictions — and agreed to take back every migrant who subsequently landed in Greece.

Turkey did cut migration flows to Europe drastically, but only a small proportion of migrants who continued to land in Greece have been sent back. Migrants still have the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, or for relocation to other European countries, and many do so successfully. The Greek asylum system operates independently and is not beholden to the political agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

Meanwhile, migrants reaching Italy from Libya, another major gateway to Europe, are not returned because the country is still at war and does not recognize the 1951 convention.

People trying to reach Spain through its enclaves in North Africa are often forced back to Morocco without being given the chance to apply for asylum. But those who manage to cross the border into the enclaves undetected are usually allowed to lodge an asylum claim in Spain, though they are often sent back once their applications are rejected months later.

In theory, migrants are supposed to lodge an asylum claim as soon as they reach one of the 28 member states of the European Union. Those who don’t are liable to be returned to the country where they first entered the bloc — usually Greece, Italy or Spain — because European Union members theoretically trust one another to uphold the 1951 convention and treat refugees fairly.

But again, the system doesn’t quite work like that in reality. Sometimes it’s hard to prove that applicants passed through Greece on their way to, say, Germany. And in recent years, countries like Germany and Sweden have suspended returns to some members of the European Union, like Hungary and Greece, because of concerns about the fairness of their asylum systems.

Asylum seekers at the United Nations compound in Niamey, Niger.CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

If migrants reach Europe from Libya, they are allowed to lodge an asylum claim on European soil. But some people who haven’t left Libya yet have been encouraged to fly instead to Niger, where they can apply for asylum in Europe from a country of relative safety. A similar arrangement was recently brokered with Rwanda, but has yet to formally begin.

The process is ostensibly a humanitarian one: It aims to help migrants escape war-torn Libya, where they are often prey to kidnapping, conscription, air raids, abuse and forced labor, without needing to brave the dangerous sea crossing to Italy.

But critics argue that few of them will in practice be ever resettled in Europe.

Like Mr. Trump, European governments have also sought to curb migration by building physical barriers along their borders. Greece has a fence lining its border with Turkey. Spain has several on its enclaves’ borders with Morocco. And Hungary built one on its border with Serbia.

In addition to its deal with Turkey, the European Union and its members have often paid third parties with checkered rights records to stop migrants from reaching Europe. The bloc pays Niger to throttle migration. Spain has a deal with Morocco. And Italy enlisted Libyan militias to stifle migration across the Mediterranean.

Asylum seekers in Greece and Hungary are also mostly confined in squalid facilities. On the Greek island of Lesbos, over 10,000 people are housed in a camp built for 3,100. In Hungary, officials have repeatedly denied food for several days to dozens of asylum seekers, including children.

One notable difference between Mr. Trump and his European counterparts is the way they speak publicly about migrants. With the exception of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary and Matteo Salvini, Italy’s former interior minister, European government officials have largely avoided using provocative language to stir xenophobia — while still trying to block migrants from European territory.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Is Trump’s America Tougher on Asylum Than Other Western Countries?

BERLIN — The Supreme Court this week allowed the Trump administration to move forward with a plan to bar most migrants, particularly Central Americans, from seeking asylum in the United States.

Under President Trump’s plan, migrants cannot apply for asylum unless they have already tried — and failed — to receive it in one of the countries they passed through on their way to the United States. Guatemalans would be sent back to Mexico, for example, while people from El Salvador and Honduras would be returned to Guatemala.

Given how unsafe those countries can be for their own citizens — much less for migrants — the move has been portrayed by critics as another deviation from global rights standards under Mr. Trump. It follows his frequent attempts to expand barriers along the United States-Mexico border, as well as a deterioration in the treatment of migrants after they reach America.

But Mr. Trump’s plan is also in keeping with a wider international trend of curtailing the right to asylum, as Western nations try to curb migration from the global south, where the overwhelming majority of displaced people live.

To stifle record levels of migration to Europe in 2015 and 2016, the continent’s big powers reached deals with neighboring countries like Turkey to keep migrants from European shores. Australia, determined to stop maritime migration from Indonesia, now deports asylum seekers to its neighbors in the Pacific Ocean. Israel tried to send African migrants to Rwanda.

“It is currently the objective of most countries of the global north to prevent migrants” from entering their territory, said François Crépeau, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on migrant rights and an expert on international refugee law at McGill University.

“Probably the U.S. are taking actions a bit further from what the Europeans are doing,” said Mr. Crépeau. “But the Europeans have also been very good at getting neighboring countries to do their dirty work.”

The United Nations refugee convention of 1951 provides the basis for American asylum laws. Unlike the Trump plan, it does not prevent refugees from traveling through several countries before landing in the United States and seeking asylum.

But it does ban signatories to the convention, like the United States, from deporting asylum seekers to countries where their safety is at risk, a process formally known as “refoulement.”

Most Western countries have usually interpreted this in a broad sense — refusing to deport people to countries that may not be at war, but still do not provide refugees with most of the protections required by the 1951 convention. Countries like Guatemala and Mexico, where homicide rates are high and migrants are often especially vulnerable to extortion, kidnapping and violence, could fall into that category, some experts say.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the countries of the Northern Triangle and Mexico itself are not safe, and that the people passing through those countries are at risk of human rights violations,” said Jeff Crisp, an expert on migration at Chatham House, a London-based research group, referring to the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

“Returning people to those countries could be considered in violation of the non-refoulement principle,” Dr. Crisp added.

Even so, there is no international court or authority that can overrule Mr. Trump’s plan. The Supreme Court’s ruling is provisional, and it is expected to take up the case again. But that will take many months.

The Trump administration is also pushing Mexico and Central American countries to agree to accept migrants. Guatemala has, but the plan must still be ratified by the Guatemalan Congress.

Mexico, by contrast, has said it won’t sign a so-called safe third country agreement with the United States to accept asylum claims from migrants who arrive on its soil, even if they are hoping to reach the United States.

“The court’s decision is astonishing,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Thursday about the Supreme Court ruling.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_114968270_fdd7b984-a0f2-4b3b-8fb2-5882dd053269-articleLarge Is Trump’s America Tougher on Asylum Than Other Western Countries? United States United Nations Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Spain Refugees and Displaced Persons Politics and Government Morocco Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration European Union Europe Australia Asylum, Right of Africa

One of the compounds of the Offshore Processing Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.CreditAshley Gilbertson for The New York Times

Since 2012, most asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat have been deported to processing centers in the nearby countries of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where they are held while their asylum applications are assessed.

Rights groups like Amnesty International say that asylum seekers at these centers face severe abuse. And even if granted asylum, the migrants are still barred from resettlement in Australia. Instead, they must live in Nauru, Papua New Guinea or, in a few cases, Cambodia.

Last year, Israel was forced to cancel a comparable deal with Rwanda, in which African asylum seekers would be deported from Tel Aviv to Kigali, after a public backlash.

The concept was pioneered in 1990s by Presidents George Bush and his successor, President Clinton, who authorized American Coast Guard vessels to intercept boats loaded with Haitian refugees and take them to Guantánamo Bay for processing.

Afghan migrants among the makeshift tents just outside Moria in the Greek Island of Lesbos.CreditMauricio Lima for The New York Times

European politicians have often spoken of sending migrants for processing in non-European countries, but the plan has never been successfully enacted.

In 2015 and 2016, more than one million migrants reached Greece from Turkey, most of them making their way to wealthier countries like Germany.

To stop this, the European Union pledged more than $6 billion to Turkey. In return, Turkey tightened up its border restrictions — and agreed to take back every migrant who subsequently landed in Greece.

Turkey did cut migration flows to Europe drastically, but only a small proportion of migrants who continued to land in Greece have been sent back. Migrants still have the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, or for relocation to other European countries, and many do so successfully. The Greek asylum system operates independently and is not beholden to the political agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

Meanwhile, migrants reaching Italy from Libya, another major gateway to Europe, are not returned because the country is still at war and does not recognize the 1951 convention.

People trying to reach Spain through its enclaves in North Africa are often forced back to Morocco without being given the chance to apply for asylum. But those who manage to cross the border into the enclaves undetected are usually allowed to lodge an asylum claim in Spain, though they are often sent back once their applications are rejected months later.

In theory, migrants are supposed to lodge an asylum claim as soon as they reach one of the 28 member states of the European Union. Those who don’t are liable to be returned to the country where they first entered the bloc — usually Greece, Italy or Spain — because European Union members theoretically trust one another to uphold the 1951 convention and treat refugees fairly.

But again, the system doesn’t quite work like that in reality. Sometimes it’s hard to prove that applicants passed through Greece on their way to, say, Germany. And in recent years, countries like Germany and Sweden have suspended returns to some members of the European Union, like Hungary and Greece, because of concerns about the fairness of their asylum systems.

Asylum seekers at the United Nations compound in Niamey, Niger.CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

If migrants reach Europe from Libya, they are allowed to lodge an asylum claim on European soil. But some people who haven’t left Libya yet have been encouraged to fly instead to Niger, where they can apply for asylum in Europe from a country of relative safety. A similar arrangement was recently brokered with Rwanda, but has yet to formally begin.

The process is ostensibly a humanitarian one: It aims to help migrants escape war-torn Libya, where they are often prey to kidnapping, conscription, air raids, abuse and forced labor, without needing to brave the dangerous sea crossing to Italy.

But critics argue that few of them will in practice be ever resettled in Europe.

Like Mr. Trump, European governments have also sought to curb migration by building physical barriers along their borders. Greece has a fence lining its border with Turkey. Spain has several on its enclaves’ borders with Morocco. And Hungary built one on its border with Serbia.

In addition to its deal with Turkey, the European Union and its members have often paid third parties with checkered rights records to stop migrants from reaching Europe. The bloc pays Niger to throttle migration. Spain has a deal with Morocco. And Italy enlisted Libyan militias to stifle migration across the Mediterranean.

Asylum seekers in Greece and Hungary are also mostly confined in squalid facilities. On the Greek island of Lesbos, over 10,000 people are housed in a camp built for 3,100. In Hungary, officials have repeatedly denied food for several days to dozens of asylum seekers, including children.

One notable difference between Mr. Trump and his European counterparts is the way they speak publicly about migrants. With the exception of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary and Matteo Salvini, Italy’s former interior minister, European government officials have largely avoided using provocative language to stir xenophobia — while still trying to block migrants from European territory.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis

California lawmakers approved a statewide rent cap on Wednesday covering millions of tenants, the biggest step yet in a surge of initiatives to address an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.

The bill limits annual rent increases to 5 percent after inflation and offers new barriers to eviction, providing a bit of housing security in a state with the nation’s highest housing prices and a swelling homeless population.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has made tenant protection a priority in his first year in office, led negotiations to strengthen the legislation. He has said he would sign the bill, approved as part of a flurry of activity in the final week of the legislative session.

The measure, affecting an estimated eight million residents of rental homes and apartments, was heavily pushed by tenants’ groups. In an indication of how dire housing problems have become, it also garnered the support of the California Business Roundtable, representing leading employers, and was unopposed by the state’s biggest landlords’ group.

That dynamic reflected a momentous political swing. For a quarter-century, California law has sharply curbed the ability of localities to impose rent control. Now, the state itself has taken that step.

“The housing crisis is reaching every corner of America, where you’re seeing high home prices, high rents, evictions and homelessness that we’re all struggling to grapple with,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat who was the bill’s author. “Protecting tenants is a critical and obvious component of any strategy to address this.”

A greater share of households nationwide are renting than at any point in a half-century. But only four states — California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York — have localities with some type of rent control, along with the District of Columbia. A coalition of tenants’ organizations, propelled by rising housing costs and fears of displacement, is trying to change that.

In February, Oregon lawmakers became the first to pass statewide rent control, limiting increases to 7 percent annually plus inflation. New York, with Democrats newly in control of the State Legislature, strengthened rent regulations governing almost one million apartments in New York City.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160578480_4e66f72d-f9f7-4bf5-9f06-a8705d4ce907-articleLarge California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis State Legislatures Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Rent Control and Stabilization Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Politics and Government Newsom, Gavin Law and Legislation Landlords Homeless Persons gentrification California Affordable Housing

Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, was the bill’s author. “The housing crisis is reaching every corner of America,” he said.CreditRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Measures were recently introduced in Massachusetts and Florida to allow rent regulation in cities with a housing crunch — like Boston, Miami and Orlando.

Nationally, about a quarter of tenants pay more than half their income in rent, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. And California’s challenges are particularly acute. After an adjustment for housing costs, it has the highest state poverty rate, 18.2 percent, about five percentage points above the national average, according to a Census Bureau report published Tuesday.

Homelessness has come to dominate the state’s political conversation and prompted voters to approve several multibillion-dollar programs to build shelters and subsidized housing with services for people coming off the streets.

Despite those efforts, San Francisco’s homeless population has grown by 17 percent since 2017, while the count in Los Angeles has increased by 16 percent since 2018. Over all, the state accounts for about half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population of roughly 200,000.

That bleak picture — combined with three-hour commutes, cries for teacher housing and the sight of police officers sleeping in cars — is prompting legislators and organizers to propose ever more far-reaching steps.

State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, offered a bill that would essentially override local zoning to allow multiple-unit housing around transit stops and in suburbs where single-family homes are considered sacrosanct. The bill was shelved in its final committee hearing this year, but Mr. Wiener has vowed to keep pushing the idea.

Economists from both the left and the right have a well-established aversion to rent control, arguing that such policies ignore the message of rising prices, which is to build more housing. Studies in San Francisco and elsewhere show that price caps often prompt landlords to abandon the rental business by converting their units to owner-occupied homes. And since rent controls typically have no income threshold, they have been faulted for benefiting high-income tenants.

“Rent control is definitely having a moment across the country,” said Jim Lapides, a vice president at the National Multifamily Housing Council, which opposes such restrictions. “But we’re seeing folks turn to really shortsighted policy that will end up making the very problem worse.”

But many of the same studies show that rent-control policies have been effective at shielding tenants from evictions and sudden rent increases, particularly the lower-income and older tenants who are at a high risk of becoming homeless. Also, many of the newer policies — which supporters prefer to call rent caps — are considerably less stringent than those in effect in places like New York and San Francisco for decades.

“Caps on rent increases, like the one proposed in California or the one recently passed in Oregon, are part of a new generation of rent-regulation policies that are trying to thread the needle by offering some form of protection against egregious rent hikes for vulnerable renters without stymieing much-needed new housing construction,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California.

Supporters of rent control marched in Sacramento last year. After adjusting for housing costs, California has the highest state poverty rate.CreditRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Mr. Chiu’s bill is technically an anti-gouging provision, with a 10-year limit, modeled on the typically short-term price caps instituted after disasters like floods and fires. It exempts dwellings less than 15 years old, to avoid discouraging construction, as well as most single-family homes. But it covers tenants of corporations like Invitation Homes, which built nationwide rental portfolios encompassing tens of thousands of properties that had been lost to foreclosure after the housing bust a decade ago.

According to the online real-estate marketplace Zillow, only about 7 percent of the California properties listed last year saw rent increases larger than allowed under the bill. But there could be a big effect in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, where typical rents on apartments not covered by the city’s rent regulations have jumped more than 40 percent since 2016.

By limiting the steepest and most abrupt rent increases, the bill is also likely to reduce the incentive for hedge funds and other investors to buy buildings where they see a prospective payoff in replacing working-class occupants with tenants paying higher rents.

Sandra Zamora, a 27-year-old preschool teacher, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Menlo Park, Calif., a short drive from Facebook’s expanding headquarters. A year ago, Ms. Zamora’s building got a new owner, and the rent jumped to $1,900 from $1,100, a rise of over 70 percent. Most of her neighbors left. Ms. Zamora stayed, adding a roommate to the 600-square-foot space and taking a weekend job as a barista.

“Having an $800 increase at once was really shocking,” she said. “It just keeps me thinking every month: ‘O.K., when is it going to happen? How much am I going to get increased the next month?’ It’s just a constant worry.”

Even as more states begin to experiment with rent control, it has long existed in places like New York City, which intervened to address a housing shortage post-World War II, and San Francisco, where it was adopted in 1979.

Today it is common in many towns across New Jersey and in several cities in California, including Berkeley and Oakland, although the form differs by jurisdiction. Regulated apartments in New York City are mostly subject to rent caps even after a change in tenants, for example, while rent control in the Bay Area has no such provision.

In New York City, where almost half of the rental stock is regulated, a board determines the maximum rent increases each year; this year it approved a 1.5 percent cap on one-year leases, considerably lower than the limits passed in Oregon and California.

Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, a coalition of New York tenants that pushed for new rent laws, welcomed the outcome in California.

“Any victory helps to build a groundswell,” she said. “There is a younger generation of people who see themselves as permanent renters, and they’re demanding that our public policy catches up to that economic reality.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis

California lawmakers approved a statewide rent cap on Wednesday covering millions of tenants, the biggest step yet in a surge of initiatives to address an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.

The bill limits annual rent increases to 5 percent after inflation and offers new barriers to eviction, providing a bit of housing security in a state with the nation’s highest housing prices and a swelling homeless population.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has made tenant protection a priority in his first year in office, led negotiations to strengthen the legislation. He has said he would sign the bill, approved as part of a flurry of activity in the final week of the legislative session.

The measure, affecting an estimated eight million residents of rental homes and apartments, was heavily pushed by tenants’ groups. In an indication of how dire housing problems have become, it also garnered the support of the California Business Roundtable, representing leading employers, and was unopposed by the state’s biggest landlords’ group.

That dynamic reflected a momentous political swing. For a quarter-century, California law has sharply curbed the ability of localities to impose rent control. Now, the state itself has taken that step.

“The housing crisis is reaching every corner of America, where you’re seeing high home prices, high rents, evictions and homelessness that we’re all struggling to grapple with,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat who was the bill’s author. “Protecting tenants is a critical and obvious component of any strategy to address this.”

A greater share of households nationwide are renting than at any point in a half-century. But only four states — California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York — have localities with some type of rent control, along with the District of Columbia. A coalition of tenants’ organizations, propelled by rising housing costs and fears of displacement, is trying to change that.

In February, Oregon lawmakers became the first to pass statewide rent control, limiting increases to 7 percent annually plus inflation. New York, with Democrats newly in control of the State Legislature, strengthened rent regulations governing almost one million apartments in New York City.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160578480_4e66f72d-f9f7-4bf5-9f06-a8705d4ce907-articleLarge California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis State Legislatures Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Rent Control and Stabilization Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Politics and Government Newsom, Gavin Law and Legislation Landlords Homeless Persons gentrification California Affordable Housing

Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, was the bill’s author. “The housing crisis is reaching every corner of America,” he said.CreditRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Measures were recently introduced in Massachusetts and Florida to allow rent regulation in cities with a housing crunch — like Boston, Miami and Orlando.

Nationally, about a quarter of tenants pay more than half their income in rent, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. And California’s challenges are particularly acute. After an adjustment for housing costs, it has the highest state poverty rate, 18.2 percent, about five percentage points above the national average, according to a Census Bureau report published Tuesday.

Homelessness has come to dominate the state’s political conversation and prompted voters to approve several multibillion-dollar programs to build shelters and subsidized housing with services for people coming off the streets.

Despite those efforts, San Francisco’s homeless population has grown by 17 percent since 2017, while the count in Los Angeles has increased by 16 percent since 2018. Over all, the state accounts for about half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population of roughly 200,000.

That bleak picture — combined with three-hour commutes, cries for teacher housing and the sight of police officers sleeping in cars — is prompting legislators and organizers to propose ever more far-reaching steps.

State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, offered a bill that would essentially override local zoning to allow multiple-unit housing around transit stops and in suburbs where single-family homes are considered sacrosanct. The bill was shelved in its final committee hearing this year, but Mr. Wiener has vowed to keep pushing the idea.

Economists from both the left and the right have a well-established aversion to rent control, arguing that such policies ignore the message of rising prices, which is to build more housing. Studies in San Francisco and elsewhere show that price caps often prompt landlords to abandon the rental business by converting their units to owner-occupied homes. And since rent controls typically have no income threshold, they have been faulted for benefiting high-income tenants.

“Rent control is definitely having a moment across the country,” said Jim Lapides, a vice president at the National Multifamily Housing Council, which opposes such restrictions. “But we’re seeing folks turn to really shortsighted policy that will end up making the very problem worse.”

But many of the same studies show that rent-control policies have been effective at shielding tenants from evictions and sudden rent increases, particularly the lower-income and older tenants who are at a high risk of becoming homeless. Also, many of the newer policies — which supporters prefer to call rent caps — are considerably less stringent than those in effect in places like New York and San Francisco for decades.

“Caps on rent increases, like the one proposed in California or the one recently passed in Oregon, are part of a new generation of rent-regulation policies that are trying to thread the needle by offering some form of protection against egregious rent hikes for vulnerable renters without stymieing much-needed new housing construction,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California.

Supporters of rent control marched in Sacramento last year. After adjusting for housing costs, California has the highest state poverty rate.CreditRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Mr. Chiu’s bill is technically an anti-gouging provision, with a 10-year limit, modeled on the typically short-term price caps instituted after disasters like floods and fires. It exempts dwellings less than 15 years old, to avoid discouraging construction, as well as most single-family homes. But it covers tenants of corporations like Invitation Homes, which built nationwide rental portfolios encompassing tens of thousands of properties that had been lost to foreclosure after the housing bust a decade ago.

According to the online real-estate marketplace Zillow, only about 7 percent of the California properties listed last year saw rent increases larger than allowed under the bill. But there could be a big effect in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, where typical rents on apartments not covered by the city’s rent regulations have jumped more than 40 percent since 2016.

By limiting the steepest and most abrupt rent increases, the bill is also likely to reduce the incentive for hedge funds and other investors to buy buildings where they see a prospective payoff in replacing working-class occupants with tenants paying higher rents.

Sandra Zamora, a 27-year-old preschool teacher, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Menlo Park, Calif., a short drive from Facebook’s expanding headquarters. A year ago, Ms. Zamora’s building got a new owner, and the rent jumped to $1,900 from $1,100, a rise of over 70 percent. Most of her neighbors left. Ms. Zamora stayed, adding a roommate to the 600-square-foot space and taking a weekend job as a barista.

“Having an $800 increase at once was really shocking,” she said. “It just keeps me thinking every month: ‘O.K., when is it going to happen? How much am I going to get increased the next month?’ It’s just a constant worry.”

Even as more states begin to experiment with rent control, it has long existed in places like New York City, which intervened to address a housing shortage post-World War II, and San Francisco, where it was adopted in 1979.

Today it is common in many towns across New Jersey and in several cities in California, including Berkeley and Oakland, although the form differs by jurisdiction. Regulated apartments in New York City are mostly subject to rent caps even after a change in tenants, for example, while rent control in the Bay Area has no such provision.

In New York City, where almost half of the rental stock is regulated, a board determines the maximum rent increases each year; this year it approved a 1.5 percent cap on one-year leases, considerably lower than the limits passed in Oregon and California.

Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, a coalition of New York tenants that pushed for new rent laws, welcomed the outcome in California.

“Any victory helps to build a groundswell,” she said. “There is a younger generation of people who see themselves as permanent renters, and they’re demanding that our public policy catches up to that economic reality.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘Big Brother’ in the Sky: Cathay Pacific Workers Feel China’s Pressure

HONG KONG — Mixe Lee’s bosses showed him two Facebook posts. One criticized police for how they handled the antigovernment demonstrations that have rocked the city of Hong Kong since June. Their question for Mr. Lee, a Cathay Pacific Airways flight attendant: Did he write them?

Mr. Lee denied it, though he had. Then on Thursday, a week after the interrogation, he joined the ranks of those fired by Cathay Pacific after expressing political views that could anger the Chinese government.

“I had never thought that the company would pick on my political orientation,” said Mr. Lee, a 30-year-old flight attendant who had worked at the carrier’s Cathay Dragon regional airline for three and a half years.

Cathay Pacific is fighting for its survival, and its employees risk becoming collateral damage. The Hong Kong-based airline is perhaps the most vulnerable of the global businesses caught between the city’s pro-democracy protesters and a Chinese government that has labeled them violent radicals. China wants the business world to take its side, and it is threatening to withhold access to its big and growing market from companies that don’t.

Beijing has threatened to close off Chinese airspace to Cathay unless it contains its employees. But many of Cathay’s 26,000 Hong Kong-based employees sympathize with the protesters.

The result is what many in Cathay call “the white terror,” a name that harkens back to Taiwan’s bloody anti-Communist crackdown in past decades. Nearly two dozen current and former employees described an atmosphere of fear. Many are deactivating their social media accounts, or changing the photos on their profiles so that their managers won’t recognize them.

“You can feel the distance between colleagues,” said Jack Tung, a 32-year-old Cathay Pacific purser who also serves as a first aid provider during Hong Kong’s protests. “I can’t trust those whom I don’t know because I’m not sure whether they would report me to management. It’s like a ‘the Big Brother is watching you’ scenario, especially when you are in the air.”

Those who fly to China say they face even more scrutiny from Chinese air officials, who comb planes after they land for foreign publications that cover the protests and put employees through onerous screening.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_145808184_40f0c2e7-40a0-4c97-9899-f398df355e8b-articleLarge ‘Big Brother’ in the Sky: Cathay Pacific Workers Feel China’s Pressure Swire Pacific Limited Social Media Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Flight Attendants Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Cathay Pacific Airways Airlines and Airplanes

Cathay Pacific staff at the Hong Kong International Airport.CreditAlex Hofford/Epa-Efe, via Rex

It is not clear how many employees have been fired or suspended. Cathay Pacific did not respond to several requests for comment. In previous statements, it has condemned violent protests, expressed support for Hong Kong’s government and police force, and said it has no choice but to comply with Chinese safety directives.

“We have been Hong Kong’s home carrier for many decades,” a recent statement said. “This is our home. We have grown with this great city and are committed to remaining at the heart of its future growth and success.”

On Wednesday, citing a drop in August traffic, Cathay said it would trim its growth plans. The problems could continue. While city leaders have canceled a bill that would have allowed extraditions of criminal suspects to the mainland, a catalyst for the protests, they have continued over other problems.

Hong Kong’s protests and Beijing’s growing willingness to intercede in the city’s affairs could profoundly change how people work and do business in the Asian financial capital. Cathay, for example, is controlled by Swire Pacific, one of a handful of conglomerates that can trace their history to Hong Kong’s early British colonial era, and have long been dominated by non-Chinese executives. Because it depends so much on business in China, it faces growing pressure to show its loyalty.

“If they want to gain better access to the Chinese market to do business better and easier, foreign companies want to satisfy the nationalistic preferences to the extent they can,” said Zhiwu Chen, a professor of economics at the University of Hong Kong. “Given that background, native Chinese executives are more likely to develop better personal connections on the mainland, either with officials or with other business executives.”

Last month, as Beijing piled pressure on the airline, the company named Augustus Tang, a 60-year-old longtime Cathay and Swire employee, as its new chief executive, replacing Rupert Hogg, the British-born executive who led the company for only two years.

Cathay also sent a strong message to employees that public support for the protests would not be tolerated. Managers recirculated company guidelines that call for workers to blow the whistle on each other. It fired a pilot who had been arrested during a protest and fired two staffers who were accused of leaking the personal travel details of Hong Kong police officers who were traveling to the mainland for a soccer event, a disclosure that angered Chinese media amid doxxing accusations on both sides.

Tensions worsened in recent days after three flights originating in Hong Kong were found to be carrying depleted oxygen bottles, which would be used by cabin crews if a plane were to depressurize, raising questions in local news media over whether sabotage was the cause. Cathay said it had suspended the cabin crews involved and was investigating the incidents.

Flight attendants demanding a pay raise protested at the departure hall of the Hong Kong Airport in 2011.CreditBobby Yip/Reuters

Cathay has not always had smooth relations with its employees. In 2012 and 2015 it narrowly avoided strikes by flight attendants over pay, and just last year it said it would abandon a widely loathed skirts-only policy for female cabin crew members.

But current and former employees describe what had once been a more open and collegial workplace. Employees were encouraged to admit mistakes with minimal fear of retribution so they could discuss ways to improve their performance. Flight crews openly discussed politics and other sensitive issues.

“The company used to teach us about teamwork,” said Katherine Sin, a 36-year-old flight attendant for nine years. “Our motto was ‘People. They make an airline.’ But now everyone is stabbing other people in the back.”

Ms. Sin said Cathay managers called her into their offices at Cathay City, the company’s glassy complex near Hong Kong’s airport, two weeks after Mr. Hogg’s resignation. They showed her screenshots of her Facebook and Instagram accounts criticizing the police, including one that said, “If at this point you still support the government and the police, I don’t think you can call yourself a human.” All the posts were made before Mr. Hogg resigned, she said.

Ms. Sin denied the accounts were hers, though they were. She believed that she would be immediately fired if she admitted to them, she said, and that she had not violated company policy. She was fired on Thursday.

“I dedicated myself to the company,” Ms. Sin said. “I loved my company. I used to say proudly to other people that I was a stewardess from Cathay Pacific. But now I can’t say that anymore. I’m too heartbroken.”

Employees have also been questioned about what they wrote more privately.

Joi Lam, a 36-year-old flight purser at Cathay Pacific for 12 years, said she was summoned to an urgent management meeting on Aug. 30. Managers showed her two screenshots from a private WhatsApp group she had created for colleagues who were also mothers, in which she suggested buying helmets, face masks, food and other supplies for the protesters.

Like the other employees interviewed by The New York Times, she initially denied the posts were hers. She was later fired.

“I feel I was just an employee reference number to the company,” said Ms. Lam, who believes another employee in the WhatsApp group showed her posts to management. “They can delete whoever they want from the system without hesitation.”

Flight crews who travel to China face even more scrutiny from local regulators, said several employees, though they noted that the attention had eased in recent days. Some workers described longer-than-normal flight delays at Chinese airports and regulators searching cabins for periodicals that cover the protests. Others have had to go through searches by security officials, even for those who had to fly out again.

Several Cathay employees asked for anonymity for fear of reprisal. Many employees said they would have a difficult time finding similar jobs elsewhere. Departing workers would have to take their chances with a foreign airline, a regional airline or one of China’s state-run carriers.

Mr. Tung, the purser, did not ask for anonymity. He said he expects to be fired for talking publicly about Cathay’s problems. The risk, he said, is worth it.

“I hope that by making public what’s happening to the company, I can protect my colleagues,” Mr. Tung said. “If I don’t have the right to talk freely, then what use is this job?”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘Big Brother’ in the Sky: Cathay Pacific Staff Feel China’s Pressure

HONG KONG — Mixe Lee’s bosses showed him two Facebook posts. One criticized police for how they handled the antigovernment demonstrations that have rocked the city of Hong Kong since June. Their question for Mr. Lee, a Cathay Pacific Airways flight attendant: Did he write them?

Mr. Lee denied it, though he had. Then on Thursday, a week after the interrogation, he joined the ranks of those fired by Cathay Pacific after expressing political views that could anger the Chinese government.

“I had never thought that the company would pick on my political orientation,” said Mr. Lee, a 30-year-old flight attendant who had worked at the carrier’s Cathay Dragon regional airline for three and a half years.

Cathay Pacific is fighting for its survival, and its employees risk becoming collateral damage. The Hong Kong-based airline is perhaps the most vulnerable of the global businesses caught between the city’s pro-democracy protesters and a Chinese government that has labeled them violent radicals. China wants the business world to take its side, and it is threatening to withhold access to its big and growing market from companies that don’t.

Beijing has threatened to close off Chinese airspace to Cathay unless it contains its employees. But many of Cathay’s 26,000 Hong Kong-based employees sympathize with the protesters.

The result is what many in Cathay call “the white terror,” a name that harkens back to Taiwan’s bloody anti-Communist crackdown in past decades. Nearly two dozen current and former employees described an atmosphere of fear. Many are deactivating their social media accounts, or changing the photos on their profiles so that their managers won’t recognize them.

“You can feel the distance between colleagues,” said Jack Tung, a 32-year-old Cathay Pacific purser who also serves as a first aid provider during Hong Kong’s protests. “I can’t trust those whom I don’t know because I’m not sure whether they would report me to management. It’s like a ‘the Big Brother is watching you’ scenario, especially when you are in the air.”

Those who fly to China say they face even more scrutiny from Chinese air officials, who comb planes after they land for foreign publications that cover the protests and put employees through onerous screening.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_145808184_40f0c2e7-40a0-4c97-9899-f398df355e8b-articleLarge ‘Big Brother’ in the Sky: Cathay Pacific Staff Feel China’s Pressure Swire Pacific Limited Social Media Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Flight Attendants Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Cathay Pacific Airways Airlines and Airplanes

Cathay Pacific staff at the Hong Kong International Airport.CreditAlex Hofford/Epa-Efe, via Rex

It is not clear how many employees have been fired or suspended. Cathay Pacific did not respond to several requests for comment. In previous statements, it has condemned violent protests, expressed support for Hong Kong’s government and police force, and said it has no choice but to comply with Chinese safety directives.

“We have been Hong Kong’s home carrier for many decades,” a recent statement said. “This is our home. We have grown with this great city and are committed to remaining at the heart of its future growth and success.”

On Wednesday, citing a drop in August traffic, Cathay said it would trim its growth plans.

Hong Kong’s protests and Beijing’s growing willingness to intercede in the city’s affairs could profoundly change how people work and do business in the Asian financial capital. Cathay, for example, is controlled by Swire Pacific, one of a handful of conglomerates that can trace their history to Hong Kong’s early British colonial era, and have long been dominated by non-Chinese executives. Because it depends so much on business in China, it faces growing pressure to show its loyalty.

“If they want to gain better access to the Chinese market to do business better and easier, foreign companies want to satisfy the nationalistic preferences to the extent they can,” said Zhiwu Chen, a professor of economics at the University of Hong Kong. “Given that background, native Chinese executives are more likely to develop better personal connections on the mainland, either with officials or with other business executives.”

Last month, as Beijing piled pressure on the airline, the company named Augustus Tang, a 60-year-old longtime Cathay and Swire employee, as its new chief executive, replacing Rupert Hogg, the British-born executive who led the company for only two years.

Cathay also sent a strong message to employees that public support for the protests would not be tolerated. Managers recirculated company guidelines that call for workers to blow the whistle on each other. It fired a pilot who had been arrested during a protest and fired two staffers who were accused of leaking the personal travel details of Hong Kong police officers who were traveling to the mainland for a soccer event, a disclosure that angered Chinese media amid doxxing accusations on both sides.

Tensions worsened in recent days after three flights originating in Hong Kong were found to be carrying depleted oxygen bottles, which would be used by cabin crews if a plane were to depressurize, raising questions in local news media over whether sabotage was the cause. Cathay said it had suspended the cabin crews involved and was investigating the incidents.

Flight attendants demanding a pay raise protested at the departure hall of the Hong Kong Airport in 2011.CreditBobby Yip/Reuters

Cathay has not always had smooth relations with its employees. In 2012 and 2015 it narrowly avoided strikes by flight attendants over pay, and just last year it said it would abandon a widely loathed skirts-only policy for female cabin crew members.

But current and former employees describe what had once been a more open and collegial workplace. Employees were encouraged to admit mistakes with minimal fear of retribution so they could discuss ways to improve their performance. Flight crews openly discussed politics and other sensitive issues.

“The company used to teach us about teamwork,” said Katherine Sin, a 36-year-old flight attendant for nine years. “Our motto was ‘People. They make an airline.’ But now everyone is stabbing other people in the back.”

Ms. Sin said Cathay managers called her into their offices at Cathay City, the company’s glassy complex near Hong Kong’s airport, two weeks after Mr. Hogg’s resignation. They showed her screenshots of her Facebook and Instagram accounts criticizing the police, including one that said, “If at this point you still support the government and the police, I don’t think you can call yourself a human.” All the posts were made before Mr. Hogg resigned, she said.

Ms. Sin denied the accounts were hers, though they were. She believed that she would be immediately fired if she admitted to them, she said, and that she had not violated company policy. She was fired on Thursday.

“I dedicated myself to the company,” Ms. Sin said. “I loved my company. I used to say proudly to other people that I was a stewardess from Cathay Pacific. But now I can’t say that anymore. I’m too heartbroken.”

Employees have also been questioned about what they wrote more privately.

Joi Lam, a 36-year-old flight purser at Cathay Pacific for 12 years, said she was summoned to an urgent management meeting on Aug. 30. Managers showed her two screenshots from a private WhatsApp group she had created for colleagues who were also mothers, in which she suggested buying helmets, face masks, food and other supplies for the protesters.

Like the other employees interviewed by The New York Times, she initially denied the posts were hers. She was later fired.

“I feel I was just an employee reference number to the company,” said Ms. Lam, who believes another employee in the WhatsApp group showed her posts to management. “They can delete whoever they want from the system without hesitation.”

Flight crews who travel to China face even more scrutiny from local regulators, said several employees, though they noted that the attention had eased in recent days. Some workers described longer-than-normal flight delays at Chinese airports and regulators searching cabins for periodicals that cover the protests. Others have had to go through searches by security officials, even for those who had to fly out again.

Several Cathay employees asked for anonymity for fear of reprisal. Many employees said they would have a difficult time finding similar jobs elsewhere. Departing workers would have to take their chances with a foreign airline, a regional airline or one of China’s state-run carriers.

Mr. Tung, the purser, did not ask for anonymity. He said he expects to be fired for talking publicly about Cathay’s problems. The risk, he said, is worth it.

“I hope that by making public what’s happening to the company, I can protect my colleagues,” Mr. Tung said. “If I don’t have the right to talk freely, then what use is this job?”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

China Lifts Some U.S. Tariffs in Modest Olive Branch to Trump

Westlake Legal Group 11chinatrade-facebookJumbo China Lifts Some U.S. Tariffs in Modest Olive Branch to Trump United States Politics and Government United States Chamber of Commerce Politics and Government International Trade and World Market Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Customs (Tariff) China Agriculture and Farming

BEIJING — China extended a modest olive branch to President Trump on Wednesday, publishing a short list of products that it will exempt from its retaliatory tariffs on American-made goods.

But the list does not include big-ticket items, like soybeans and other agricultural goods, that the Trump administration would likely consider key to getting a trade deal done with China.

Cancer drugs, lubricants, pesticides, shrimp meal and a number of other products will be excluded from a list of American goods subject to tariffs, China’s Ministry of Finance said in a statement on its website. China first threatened to place tariffs on many of those goods last year, as the trade war began to heat up.

Tariffs that have already been imposed will also be refunded, the ministry said. It added that further exemptions will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

The list comes ahead of scheduled talks next month between China’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, and senior members of the Trump administration in Washington. Reaching a deal will be tough, however. Mr. Trump has already said he would raise tariffs to 30 percent from 25 percent on $250 billion in Chinese goods, including everything from cars to aircraft parts, on Oct. 1.

The ministry’s announcement came during a visit to Beijing by American business executives to meet senior Chinese government officials in hopes of fostering a trade dialogue.

“The time is now to strike a deal that addresses the U.S.’s legitimate concerns about market access, forced technology transfer, subsidies and digital trade, while concurrently removing punitive and retaliatory tariffs,” said Myron Brilliant, vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which organized the visit, in a statement.

A number of the items, like cancer drugs, are considered important by the Chinese government. Although Beijing has made pharmaceutical innovation a national priority, China’s drug development is in the earliest stages compared to the broader industry. At the same time, China’s demand for lifesaving drugs is growing as its population ages and suffers from more chronic diseases, like cancer.

Many Chinese people seeking lifesaving drugs buy their medicine from Hong Kong and Macau, Chinese territories that operate under different laws than the mainland. Online forums are devoted to discussing smuggling generics from India. In August, the government said it would reduce the penalties for the sale and import of unapproved drugs, effectively giving critically ill patients the green light to get cheaper generic pharmaceuticals from other countries.

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Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Tuesday that he would move swiftly to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if voters returned him to power in the election next week, seizing what he called a historic opportunity from a sympathetic White House to give Israel “secure, permanent borders.”

His plan to annex territory along the Jordan River would reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would reduce any future Palestinian state to an enclave encircled by Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals on the left and right largely greeted the announcement, made in the heat of a campaign in which he is battling for survival, as a transparent political ploy.

Mr. Netanyahu said he planned to annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and that he would move immediately after forming a new government to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic and fertile strip of territory along the border with Jordan that runs from Beit Shean in northern Israel to the shores of the Dead Sea.

He said he wanted to capitalize on what he called the “unique, one-off opportunity” afforded him by the Trump administration, which has expressed openness to Israeli annexation of at least parts of the West Bank.

“We haven’t had such an opportunity since the Six Day War, and I doubt we’ll have another opportunity in the next 50 years,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a news conference in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. “Give me the power to guarantee Israel’s security. Give me the power to determine Israel’s borders.”

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. Most of the world considers it occupied territory and Israeli settlements or annexations there to be illegal.

Mr. Netanyahu, who is in a dead heat or slightly behind in the polls against Benny Gantz, a centrist former army chief of staff, has tried mightily to shift the focus of the election from the corruption cases against him to his strong suit: national security.

Westlake Legal Group map-720 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

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Westlake Legal Group map-460 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

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Westlake Legal Group map-335 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

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Source: Government of Israel

By The New York Times

But Tuesday’s announcement was a daring bid to bring the Palestinian conflict back to center stage in the election campaign. The issue has largely receded from Israeli electoral politics because few voters believe a peace process has any chance.

This was not the first time Mr. Netanyahu has promised annexation days before an election. Before the previous election, in April, in which he was also fighting to shore up right-wing support, he announced his intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, but he gave no specifics and no timetable.

This time, Mr. Netanyahu boasted that thanks to “my personal relationship with President Trump, I will be able to annex all the settlements in the heart of our homeland.”

The White House said in a statement that there was “no change in United States policy at this time,” and confirmed that the administration’s long-promised Middle East peace plan would be released after the election.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime chief Palestinian negotiator, warned Tuesday night that if Mr. Netanyahu manages to put through his plan, he will have “succeeded in burying even any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

He added that unilateral annexation of occupied territory was a war crime. “The Israeli, the international community must stop such madness,” he said. “We need to end the conflict and not to keep it for another 100 years.”

In a possible sign of Palestinian displeasure, rockets fired from Gaza later Tuesday night set off alarms in southern Israel, including in Ashdod, where Mr. Netanyahu was hustled offstage by bodyguards to take cover in the middle of a campaign speech.

Reaction to Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement was muted in the Arab world, where the Palestinian cause no longer stirs the passions it once did.

[Why the Arab world isn’t outraged by Netanyahu’s West Bank vow.]

Palestinians see the Jordan Valley as their future breadbasket. Israel’s critics say it has been steadily uprooting Arab farmers and herders from the area.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160556991_963f6286-799f-4c92-89ef-add42b0970c8-articleLarge Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said that he wants to swiftly annex the Jordan Valley, which accounts for nearly a third of the occupied West Bank.CreditOded Balilty/Associated Press

Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former United States ambassador to Israel under Republican and Democratic administrations, said there was a consensus within Israel’s national-security establishment that Israel should retain control of the valley for some period after a peace treaty is signed, to ensure that the Palestinians continue to cooperate with Israel to maintain security.

But unilateral annexation was another thing, he said.

“If Netanyahu now says forever,” Mr. Kurtzer said, “this clearly will not be acceptable to any present or future Palestinian leader.”

As for the American support, Daniel B. Shapiro, the former ambassador to Israel under President Obama, warned that any celebration of a Trump recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank could be short-lived. “A Democratic successor to Trump would certainly withdraw U.S. recognition,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu’s gambit also met deep skepticism among Israeli analysts, who said he has frequently made election-eve promises that went unfulfilled, and noted that earlier right-wing attempts at annexing parts of the West Bank were blocked by none other than him.

But his career could end if he does not siphon enough votes from parties to his right in the campaign’s final days, and his announcement was clearly aimed at tempting Israelis who support annexing the West Bank into giving him the benefit of the doubt.

His main opponents from the center — Mr. Gantz and the other former army chiefs who are running in his Blue and White party — have said publicly that Israel must not yield the Jordan Valley for security reasons, leaving them little room to challenge his plan.

In a speech late Tuesday, Mr. Gantz looked past the specific proposal to assail Mr. Netanyahu for damaging the long-term relationship with the United States by exploiting it for short-term political needs.

“Netanyahu is using and hurting the ties between Israel and the U.S.” he said. “He is harming our ties with the Jewish community in the U.S. He is linking our politics with the Americans, and this is wrong. Our ties are strategic, these connections are deep and vital and are based on shared interests and not on election-time deals.”

Several American Jewish groups supporting a two-state solution immediately condemned Mr. Netanyahu’s plan.

Mr. Netanyahu visiting an Israeli army post overlooking the Jordan Valley in June with John R. Bolton, then President Trump’s national security adviser.CreditAbir Sultan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“These are unilateral moves endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and further limiting the possibility of a two-state solution,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “Such serious pronouncements don’t belong in the final week of a heated campaign.”

[Why is the Jordan Valley strategically important? A closer look.]

In Israel, nearly half of Jewish Israelis have said they would favor annexation if it were supported by the Trump administration, one recent poll found. Fewer than three in 10 said they were opposed.

Settler groups welcomed Mr. Netanyahu’s call for a mandate to annex territory, but they too were dubious. “The true test will be in actions, not announcements,” Regavim, a pro-settlement group that fights Palestinian construction on the West Bank, said in a statement.

Yamina, the right-wing party led by Mr. Netanyahu’s former justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, challenged Mr. Netanyahu to bring his annexation plan before the current government within hours, “otherwise everyone in Israel will know this is nothing but a cheap political spin.”

The election on Tuesday is taking place because Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition after the April ballot when a onetime ally, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, refused to join him.

Mr. Lieberman mocked Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement afterward in a two-word tweet alluding to how it had been advertised: “Dramatic statement,” he said, adding two emojis showing tears of laughter.

Advocates of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, who have been warning that annexation would ultimately be disastrous for Israel, said Tuesday that a move like the one Mr. Netanyahu was proposing could be enough to drive the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, either to abandon its security cooperation with Israel on the West Bank or to fold up its tents altogether.

Either action could lead to violence that could force Israel to send troops back into territory where Palestinians have largely policed themselves under the quarter-century-old Oslo peace accords, said Nimrod Novik, a veteran Israeli negotiator.

“Unlike many of his coalition colleagues, Netanyahu cannot get a pass for not understanding the potentially devastating consequences,” Mr. Novik said. “Consequently, risking chaos on the West Bank and likely spillover to Gaza is worse than reckless. It is stupid.”

“If it is just electioneering, it signals panic,” he added. “If there is a risk that he will make good on it, that is probably the most important reason to hope that he is not re-elected.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Tuesday that he would move swiftly to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if voters returned him to power in the election next week, seizing what he called a historic opportunity from a sympathetic White House to give Israel “secure, permanent borders.”

His plan to annex territory along the Jordan River would reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would reduce any future Palestinian state to an enclave encircled by Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals on the left and right largely greeted the announcement, made in the heat of a campaign in which he is battling for survival, as a transparent political ploy.

Mr. Netanyahu said he planned to annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and that he would move immediately after forming a new government to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic and fertile strip of territory along the border with Jordan that runs from Beit Shean in northern Israel to the shores of the Dead Sea.

He said he wanted to capitalize on what he called the “unique, one-off opportunity” afforded him by the Trump administration, which has expressed openness to Israeli annexation of at least parts of the West Bank.

“We haven’t had such an opportunity since the Six Day War, and I doubt we’ll have another opportunity in the next 50 years,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a news conference in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. “Give me the power to guarantee Israel’s security. Give me the power to determine Israel’s borders.”

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. Most of the world considers it occupied territory and Israeli settlements or annexations there to be illegal.

Mr. Netanyahu, who is in a dead heat or slightly behind in the polls against Benny Gantz, a centrist former army chief of staff, has tried mightily to shift the focus of the election from the corruption cases against him to his strong suit: national security.

Westlake Legal Group map-720 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Mediterranean Sea

Proposed

annexation

Jordan River

GAZA

STRIP

Westlake Legal Group map-460 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Mediterranean Sea

Proposed

annexation

Jordan

River

GAZA

STRIP

Westlake Legal Group map-335 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Mediterranean

Sea

Jordan

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Proposed

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Source: Government of Israel

By The New York Times

But Tuesday’s announcement was a daring bid to bring the Palestinian conflict back to center stage in the election campaign. The issue has largely receded from Israeli electoral politics because few voters believe a peace process has any chance.

This was not the first time Mr. Netanyahu has promised annexation days before an election. Before the previous election, in April, in which he was also fighting to shore up right-wing support, he announced his intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, but he gave no specifics and no timetable.

This time, Mr. Netanyahu boasted that thanks to “my personal relationship with President Trump, I will be able to annex all the settlements in the heart of our homeland.”

The White House said in a statement that there was “no change in United States policy at this time,” and confirmed that the administration’s long-promised Middle East peace plan would be released after the election.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime chief Palestinian negotiator, warned Tuesday night that if Mr. Netanyahu manages to put through his plan, he will have “succeeded in burying even any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

He added that unilateral annexation of occupied territory was a war crime. “The Israeli, the international community must stop such madness,” he said. “We need to end the conflict and not to keep it for another 100 years.”

In a possible sign of Palestinian displeasure, rockets fired from Gaza later Tuesday night set off alarms in southern Israel, including in Ashdod, where Mr. Netanyahu was hustled offstage by bodyguards to take cover in the middle of a campaign speech.

Reaction to Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement was muted in the Arab world, where the Palestinian cause no longer stirs the passions it once did.

[Why the Arab world isn’t outraged by Netanyahu’s West Bank vow.]

Palestinians see the Jordan Valley as their future breadbasket. Israel’s critics say it has been steadily uprooting Arab farmers and herders from the area.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160556991_963f6286-799f-4c92-89ef-add42b0970c8-articleLarge Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said that he wants to swiftly annex the Jordan Valley, which accounts for nearly a third of the occupied West Bank.CreditOded Balilty/Associated Press

Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former United States ambassador to Israel under Republican and Democratic administrations, said there was a consensus within Israel’s national-security establishment that Israel should retain control of the valley for some period after a peace treaty is signed, to ensure that the Palestinians continue to cooperate with Israel to maintain security.

But unilateral annexation was another thing, he said.

“If Netanyahu now says forever,” Mr. Kurtzer said, “this clearly will not be acceptable to any present or future Palestinian leader.”

As for the American support, Daniel B. Shapiro, the former ambassador to Israel under President Obama, warned that any celebration of a Trump recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank could be short-lived. “A Democratic successor to Trump would certainly withdraw U.S. recognition,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu’s gambit also met deep skepticism among Israeli analysts, who said he has frequently made election-eve promises that went unfulfilled, and noted that earlier right-wing attempts at annexing parts of the West Bank were blocked by none other than him.

But his career could end if he does not siphon enough votes from parties to his right in the campaign’s final days, and his announcement was clearly aimed at tempting Israelis who support annexing the West Bank into giving him the benefit of the doubt.

His main opponents from the center — Mr. Gantz and the other former army chiefs who are running in his Blue and White party — have said publicly that Israel must not yield the Jordan Valley for security reasons, leaving them little room to challenge his plan.

In a speech late Tuesday, Mr. Gantz looked past the specific proposal to assail Mr. Netanyahu for damaging the long-term relationship with the United States by exploiting it for short-term political needs.

“Netanyahu is using and hurting the ties between Israel and the U.S.” he said. “He is harming our ties with the Jewish community in the U.S. He is linking our politics with the Americans, and this is wrong. Our ties are strategic, these connections are deep and vital and are based on shared interests and not on election-time deals.”

Several American Jewish groups supporting a two-state solution immediately condemned Mr. Netanyahu’s plan.

Mr. Netanyahu visiting an Israeli army post overlooking the Jordan Valley in June with John R. Bolton, then President Trump’s national security adviser.CreditAbir Sultan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“These are unilateral moves endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and further limiting the possibility of a two-state solution,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “Such serious pronouncements don’t belong in the final week of a heated campaign.”

[Why is the Jordan Valley strategically important? A closer look.]

In Israel, nearly half of Jewish Israelis have said they would favor annexation if it were supported by the Trump administration, one recent poll found. Fewer than three in 10 said they were opposed.

Settler groups welcomed Mr. Netanyahu’s call for a mandate to annex territory, but they too were dubious. “The true test will be in actions, not announcements,” Regavim, a pro-settlement group that fights Palestinian construction on the West Bank, said in a statement.

Yamina, the right-wing party led by Mr. Netanyahu’s former justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, challenged Mr. Netanyahu to bring his annexation plan before the current government within hours, “otherwise everyone in Israel will know this is nothing but a cheap political spin.”

The election on Tuesday is taking place because Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition after the April ballot when a onetime ally, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, refused to join him.

Mr. Lieberman mocked Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement afterward in a two-word tweet alluding to how it had been advertised: “Dramatic statement,” he said, adding two emojis showing tears of laughter.

Advocates of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, who have been warning that annexation would ultimately be disastrous for Israel, said Tuesday that a move like the one Mr. Netanyahu was proposing could be enough to drive the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, either to abandon its security cooperation with Israel on the West Bank or to fold up its tents altogether.

Either action could lead to violence that could force Israel to send troops back into territory where Palestinians have largely policed themselves under the quarter-century-old Oslo peace accords, said Nimrod Novik, a veteran Israeli negotiator.

“Unlike many of his coalition colleagues, Netanyahu cannot get a pass for not understanding the potentially devastating consequences,” Mr. Novik said. “Consequently, risking chaos on the West Bank and likely spillover to Gaza is worse than reckless. It is stupid.”

“If it is just electioneering, it signals panic,” he added. “If there is a risk that he will make good on it, that is probably the most important reason to hope that he is not re-elected.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com