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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Hong Kong Protests (2019)"

China Sharpens Hacking to Hound Its Minorities, Far and Wide

Westlake Legal Group 19chinahack1-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 China Sharpens Hacking to Hound Its Minorities, Far and Wide Xinjiang (China) Xi Jinping Uighurs (Chinese Ethnic Group) Tibet Surveillance of Citizens by Government Smartphones People's Liberation Army (China) Mobile Applications Ministry of State Security of the People's Republic of China Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Google Inc FireEye Inc facial recognition software Cyberwarfare and Defense Computers and the Internet Computer Security Citizen Lab China Apple Inc Android (Operating System)

SAN FRANCISCO — China’s state-sponsored hackers have drastically changed how they operate over the last three years, substituting selectivity for what had been a scattershot approach to their targets and showing a new determination by Beijing to push its surveillance state beyond its borders.

The government has poured considerable resources into the change, which is part of a reorganization of the national People’s Liberation Army that President Xi Jinping initiated in 2016, security researchers and intelligence officials said.

China’s hackers have since built up a new arsenal of techniques, such as elaborate hacks of iPhone and Android software, pushing them beyond email attacks and the other, more basic tactics that they had previously employed.

The primary targets for these more sophisticated attacks: China’s ethnic minorities and their diaspora in other countries, the researchers said. In several instances, hackers targeted the cellphones of a minority known as Uighurs, whose home region, Xinjiang, has been the site of a vast build-out of surveillance tech in recent years.

“The Chinese use their best tools against their own people first because that is who they’re most afraid of,” said James A. Lewis, a former United States government official who writes on cybersecurity and espionage for the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. “Then they turn those tools on foreign targets.”

China’s willingness to extend the reach of its surveillance and censorship was on display after an executive for the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong this month. The response from China was swift, threatening a range of business relationships the N.B.A. had forged in the country.

In August, Facebook and Twitter said they had taken down a large network of Chinese bots that was spreading disinformation around the protests. And in recent weeks, a security firm traced a monthslong attack on Hong Kong media companies to Chinese hackers. Security experts say Chinese hackers are very likely targeting protesters’ phones, but they have yet to publish any evidence.

Some security researchers said the improved abilities of the Chinese hackers had put them on a par with elite Russian cyberunits. And the attacks on cellphones of Uighurs offered a rare glimpse of how some of China’s most advanced hacking tools are now being used to silence or punish critics.

Google researchers who tracked the attacks against iPhones said details about the software flaws that the hackers had preyed on would have been worth tens of millions of dollars on black market sites where information about software vulnerabilities is sold.

On the streets in Xinjiang, huge numbers of high-end surveillance cameras run facial recognition software to identify and track people. Specially designed apps have been used to screen Uighurs’ phones, monitor their communications and register their whereabouts.

Gaining access to the phones of Uighurs who have fled China — a diaspora that has grown as many have been locked away at home — would be a logical extension of those total surveillance efforts. Such communities in other countries have long been a concern to Beijing, and many in Xinjiang have been sent to camps because relatives traveled or live abroad.

The Chinese police have also made less sophisticated efforts to control Uighurs who have fled, using the chat app WeChat to entice them to return home or to threaten their families.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment. China has denied past claims that it conducts cyberespionage, adding that it, too, is often a target.

Security researchers recently discovered that the Chinese used National Security Agency hacking tools after apparently discovering an N.S.A. cyberattack on their own systems. And several weeks ago, a Chinese security firm, Qianxin, published an analysis tying the Central Intelligence Agency to a hack of China’s aviation industry.

Breaking into iPhones has long been considered the Holy Grail of cyberespionage. “If you can get inside an iPhone, you have yourself a spy phone,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye, a cybersecurity firm.

The F.B.I. couldn’t do it without help during a showdown with Apple in 2016. The bureau paid more than $1 million to an anonymous third party to hack an iPhone used by a gunman involved in the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

Google researchers said they had discovered that iPhone vulnerabilities were being exploited to infect visitors to a set of websites. Although Google did not release the names of the targets, Apple said they had been found on about a dozen websites focused on Uighurs.

“You can hit a high school student from Japan who is visiting the site to write a research report, but you are also going to hit Uighurs who have family members back in China and are supporting the cause,” said Steven Adair, the president and founder of the security firm Volexity in Virginia.

The technology news site TechCrunch first reported the Uighur connection. A software update from Apple fixed the flaw.

In recent weeks, security researchers at Volexity uncovered Chinese hacking campaigns that exploited vulnerabilities in Google’s Android software as well. Volexity found that several websites that focused on Uighur issues had been infected with Android malware. It traced the attacks to two Chinese hacking groups.

Because the hacks targeted Android and iPhone users — even though Uighurs in Xinjiang don’t commonly use iPhones — Mr. Adair said he believed that they had been aimed in part at Uighurs living abroad.

“China is expanding their digital surveillance outside their borders,” he said. “It seems like it really is going after the diaspora.”

Another group of researchers, at the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, recently uncovered an overlapping effort, using some of the same code discovered by Google and Volexity. It attacked the iPhones and Android phones of Tibetans until as recently as May.

Using WhatsApp messages, Chinese hackers posing as New York Times reporters and representatives of Amnesty International and other organizations targeted the private office of the Dalai Lama, members of the Tibetan Parliament and Tibetan nongovernmental organizations, among others.

Lobsang Gyatso, the secretary of TibCERT, an organization that works with Tibetan organizations on cybersecurity threats, said in an interview that the recent attacks were a notable escalation from previous Chinese surveillance attempts.

For a decade, Chinese hackers blasted Tibetans with emails containing malicious attachments, Mr. Lobsang said. If they hacked one person’s computer, they hit everyone in the victim’s address books, casting as wide a net as possible. But in the last three years, Mr. Lobsang said, there has been a big shift.

“The recent targeting was something we haven’t seen in the community before,” he said. “It was a huge shift in resources. They were targeting mobile phones, and there was a lot more reconnaissance involved. They had private phone numbers of individuals, even those that were not online. They knew who they were, where their offices were located, what they did.”

Adam Meyers, the vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike, said these operations were notably more sophisticated than five years ago, when security firms discovered that Chinese hackers were targeting the phones of Hong Kong protesters in the so-called Umbrella Revolution.

At the time, Chinese hackers could break only into phones that had been “jailbroken,” or altered in some way to allow the installation of apps not vetted by Apple’s official store. The recent attacks against the Uighurs broke into up-to-date iPhones without tipping off the owner.

“In terms of how the Chinese rank threats, the highest threats are domestic,” Mr. Lewis said. “The No. 1 threat, as the Chinese see it, is the loss of information control on their own population. But the United States is firmly No. 2.”

Chinese hackers have also used their improved skills to attack the computer networks of foreign governments and companies. They have targeted internet and telecommunications companies and have broken into the computer networks of foreign tech, chemical, manufacturing and mining companies. Airbus recently said China had hacked it through a supplier.

In 2016, Mr. Xi consolidated several army hacking divisions under a new Strategic Support Force, similar to the United States’ Cyber Command, and moved much of the country’s foreign hacking operation from the army to the more advanced Ministry of State Security, China’s main spy agency.

The restructuring coincided with a lull in Chinese cyberattacks after a 2015 agreement between Mr. Xi and President Barack Obama to cease cyberespionage operations for commercial gain.

“The deal gave the Chinese the time and space to focus on professionalizing their cyberespionage capabilities,” Mr. Lewis said. “We didn’t expect that.”

Chinese officials also cracked down on moonlighting in moneymaking schemes by its state-sponsored hackers — a “corruption” issue that Mr. Xi concluded had sometimes compromised the hackers’ identities and tools, according to security researchers.

While China was revamping its operations, security experts said, it was also clamping down on security research in order to keep advanced hacking methods in house. The Chinese police recently said they planned to enforce national laws against unauthorized vulnerability disclosure, and Chinese researchers were recently banned from competing in Western hacking conferences.

“They are circling the wagons,” Mr. Hultquist of FireEye said. “They’ve recognized that they could use these resources to aid their offensive and defensive cyberoperations.”

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

Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. Apple Could Be Next.

Westlake Legal Group 15hk-boycott-1-facebookJumbo Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. Apple Could Be Next. Starbucks Corporation Politics and Government McDonald's Corporation Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Cathay Pacific Airways Boycotts Beijing (China) Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — One company is the world’s largest coffee chain. Another runs a Japanese restaurant empire. A third makes some of the most popular online games on the planet.

The global businesses — Starbucks, Yoshinoya and Activision Blizzard — would seem far removed from the political discontent in Hong Kong. But to some of the pro-democracy protesters there, and a growing number of their global allies, the companies are seen, rightly or wrongly, as sympathizers with the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, and as legitimate targets for boycotts or even vandalism.

Protesters are documenting what they see as the companies’ ties to China, then circulating the information on mobile apps and websites — sometimes based on mere rumor, or on comments made by executives or their family members. Starbucks and Yoshinoya have been repeatedly targeted because of the owner of their Hong Kong franchises, while Activision Blizzard, the maker of World of Warcraft, has been subject to boycotts for attempting to censor a pro-democracy player in Hong Kong.

The monthslong protests and their fraught politics are rippling overseas, ensnaring an ever wider range of corporations and executives, no matter their nationality. All have spent years cultivating their brands, but now find their reputations in jeopardy over any suggestion that they don’t support the protesters.

Some companies are in the awkward position of trying to dodge questions about the issue, to avoid offending either China, with its vast market, or Hong Kong activists, who have fervent support among Westerners and Taiwanese. After a single recent tweet, the N.B.A. found itself caught between both sides.

“All corporations here are walking on eggshells when it comes to what they say, whether it’s about Hong Kong or about the mainland,” said David Webb, a shareholder activist in Hong Kong.

The companies’ vulnerabilities are growing, as activists turn increasingly to vandalism and to boycotts. And Hong Kong’s reputation as a hub of freewheeling capitalism, with one of the world’s most business-friendly environments, is already suffering. These days, workers regularly sweep up glass from shops with broken windows, as shuttered storefronts with graffiti sit in the shadows of gleaming skyscrapers.

Last weekend, protesters called for rallies in shopping malls and a boycott of allegedly pro-China restaurants and stores — with a small, hard-core contingent encouraging the “renovating” (smashing) or “decorating” (spray-painting graffiti) of those locations.

At a Starbucks branch in the Tseung Kwan O district, a few protesters used hammers and a fire extinguisher to smash glass shelves, while others threw plates and trays on the ground. “The heavens will destroy the Communist Party” was spray-painted on a counter.

Some protesters attacked subway stations, including with Molotov cocktails. Many believe the MTR Corporation, the company that operates the subway, has been working with local officials to undermine protests by shutting down some stations, ending service early and, once, closing the entire system.

“The outbreak of vandalism or violence in an operating station will endanger the safety of other passengers and MTR staff,” the company said in explaining the closures.

“When I see people destroying public facilities and stores, I feel pained because you still need money to repair it,” said Michelle Tang, a 40-year-old sales worker. “I want it to be peaceful and free again,” she said of Hong Kong. “Now I wouldn’t dare say anything if people were smashing glass around me.”

As the movement settles into a prolonged campaign, activists are systematically pushing for broader boycotts.

One group developed an app, WhatsGap, that tells residents which restaurants to patronize and which ones to avoid. The ones considered friendly to the protests appear on a map of Hong Kong marked in yellow, while those considered hostile have a black marker. The developers plan to add shops.

“For a lot of people not on the front line, these are things they can do,” said Alison Yung, 36, an events planner, who backs the protests. “They can support the movement this way.”

At universities, students are handing out cards with lists of businesses to boycott and staging sit-ins at establishments on campus. Twice last month, people occupied the cafeteria of S.H. Ho College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The cafeteria’s caterer is Maxim’s Group, which is also the franchise owner of Starbucks in Hong Kong. Maxim’s has drawn the ire of activists because the founder’s daughter, Annie Wu Suk-ching, said last month in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the protesters were “rioters” who did not represent Hong Kong.

Maxim’s released a statement saying that Ms. Wu had no position at the company, and that it hoped “all parties” in the ongoing political conflict “will resolve their differences.”

Starbucks did not answer an email request for comment.

Yoshinoya also got the attention of activists when its Hong Kong executives fired an advertising agency that created a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mocking the police. Hop Hing Group, which operates Yoshinoya in Hong Kong, did not return a call seeking comment.

The chief executive of Best Mart 360, a local convenience store chain, was accused of having ties to gangs from Fujian Province in mainland China that have clashed with protesters. (Best Mart 360 has denied any such ties.)

McDonald’s presents a dilemma for the movement. The chain is ubiquitous in Hong Kong (and open 24 hours), and some people have shown their support for the protesters by buying them McDonald’s coupons, to keep them going through the long demonstrations. But some activists have pointed out that McDonald’s sold an 80 percent stake in its China and Hong Kong business in 2017 to a private equity group comprised of Citic, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, and the Carlyle Group, based in New York.

International support for the protests has made the issue harder for companies to navigate.

Last week, the Chinese government punished the N.B.A. after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a tweet in support of the protests. After the league distanced itself from Mr. Morey, some Americans began showing up at games with “Free Hong Kong” posters and banners, and members of Congress chastised the N.B.A.

Activision Blizzard faced a similar backlash after it suspended an e-sports player in Hong Kong, Chung Ng Wai, for voicing support for the movement during a live broadcast. It forced the player, who goes by the name Blitzchung, to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money. Many gamers called for a boycott of the company; dozens of Blizzard employees staged a walkout in protest at the company’s California headquarters; and members of Congress spoke up, too.

Blizzard said last Friday it would restore the prize money to Mr. Chung and reduce his suspension to six months, while asserting that the company’s relationship with China had not played a role in the original decision.

Whether the backlash against global brands will result in financial damage is unclear. Some actions taken by the protesters may not have much effect by themselves.

For example, protesters have been calling for a boycott of Cathay Pacific because the airline, under pressure from Beijing, has fired or punished employees who are part of the movement. But for anyone who wants to fly directly from Hong Kong to a Chinese city, it is impossible in most cases to avoid taking either Cathay or a Chinese state-owned airline. Flights between Hong Kong and mainland China are emptier than usual these days not because of a boycott, but because many Chinese want to avoid the protests.

Some activists have made mistakes in choosing which businesses to target. That was the case with Shanghai Commercial Bank. Activists vandalized at least one branch, apparently thinking the chain was based in mainland China.

But the bank is based in Hong Kong. Its motto is “serving the community.”

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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

Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. McDonalds Could Be Next.

Westlake Legal Group 15hk-boycott-1-facebookJumbo Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. McDonalds Could Be Next. Starbucks Corporation Politics and Government McDonald's Corporation Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Cathay Pacific Airways Boycotts Beijing (China) Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — One company is the world’s largest coffee chain. Another runs a Japanese restaurant empire. A third makes some of the most popular online games on the planet.

The global businesses — Starbucks, Yoshinoya and Activision Blizzard — would seem far removed from the political discontent in Hong Kong. But to some of the pro-democracy protesters there, and a growing number of their global allies, the companies are seen, rightly or wrongly, as sympathizers with the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, and as legitimate targets for boycotts or even vandalism.

Protesters are documenting what they see as the companies’ ties to China, then circulating the information on mobile apps and websites — sometimes based on mere rumor, or on comments made by executives or their family members. Starbucks and Yoshinoya have been repeatedly targeted because of the owner of their Hong Kong franchises, while Activision Blizzard, the maker of World of Warcraft, has been subject to boycotts for attempting to censor a pro-democracy player in Hong Kong.

The monthslong protests and their fraught politics are rippling overseas, ensnaring an ever wider range of corporations and executives, no matter their nationality. All have spent years cultivating their brands, but now find their reputations in jeopardy over any suggestion that they don’t support the protesters.

Some companies are in the awkward position of trying to dodge questions about the issue, to avoid offending either China, with its vast market, or Hong Kong activists, who have fervent support among Westerners and Taiwanese. After a single recent tweet, the N.B.A. found itself caught between both sides.

“All corporations here are walking on eggshells when it comes to what they say, whether it’s about Hong Kong or about the mainland,” said David Webb, a shareholder activist in Hong Kong.

The companies’ vulnerabilities are growing, as activists turn increasingly to vandalism and to boycotts. And Hong Kong’s reputation as a hub of freewheeling capitalism, with one of the world’s most business-friendly environments, is already suffering. These days, workers regularly sweep up glass from shops with broken windows, as shuttered storefronts with graffiti sit in the shadows of gleaming skyscrapers.

Last weekend, protesters called for rallies in shopping malls and a boycott of allegedly pro-China restaurants and stores — with a small, hard-core contingent encouraging the “renovating” (smashing) or “decorating” (spray-painting graffiti) of those locations.

At a Starbucks branch in the Tseung Kwan O district, a few protesters used hammers and a fire extinguisher to smash glass shelves, while others threw plates and trays on the ground. “The heavens will destroy the Communist Party” was spray-painted on a counter.

Some protesters attacked subway stations, including with Molotov cocktails. Many believe the MTR Corporation, the company that operates the subway, has been working with local officials to undermine protests by shutting down some stations, ending service early and, once, closing the entire system.

“The outbreak of vandalism or violence in an operating station will endanger the safety of other passengers and MTR staff,” the company said in explaining the closures.

“When I see people destroying public facilities and stores, I feel pained because you still need money to repair it,” said Michelle Tang, a 40-year-old sales worker. “I want it to be peaceful and free again,” she said of Hong Kong. “Now I wouldn’t dare say anything if people were smashing glass around me.”

As the movement settles into a prolonged campaign, activists are systematically pushing for broader boycotts.

One group developed an app, WhatsGap, that tells residents which restaurants to patronize and which ones to avoid. The ones considered friendly to the protests appear on a map of Hong Kong marked in yellow, while those considered hostile have a black marker. The developers plan to add shops.

“For a lot of people not on the front line, these are things they can do,” said Alison Yung, 36, an events planner, who backs the protests. “They can support the movement this way.”

At universities, students are handing out cards with lists of businesses to boycott and staging sit-ins at establishments on campus. Twice last month, people occupied the cafeteria of S.H. Ho College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The cafeteria’s caterer is Maxim’s Group, which is also the franchise owner of Starbucks in Hong Kong. Maxim’s has drawn the ire of activists because the founder’s daughter, Annie Wu Suk-ching, said last month in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the protesters were “rioters” who did not represent Hong Kong.

Maxim’s released a statement saying that Ms. Wu had no position at the company, and that it hoped “all parties” in the ongoing political conflict “will resolve their differences.”

Starbucks did not answer an email request for comment.

Yoshinoya also got the attention of activists when its Hong Kong executives fired an advertising agency that created a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mocking the police. Hop Hing Group, which operates Yoshinoya in Hong Kong, did not return a call seeking comment.

The chief executive of Best Mart 360, a local convenience store chain, was accused having ties to gangs from Fujian Province in mainland China that have clashed with protesters. (Best Mart 360 has denied any such ties.)

McDonald’s presents a dilemma for the movement. The chain is ubiquitous in Hong Kong (and open 24 hours), and some people have shown their support for the protesters by buying them McDonald’s coupons, to keep them going through the long demonstrations. But some activists have pointed out that McDonald’s sold an 80 percent stake in its China and Hong Kong business in 2017 to a private equity group comprised of Citic, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, and the Carlyle Group, based in New York.

International support for the protests has made the issue harder for companies to navigate.

Last week, the Chinese government punished the N.B.A. after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a tweet in support of the protests. After the league distanced itself from Mr. Morey, some Americans began showing up at games with “Free Hong Kong” posters and banners, and members of Congress chastised the N.B.A.

Activision Blizzard faced a similar backlash after it suspended an e-sports player in Hong Kong, Chung Ng Wai, for voicing support for the movement during a live broadcast. It forced the player, who goes by the name Blitzchung, to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money. Many gamers called for a boycott of the company; dozens of Blizzard employees staged a walkout in protest at the company’s California headquarters; and members of Congress spoke up, too.

Blizzard said last Friday it would restore the prize money to Mr. Chung and reduce his suspension to six months, while asserting that the company’s relationship with China had not played a role in the original decision.

Whether the backlash against global brands will deliver a financial hit remains to be seen. Some actions being contemplated by the protesters are not likely to have much effect.

Whether the backlash against global brands will result in financial damage is unclear. Some actions taken by the protesters may not have much effect by themselves.

For example, protesters have been calling for a boycott of Cathay Pacific because the airline, under pressure from Beijing, has fired or punished employees who are part of the movement. But for anyone who wants to fly directly from Hong Kong to a Chinese city, it is impossible in most cases to avoid taking either Cathay or a Chinese state-owned airline. Flights between Hong Kong and mainland China are emptier than usual these days not because of a boycott, but because many Chinese want to avoid the protests.

Some activists have made mistakes in choosing which businesses to target. That was the case with Shanghai Commercial Bank. Activists vandalized at least one branch, apparently thinking the chain was based in mainland China.

But the bank is based in Hong Kong. Its motto is “serving the community.”

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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

With No End to Unrest in Sight, Hong Kong’s Economic Pain Deepens

Westlake Legal Group 13hk-economy-1-facebookJumbo With No End to Unrest in Sight, Hong Kong’s Economic Pain Deepens Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Economic Conditions and Trends Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Communist Party of China

HONG KONG — It was the second day of Golden Week, usually one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping periods, and Matthew Tam and his co-workers at a jewelry store were looking as lonely as a band of Maytag repairmen, surrounded by display cases of luxury watches with nary a customer in sight.

Sales at the store, in the once-teeming shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui, have plummeted 90 percent in recent months, thanks in large part to the evaporation of tourists from mainland China who have been staying away since antigovernment protests began in June.

“It’s quite worrying,” said Mr. Tam, 56, who relies almost entirely on commissions for his income. “I don’t know how much longer I can endure.”

Hoteliers, salesclerks, restaurateurs and tour guides across Hong Kong have been racked by similar fears as footage of tear gas-shrouded clashes between riot police officers and furious protesters are broadcast around the world, scaring off potential visitors.

With the city’s Beijing-backed leadership refusing to concede to the protesters’ demands for free elections and an independent investigation into allegations of police misconduct, an unmistakable sense of alarm is spreading among both small-business owners and corporate executives who see no way out of the impasse.

“People are hunkering down but it’s really starting to hurt, and the longer this goes on, the gloomier the picture starts to feel,” said Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, who has lived in the city for nearly two decades.

The pall thickened after the Hong Kong leadership invoked emergency powers to ban the wearing of face masks during street rallies, a move that prompted fresh unrest and fury among those already angered by a slow erosion of civil liberties. The government has avoided harsher measures for now, but the prospect of restrictions like a curfew remains widely discussed.

“Emergency ordinances, face-mask bans and curfews are not the best way to restore business confidence,” Ms. Joseph said.

The tourism industry is a major driver of Hong Kong’s economy that alone keeps several hundred thousand people employed. But the overall number of tourists arriving in this semiautonomous territory has plummeted. Arrivals at Hong Kong’s international airport in August fell nearly 40 percent from a year earlier, even before the violence at protests escalated.

The falloff has been especially steep among mainlanders, who made up more than three-quarters of the 65 million people arriving here last year. The flow of visitors from mainland China nose-dived 55 percent during Golden Week.

The numbers are stark. Hotel occupancy rates are roughly 60 percent, down from 91 percent earlier this year. Retail sales dipped by 23 percent in August, the steepest decline on record. Many economists believe the city’s economy is slipping into recession.

The deepening crisis is reflected in a cascade of cancellations of major events like the Hong Kong Tennis Open, the Hong Kong Cyclothon, and the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, all of which had been scheduled for this month.

For now, international finance and real estate, other pillars of the Hong Kong economy, have been largely unscathed. Corporate leaders worry, however, about the long-term impact to Hong Kong’s reputation as a stable hub for multinationals in greater China, especially if a crackdown leads to serious bloodshed or Beijing tries to interfere with the city’s hallowed independent court system.

Anxiety over shifting sentiments was heightened by a Goldman Sachs report estimating that at least $3 billion in investment had in recent months shifted from Hong Kong to Singapore, another former British colony and a regional rival for international finance. Law firms, global banks and trading companies have been drawing up contingency plans for the worst-case scenario.

There have been some reports of layoffs, and a few of the city’s ritziest hotels have been forcing employees to take unpaid leaves or have their wages temporarily trimmed.

“We really want the violence to stop as soon as possible so Hong Kong can be promoted around the world as a safe place,” said Ronald Wu, executive director of Gray Line Tours of Hong Kong, which has seen its business drop by more than half.

Alice Chan, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said only 16 tour groups arrived during the first few days of the Golden Week holiday, compared with the 110 that arrived daily last year.

Ms. Chan said antipathy toward Hong Kong spiked in August after protesters shut down the airport and attacked two men from mainland China. The spectacle of protesters burning the national flag on other occasions, she said, also has not helped. “These incidents have hurt the feelings of mainlanders,” she said.

On the mainland, China’s state-run propaganda machine has cast the protests as a riotous anti-China separatist movement orchestrated by the United States and other countries eager to tear the motherland apart. Chinese censors have blocked news reports and images that present the protesters’ yearning for democracy and their fear of being subsumed into the mainland’s authoritarian maw.

Hong Kong Disneyland would normally have been crammed with mainlanders during the holiday, but this year, the protests clearly dented the mood at the Happiest Place on Earth. The vast parking lots were mostly empty, just three of 16 ticket windows were open, and lines for many attractions were short or nonexistent.

Zhou Wenhua, 38, a real estate sales executive from Shanghai, was thrilled. “If we went to Shanghai Disneyland this week, we wouldn’t be able to move,” she said after taking her family on a spin through the It’s a Small World ride on an otherwise empty boat.

Unlike many mainlanders roaming the park in mouse ears and gnawing on roast turkey legs, grilled fish balls and pressed squid, Ms. Zhou was willing to talk about the protests, which she described as an “insurrection.”

In an echo of Beijing’s narrative, she cast the participants as spoiled children unappreciative of the Chinese government and its achievements. “Without the Communist Party, China would still be impoverished and weak,” she said. “They really should stop their rioting.”

Not that she had witnessed the protests firsthand. Ms. Zhou and her family had spent the previous two nights cloistered at their downtown hotel room, dining on room service.

Locals, fearful of impromptu subway shutdowns that can leave them stranded, are also less likely to meet friends or dine out. The West Kowloon Cultural District, a $3 billion, decade-long project that opened to sold-out performances this year, has seen ticket sales plunge. For the first time this month, district officials canceled several events in anticipation of protests and transportation shutdowns.

For many, the looming question is whether a prolonged or precipitous economic decline will chip away at popular support for the movement. A few business owners shook their heads in dismay over the vandalism and disruptions to public transport, though they asked to remain anonymous given the growing vigilante-style attacks on those the protesters deem hostile to their cause.

Surrounded by display cases stacked full with $70,000 Rolexes and $20,000 Tudor watches, Cherry Chang, 30, the owner of a small store in Tsim Sha Tsui, the shopping district, said sales have halved over the last few months. Still, she said she was willing to endure short-term financial pain for the loftier goals of genuine democracy and the preservation of the city’s generous civil liberties.

“I don’t mind losing money to support certain ideals,” she said.

Cheuk-Yan Lee, general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which supports the protest movement, said he thought most Hong Kongers would blame the government for any hardship, not the protesters. The bigger threat, he said, is losing the freedoms and reliably independent courts that coaxed so many international companies to set up shop here in the first place.

“What will really hurt Hong Kong is not a brief drop in consumption but a loss of faith from global investors,” he said. “Instead of suppressing the protests, the government needs to revive confidence in the rule of law. Otherwise, we will just end up being another Chinese city.”

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

China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments

Westlake Legal Group 11newworld-1-facebookJumbo China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments Propaganda Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Censorship

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators.

A pro-protest tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, ignited a firestorm of anger against the N.B.A., demonstrating the depth of feeling. Joe Tsai, the only N.B.A. owner of Chinese descent, said all of China — yes, more than one billion people — felt the same way.

“The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland,” he wrote. “This issue is non-negotiable.”

For Westerners, this is strange language. You don’t hear about the common feelings of 300 million Americans or 60 million Brits, especially in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit.

Yet, in China, there is some truth to it. Of course, it’s a vast country brimming with opinions. But the Communist Party has spent decades preparing the Chinese people for a moment like this. The stir over Hong Kong shows, in dramatic fashion, how successful it has been, and how the world could be shaped by it.

“As soon as the Communist Party pushes the patriotism button, Chinese will rise up like zombies to unite against the foreign forces, be it Japan or N.B.A.,” said Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter. “They don’t always know why they’re against those things. In fact, many Chinese like Japan and the N.B.A.”

Until Thursday, when China’s internet minders dialed down the passions, the Chinese online world was filled with denunciations of the protests. Some Chinese people have even scaled the Great Firewall, China’s highly effective online censorship system, to post anti-protest messages on services like Facebook and Instagram that their own government doesn’t want them to see.

Their comments reflect a narrative that China’s top-down education system delivers from a young age. A united China, a country with a common purpose, can stand strong against outsiders, according to this narrative. A divided China could slip backward, losing decades of progress and plunging the country back into chaos.

Any Chinese person who has gone to elementary school or watched television news can explain the tale of China’s 100 years of humiliation. Starting with the Opium Wars in the 19th century, foreign powers bullied a weak and backward China into turning Hong Kong and Macau into European colonies. Students must memorize the unequal treaties the Qing dynasty signed during that period.

There’s even a name for it: “national humiliation education.”

This narrative glosses over a lot of history, including the cruelty of Mao’s revolution, the starving of millions during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the madness of his decade-long Cultural Revolution. When it does include the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, the protest and its aftermath is mentioned in one sentence and portrayed vaguely as a political incident.

These lessons and propaganda sound crude, but they work. For years, I regarded Chris Patten, the last Hong Kong governor under the British rule, as “a sinner condemned by history.” That’s what state media called him, especially after he approved spending heavily to build Hong Kong’s new airport, leading to accusations of waste. Today, I regularly use that airport, a marvel of modern transportation, as do millions of others.

Of course, my friends and I watched with great pride Hong Kong’s handover ceremony from Britain to China in 1997. Territorial integrity achieved!

At the graduate school of journalism at Columbia University in 2002, one American student told me about his trip to Tibet. I was so incensed by his remarks that I blurted out, “Tibet is part of China!”

For Westerners, perhaps one way to understand would be to read “Educated,” a memoir by Tara Westover about escaping her survivalist Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho. It has nothing to do with China. But her struggle to unlearn what her parents taught her felt familiar to me after I left China and began to learn its history on my own.

The rise of the internet and China’s opening were supposed to widen views there. Instead, the party is narrowing them more. Education officials over the past two years have been increasingly enforcing a widely ignored 2004 effort to make education even more Chinese focused.

In some middle school history books, the Cultural Revolution is described as “a detour in the Communist Party’s expedition,” rather than as a mistake. Some universities have replaced textbooks by Western academics such as Milton Friedman and N. Gregory Mankiw with books written under a program called “Marxist theory research and building project.”

Textbook publishers have cut back on essays by Lu Xun, a writer known for his acerbic criticism of the nationalist government in the 1920s and 1930s. They were once a mainstay of school texts, but some Chinese people have used his articles to criticize current events. One, about how Chinese people should welcome criticism from foreigners, was posted on the social media platform Weibo this past week after the N.B.A. debacle, then was pulled down.

Already, China has become more effective at delivering its message to its people. Slogans that I learned without much conviction more than 30 years ago — like “Without the Communist Party, there would be no China” — are making a comeback.

These lessons might seem removed from the situation in Hong Kong, where the protesters are mainly Chinese, not foreigners. But state media has portrayed the protests as foreign driven, sometimes identifying Western bystanders and journalists — including one working for The New York Times — as American instigators.

State media also portrays the protests as a push for Hong Kong independence from China, a direct effort to tap into those feelings of territorial integrity. That thought has echoed. Mr. Tsai, the N.B.A. owner, called the protests “a separatist movement.”

But only a fringe group of protesters support full independence from the mainland. The five core demands of the protesters don’t include it. It’s an important distinction, one that Mr. Tsai’s newspaper — The South China Morning Post, owned by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant where Mr. Tsai is executive vice chairman — is careful to make.

For China, the big danger is that it will become even more intolerant of criticism and different opinions.

A Chinese blogger wrote this week that a renovation project at a top Beijing middle school was causing widespread health issues, giving students bloody noses several times a day. The reaction was strong, and strongly against him. Many students told him there was nothing wrong with their school and even if there was, it was none of his business. “He should have shut his mouth just like N.B.A.’s Morey,” wrote one commenter.

Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter, said “all hell broke loose” after his family and members of his band learned that he supported the Hong Kong protests. His younger brother told him he was sick in his mind. Former classmates castigated him online.

“The Hong Kong protests have definitely made them a lot more patriotic,” he said.

Over the years, he had tried to show people around him the videos of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and other events. His family told him that he should look at the brighter side of the history. The party has since provided education, jobs and pensions, they said.

“I feel as alone as an island,” he said. “I’m surrounded by very familiar strangers.”

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

China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments

Westlake Legal Group 11newworld-1-facebookJumbo China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments Propaganda Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Censorship

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators.

A pro-protest tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, ignited a firestorm of anger against the N.B.A., demonstrating the depth of feeling. Joe Tsai, the only N.B.A. owner of Chinese descent, said all of China — yes, more than one billion people — felt the same way.

“The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland,” he wrote. “This issue is non-negotiable.”

For Westerners, this is strange language. You don’t hear about the common feelings of 300 million Americans or 60 million Brits, especially in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit.

Yet, in China, there is some truth to it. Of course, it’s a vast country brimming with opinions. But the Communist Party has spent decades preparing the Chinese people for a moment like this. The stir over Hong Kong shows, in dramatic fashion, how successful it has been, and how the world could be shaped by it.

“As soon as the Communist Party pushes the patriotism button, Chinese will rise up like zombies to unite against the foreign forces, be it Japan or N.B.A.,” said Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter. “They don’t always know why they’re against those things. In fact, many Chinese like Japan and the N.B.A.”

Until Thursday, when China’s internet minders dialed down the passions, the Chinese online world was filled with denunciations of the protests. Some Chinese people have even scaled the Great Firewall, China’s highly effective online censorship system, to post anti-protest messages on services like Facebook and Instagram that their own government doesn’t want them to see.

Their comments reflect a narrative that China’s top-down education system delivers from a young age. A united China, a country with a common purpose, can stand strong against outsiders, according to this narrative. A divided China could slip backward, losing decades of progress and plunging the country back into chaos.

Any Chinese person who has gone to elementary school or watched television news can explain the tale of China’s 100 years of humiliation. Starting with the Opium Wars in the 19th century, foreign powers bullied a weak and backward China into turning Hong Kong and Macau into European colonies. Students must memorize the unequal treaties the Qing dynasty signed during that period.

There’s even a name for it: “national humiliation education.”

This narrative glosses over a lot of history, including the cruelty of Mao’s revolution, the starving of millions during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the madness of his decade-long Cultural Revolution. When it does include the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, the protest and its aftermath is mentioned in one sentence and portrayed vaguely as a political incident.

These lessons and propaganda sound crude, but they work. For years, I regarded Chris Patten, the last Hong Kong governor under the British rule, as “a sinner condemned by history.” That’s what state media called him, especially after he approved spending heavily to build Hong Kong’s new airport, leading to accusations of waste. Today, I regularly use that airport, a marvel of modern transportation, as do millions of others.

Of course, my friends and I watched with great pride Hong Kong’s handover ceremony from Britain to China in 1997. Territorial integrity achieved!

At the graduate school of journalism at Columbia University in 2002, one American student told me about his trip to Tibet. I was so incensed by his remarks that I blurted out, “Tibet is part of China!”

For Westerners, perhaps one way to understand would be to read “Educated,” a memoir by Tara Westover about escaping her survivalist Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho. It has nothing to do with China. But her struggle to unlearn what her parents taught her felt familiar to me after I left China and began to learn its history on my own.

The rise of the internet and China’s opening were supposed to widen views there. Instead, the party is narrowing them more. Education officials over the past two years have been increasingly enforcing a widely ignored 2004 effort to make education even more Chinese focused.

In some middle school history books, the Cultural Revolution is described as “a detour in the Communist Party’s expedition,” rather than as a mistake. Some universities have replaced textbooks by Western academics such as Milton Friedman and N. Gregory Mankiw with books written under a program called “Marxist theory research and building project.”

Textbook publishers have cut back on essays by Lu Xun, a writer known for his acerbic criticism of the nationalist government in the 1920s and 1930s. They were once a mainstay of school texts, but some Chinese people have used his articles to criticize current events. One, about how Chinese people should welcome criticism from foreigners, was posted on the social media platform Weibo this past week after the N.B.A. debacle, then was pulled down.

Already, China has become more effective at delivering its message to its people. Slogans that I learned without much conviction more than 30 years ago — like “Without the Communist Party, there would be no China” — are making a comeback.

These lessons might seem removed from the situation in Hong Kong, where the protesters are mainly Chinese, not foreigners. But state media has portrayed the protests as foreign driven, sometimes identifying Western bystanders and journalists — including one working for The New York Times — as American instigators.

State media also portrays the protests as a push for Hong Kong independence from China, a direct effort to tap into those feelings of territorial integrity. That thought has echoed. Mr. Tsai, the N.B.A. owner, called the protests “a separatist movement.”

But only a fringe group of protesters support full independence from the mainland. The five core demands of the protesters don’t include it. It’s an important distinction, one that Mr. Tsai’s newspaper — The South China Morning Post, owned by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant where Mr. Tsai is executive vice chairman — is careful to make.

For China, the big danger is that it will become even more intolerant of criticism and different opinions.

A Chinese blogger wrote this week that a renovation project at a top Beijing middle school was causing widespread health issues, giving students bloody noses several times a day. The reaction was strong, and strongly against him. Many students told him there was nothing wrong with their school and even if there was, it was none of his business. “He should have shut his mouth just like N.B.A.’s Morey,” wrote one commenter.

Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter, said “all hell broke loose” after his family and members of his band learned that he supported the Hong Kong protests. His younger brother told him he was sick in his mind. Former classmates castigated him online.

“The Hong Kong protests have definitely made them a lot more patriotic,” he said.

Over the years, he had tried to show people around him the videos of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and other events. His family told him that he should look at the brighter side of the history. The party has since provided education, jobs and pensions, they said.

“I feel as alone as an island,” he said. “I’m surrounded by very familiar strangers.”

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

Apple Removes App That Tracked Hong Kong Police

Westlake Legal Group 10apple-1sub-facebookJumbo Apple Removes App That Tracked Hong Kong Police Software Politics and Government Mobile Applications Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Apple Inc

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple removed an app late Wednesday that enabled protesters in Hong Kong to track police, a day after facing intense criticism from Chinese state media for it, plunging the technology giant deeper into the complicated politics of a country that is fundamental to its business.

Apple said it was withdrawing the app, called HKmap.live, from its App Store just days after approving it because authorities in Hong Kong said protesters were using it to attack police in the semiautonomous city.

A day earlier, People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial that accused Apple of aiding “rioters” in Hong Kong. “Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” said the article, which was written under a pseudonym that translates into “Calming the Waves.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Apple said, “The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”

With its reversal, Apple joins a growing list of corporations that are trying to navigate the fraught political situation between China and Hong Kong, where antigovernment protests have unfolded for months.

[Here’s how Hong Kong’s protests have evolved into a broader pushback against Beijing.]

That minefield was evident this week when the N.B.A. was drawn into the tensions by a Houston Rockets executive who tweeted his support of the Hong Kong protests. The tweet prompted a backlash from Chinese authorities, leading to apologies by the Rockets and ultimately the cancellation of broadcasts of N.B.A. games in China, which is one of the N.B.A.’s largest markets.

Companies ranging from Marriott to United Airlines to Versace have also had to backtrack on perceived slights to the Chinese government in the past, such as customer surveys that suggested Taiwan was an independent nation. All the firms are having to balance the enormous economic opportunity in China, with its 1.4 billion consumers, with the negative public image of capitulating to an authoritarian government.

No multinational company arguably has as much at stake in China as Apple. The Silicon Valley giant assembles nearly all of its products in China and counts the country as its No. 3 market after the United States and Europe. It tallied $32.5 billion in sales in the greater China region, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, in the nine months ended June 30. Apple’s stock price often rises or falls depending on how it is performing in China.

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has become a deft diplomat in China. He has traveled there frequently and attended numerous Chinese government events. In recent months, Mr. Cook has argued for moderation in the trade war between the United States and China. Unlike in the United States, where he regularly speaks out on political issues like gun control and immigration, he has largely remained silent on Chinese politics, including the clashes in Hong Kong.

In late 2017, Mr. Cook said at a conference that while he disagrees with some Chinese policies, Apple must comply with local laws. “Each country in the world decides their laws and their regulations, and so your choice is: Do you participate? Or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be?” he said. “You get in the arena, because nothing ever changes from the sideline.”

Given Apple’s stature as one of the world’s most valuable public companies, its actions in China are closely watched. Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, said Apple’s decision to remove the Hong Kong app would embolden the Chinese Communist Party.

“I think the party concludes from this that intimidation, harassment and pressure work for most people, in most places,” she said.

A Twitter account that claimed to be run by the developer of HKmap.live said in a brief exchange on Wednesday that Apple’s reasoning for the app’s removal — that protesters were using it to attack police — was false.

“That is ridiculous,” said the person running the account, who declined to provide a name or elaborate further. The HKmap.live Twitter account later tweeted that it would “never solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity.”

The HKmap.live app shows a map of Hong Kong with updates from users on the location of police, their water cannons and safe zones, among other things. Apple initially rejected the app for enabling users to evade police, the app’s Twitter account said last week. Several days later, the account tweeted that Apple had reversed course and approved the app. The app soon became the most downloaded travel app in Hong Kong — and criticism from mainland China began.

After the People’s Daily editorial, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “anyone with a conscience and a sense of justice” should boycott the app.

Supporters of the app have argued it helps Hong Kong residents avoid clashes between police and protesters.

Apple also pulled the app of the news organization Quartz from the App Store in China less than two weeks ago. Quartz, which has been covering the Hong Kong protests, said that Apple sent it a vague notice about removing its app “because it includes content that is illegal in China.” Apple did not clarify what content was illegal, Quartz said. A Quartz editor tweeted that Apple removed it “at the request of China.”

Zach Seward, Quartz’s chief executive, said in a statement, “We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world,” and included a link to its articles about software designed to dodge censorship.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the Quartz app on Wednesday.

Apple has removed other apps in China that it allows elsewhere, including The New York Times app and some services that enabled Chinese users to circumvent the government’s internet restrictions.

Apple has long prided itself on how every app in the App Store is approved by one of its employees, unlike the largely automated approach used by Google on Android phones. Apple employs teams of app reviewers who must meet quotas for reviewing apps, including dozens of Chinese-language specialists, according to former app reviewers. Apps that pose tricky policy questions are deliberated in weekly meetings of a review board of senior executives, led by Phil Schiller, a longtime Apple executive who heads the App Store.

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

Blizzard Sets Off Backlash for Penalizing Hearthstone Gamer in Hong Kong

Westlake Legal Group 09xp-hkgamer-facebookJumbo Blizzard Sets Off Backlash for Penalizing Hearthstone Gamer in Hong Kong Hong Kong Protests (2019) Freedom of Speech and Expression E Sports Computer and Video Games China Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — Activision Blizzard became the latest American company to find itself caught between its business interests in China and the values of its core customers after it suspended an e-sports player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protests during a live broadcast.

The decision to suspend Chung Ng Wai, a professional Hearthstone player in Hong Kong, for a year, while forcing him to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money, prompted a backlash in the United States similar to the public relations debacle the N.B.A. has faced this week. Gamers posted angrily on social media and in forums, while politicians saw it as another troubling sign of China’s chilling clampdown on speech worldwide.

“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, concurred, saying on Twitter that Activision Blizzard showed “it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”

“No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck,” he said.

Activision Blizzard, which has created some of the most popular games in e-sports, including Overwatch and StarCraft, said Mr. Chung had run afoul of a rule barring players from any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages” the company’s image.

In a post-match interview with the Taiwan stream of Hearthstone, Mr. Chung, who is known as Blitzchung, appeared with ballistic goggles and a gas mask, protective gear often worn by protesters during demonstrations in Hong Kong. Mr. Chung shouted in Mandarin: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” a popular slogan of the protesters.

Mr. Chung did not respond to an interview request on Wednesday. But in a chat with fans on Tuesday on Twitch, a live-streaming service, he expressed no regret.

“Today, what I have lost in Hearthstone is four years of time,” he said, referring to the years he spent playing the game. “But if Hong Kong loses, it would be the matter of a lifetime.”

In the second quarter of 2019, Activision Blizzard earned $173 million from the Asia Pacific region, about 12 percent of its $1.4 billion worldwide total revenues.

Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Several companies have recently apologized after offending Chinese sensitivities, or have pre-emptively self-censored to ensure that they do not lose access to the lucrative Chinese market.

This week, the N.B.A. was forced onto a tightrope after Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support of the Hong Kong protests. An initial statement from the N.B.A. was widely seen as insufficiently supportive of Mr. Morey, prompting accusations that the league was more interested in its Chinese business interests than supporting free speech.

Last week’s “South Park” episodes mocked Chinese censors and American businesses that compromise their values for the Chinese market, causing the show to be pulled from Chinese platforms.

It was not yet clear what commercial impact the backlash to Blizzard would have, but many of its users reacted strongly. Threads on Reddit forums dedicated to Blizzard games lit up with criticism, while calls to boycott the company or cancel subscriptions spread throughout Twitter.

One person to cancel his World of Warcraft subscription was Mark Kern, who led the team that created the game.

In an interview, Mr. Kern said China was a major source of revenue for the gaming industry, and he knew he was “closing many doors” careerwise by speaking out on Twitter.

But Mr. Kern, who lived in Hong Kong as a teenager, said the company’s actions were “a deterioration of Blizzard values that really broke my heart.”

“It’s one thing to stay out of politics in games, quite another to take harsh, punitive actions designed to appease a government whose values are against what Blizzard has traditionally stood for,” he said.

Patrick Chow, 20, who works at an e-sports stadium in Hong Kong, said he used to play Hearthstone a lot but would immediately stop playing Blizzard games. He said Mr. Chung had the right to use his influence to help the people of Hong Kong, and that the company shouldn’t have “controlled the player’s freedom of speech.”

“It breaks my impression of Blizzard,” he said.

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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

Blizzard Sets Off a Backlash for Penalizing a Hong Kong Gamer

Westlake Legal Group 09xp-hkgamer-facebookJumbo Blizzard Sets Off a Backlash for Penalizing a Hong Kong Gamer Hong Kong Protests (2019) Freedom of Speech and Expression E Sports Computer and Video Games China Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — Activision Blizzard became the latest American company to find itself caught between its business interests in China and the values of its core customers after it suspended an e-sports player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protests during a live broadcast.

The decision to suspend Chung Ng Wai, a professional Hearthstone player in Hong Kong, for a year, while forcing him to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money, prompted a backlash in the United States similar to the public relations debacle the N.B.A. has faced this week. Gamers posted angrily on social media and in forums, while politicians saw it as another troubling sign of China’s chilling clampdown on speech worldwide.

“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, concurred, saying on Twitter that Activision Blizzard showed “it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”

“No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck,” he said.

Activision Blizzard, which has created some of the most popular games in e-sports, including Overwatch and World of Warcraft, said Mr. Chung had run afoul of a rule barring players from any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages” the company’s image.

In a post-match interview with the Taiwan stream of Hearthstone, Mr. Chung, who is known as Blitzchung, appeared with ballistic goggles and a gas mask, protective gear often worn by protesters during demonstrations in Hong Kong. Mr. Chung shouted in Mandarin: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” a popular slogan of the protesters.

Mr. Chung did not respond to an interview request on Wednesday. But in a chat with fans on Tuesday on Twitch, a live-streaming service, he expressed no regret.

“Today, what I have lost in Hearthstone is four years of time,” he said, referring to the years he spent playing the game. “But if Hong Kong loses, it would be the matter of a lifetime.”

In the second quarter of 2019, Activision Blizzard earned $173 million from the Asia Pacific region, about 12 percent of its $1.4 billion worldwide total revenues.

Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Several companies have recently apologized after offending Chinese sensitivities, or have pre-emptively self-censored to ensure that they do not lose access to the lucrative Chinese market.

This week, the N.B.A. was forced onto a tightrope after Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support of the Hong Kong protests. An initial statement from the N.B.A. was widely seen as insufficiently supportive of Mr. Morey, prompting accusations that the league was more interested in its Chinese business interests than supporting free speech.

Last week’s “South Park” episodes mocked Chinese censors and American businesses that compromise their values for the Chinese market, causing the show to be pulled from Chinese platforms.

It was not yet clear what commercial impact the backlash to Blizzard would have, but many of its users reacted strongly. Threads on Reddit forums dedicated to Blizzard games lit up with criticism, while calls to boycott the company or cancel subscriptions spread throughout Twitter.

One person to cancel his World of Warcraft subscription was Mark Kern, who led the team that created the game.

In an interview, Mr. Kern said China was a major source of revenue for the gaming industry, and he knew he was “closing many doors” careerwise by speaking out on Twitter.

But Mr. Kern, who lived in Hong Kong as a teenager, said the company’s actions were “a deterioration of Blizzard values that really broke my heart.”

“It’s one thing to stay out of politics in games, quite another to take harsh, punitive actions designed to appease a government whose values are against what Blizzard has traditionally stood for,” he said.

Patrick Chow, 20, who works at an e-sports stadium in Hong Kong, said he used to play Hearthstone a lot but would immediately stop playing Blizzard games. He said Mr. Chung had the right to use his influence to help the people of Hong Kong, and that the company shouldn’t have “controlled the player’s freedom of speech.”

“It breaks my impression of Blizzard,” he said.

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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

Blizzard, a Gaming Company, Stirs a Backlash for Penalizing Hong Kong Player

Westlake Legal Group 09xp-hkgamer-facebookJumbo Blizzard, a Gaming Company, Stirs a Backlash for Penalizing Hong Kong Player Hong Kong Protests (2019) Freedom of Speech and Expression E Sports Computer and Video Games China Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — Activision Blizzard became the latest American company to find itself caught between its business interests in China and the values of its core customers after it suspended an e-sports player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protests during a live broadcast.

The decision to suspend Chung Ng Wai, a professional Hearthstone player in Hong Kong, for a year, while forcing him to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money, prompted a backlash in the United States similar to the public relations debacle the N.B.A. has faced this week. Gamers posted angrily on social media and in forums, while politicians saw it as another troubling sign of China’s chilling clampdown on speech worldwide.

“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, concurred, saying on Twitter that Activision Blizzard showed “it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”

“No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck,” he said.

Activision Blizzard, which has created some of the most popular games in e-sports, including Overwatch and World of Warcraft, said Mr. Chung had run afoul of a rule barring players from any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages” the company’s image.

In a post-match interview with the Taiwan stream of Hearthstone, Mr. Chung, who is known as Blitzchung, appeared with ballistic goggles and a gas mask, protective gear often worn by protesters during demonstrations in Hong Kong. Mr. Chung shouted in Mandarin: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” a popular slogan of the protesters.

Mr. Chung did not respond to an interview request on Wednesday. But in a chat with fans on Tuesday on Twitch, a live-streaming service, he expressed no regret.

“Today, what I have lost in Hearthstone is four years of time,” he said, referring to the years he spent playing the game. “But if Hong Kong loses, it would be the matter of a lifetime.”

In the second quarter of 2019, Activision Blizzard earned $173 million from the Asia Pacific region, about 12 percent of its $1.4 billion worldwide total revenues.

Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Several companies have recently apologized after offending Chinese sensitivities, or have pre-emptively self-censored to ensure that they do not lose access to the lucrative Chinese market.

This week, the N.B.A. was forced onto a tightrope after Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support of the Hong Kong protests. An initial statement from the N.B.A. was widely seen as insufficiently supportive of Mr. Morey, prompting accusations that the league was more interested in its Chinese business interests than supporting free speech.

Last week’s “South Park” episodes mocked Chinese censors and American businesses that compromise their values for the Chinese market, causing the show to be pulled from Chinese platforms.

It was not yet clear what commercial impact the backlash to Blizzard would have, but many of its users reacted strongly. Threads on Reddit forums dedicated to Blizzard games lit up with criticism, while calls to boycott the company or cancel subscriptions spread throughout Twitter.

One person to cancel his World of Warcraft subscription was Mark Kern, who led the team that created the game.

In an interview, Mr. Kern said China was a major source of revenue for the gaming industry, and he knew he was “closing many doors” careerwise by speaking out on Twitter.

But Mr. Kern, who lived in Hong Kong as a teenager, said the company’s actions were “a deterioration of Blizzard values that really broke my heart.”

“It’s one thing to stay out of politics in games, quite another to take harsh, punitive actions designed to appease a government whose values are against what Blizzard has traditionally stood for,” he said.

Patrick Chow, 20, who works at an e-sports stadium in Hong Kong, said he used to play Hearthstone a lot but would immediately stop playing Blizzard games. He said Mr. Chung had the right to use his influence to help the people of Hong Kong, and that the company shouldn’t have “controlled the player’s freedom of speech.”

“It breaks my impression of Blizzard,” he said.

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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