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Beijing’s surveillance apparatus pushing Hong Kong protesters analogue | Science & Tech News

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The Chinese government’s surveillance apparatus is driving protesters away from digital technologies while police activity ramps up in Hong Kong.

An estimated million demonstrators have gathered in recent days to peacefully protest against an extradition bill which they fear Beijing would use to attack political opponents.

Panic spreads as riot officers fire tear gas

Panic spreads as riot officers fire tear gas

Officers warn they “will use force” as tens of thousands of demonstrators gather outside government buildings

LIVE: Hong Kong protests

The protests are the largest in Hong Kong since the former British colony’s handover to China in 1997 and turned violent on Wednesday as police used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowds.

Journalist Mary Hui, of business news website Quartz, tweeted an image of long queues at train ticketing machines to buy paper tickets rather than use their smart cards.

Ms Hui reported that the demonstrators were attempting to avoid leaving digital records through the metro system, which Beijing could use to accuse them of attending the protests.

One 18-year-old protester who spoke to Sky News, only giving her name as Jacky, said: “We’re young but we know that if we don’t stand up for our rights, we might lose them.”

Some demonstrators are reluctant to be identified by their full names and professions, with many wearing surgical masks over fears of being identified from images of their faces.

They appear particularly mindful of Beijing’s growing use of facial recognition technology to build files on those it considers politically unreliable.

One of the most pervasive forms of surveillance which the Chinese government utilises is through social media and apps, notably WeChat – one of the largest social networks in the world.

Individuals who have been detected referencing censored topics on WeChat are forced to provide their facial image to the app in order to reactivate their accounts after the suspensions.

Among the most censored of topics in China is the anniversary of the Tiananman Square protests in which the Chinese army fired on unarmed student protesters.

Despite the protests in Hong Kong, which do not yet appear to have turned fatal, the region’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has vowed to press ahead with the legislation.

Ms Lam has insisted that extradition cases would be decided by Hong Kong courts and that, without the changes, Hong Kong could become a haven for criminals evading justice.

Many in Hong Kong fear that residents sent to China could face ambiguous national security charges and would not be given a fair trial.

They note that courts on the mainland are controlled by the Communist Party and have been accused of using torture, arbitrary detentions and forced confessions.

Protesters occupy two main highways near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019
Image:
Protesters occupied two main highways near the government headquarters

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a lawyer and member of Ms Lam’s administration advisory committee, warned that Beijing’s patience for Hong Kong was limited.

He said: “We need to gain the trust and confidence of Beijing so they can allow us the freedom of political reform.

“They don’t want to see Hong Kong as a base of subversion. And I’m sorry – we’re doing exactly that.”

The legislature’s president, Andrew Leung, has scheduled a vote on the extradition law for 20 June, although it is not clear if this date will also be postponed.



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Flight MH17: Four charged with murder over downing of Malaysia Airlines jet | World News

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Four men have been charged with murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which killed 298 passengers and crew.

Almost five years after the Boeing 777 jet was shot down above eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, an international team of investigators announced that three Russians and a Ukrainian were to be “held accountable” for transporting the missile system used to its launch site.

The three Russians were named as former Igor Girkin, 48, Sergey Dubinskiy, 56, and Oleg Pulatov, 52, while the other man was identified as 47-year-old Leonid Kharchenko.

Part of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk
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Part of the Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove, some 80km east of Donetsk

Girkin is a former colonel of the FSB, the Russian security service, Dubinskiy was once employed by GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, and Pulatov is an ex-soldier of the Spetznaz, the GRU special forces. Kharchenko is the only suspect with no military background.

The international team of detectives and prosecutors investigating the crash said the men had “co-operated closely” to obtain the weaponry – a 9M38 variant of the Buk missile system used by Russia – and position it in advance of it striking the passenger plane, which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Speaking at a news conference at The Hague, Dutch police chief Wilbert Paulissen said their murder trial would begin at the same court on 9 March 2020 – although the men are unlikely to appear as their countries do not recognise extradition requests and are unlikely to co-operate with the investigation.

Chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the failure by Russia to aid the investigation was a “slap in the face” to the families of those who died.

“We have established that there has been involvement of the Russian Federation because they made available the missile that was used to shoot down MH17,” he said.

“The Russian federation has not disclosed anything that happened and that is a slap in the face for all the relatives of the victims, and I call out to them to start co-operating.”

MH17
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The plane was heading to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Moscow did not trust the investigation, but claimed that there had been a willingness to help.

He told reporters ahead of the news conference: “Russia was unable to take part in the investigation despite an interest right from the start and trying to join in.”

A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine
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Potential suspects include rebel forces in the area

Relatives of the victims were briefed on the updates provided in the news conference beforehand.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers were among those killed, hailed the charges for the four suspects as a “good start”.

She said: “This is what we hoped for. This is a start of it. It is a good start.”

Mr Paulissen said more suspects could be identified at a later date, including those “higher up the chain of command”, but added that there is not yet sufficient evidence to do so.

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Girl, 10, is youngest person to climb 7,500ft El Capitan | US News

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A 10-year-old girl has made rock climbing history by becoming the youngest person on record to scale Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan.

Selah Schneiter, from Colorado, climbed the 7,500ft (1,100 metre) route – known as The Nose – over five days with her father Mike, an experienced climber, and a family friend.

She reached the summit on 12 June after using a rope climbing technique known as jumaring to tackle the famously steep rock formation.

After reaching the top of the granite monolith in central California, Selah celebrated her feat with a pizza.

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The 10-year-old used a rope climbing technique known as jumaring

“I just can’t believe I just did that,” she said in a video captured after her impressive achievement.

“Our big motto was ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ Small bites. One pitch at a time, one move at a time, one day at a time,” she told KFSN in Fresno.

Few adults can say they have successfully reached El Capitan’s zenith, with many experienced climbers considering The Nose to be the most iconic big-wall climb in the world.

Saleh’s father said she was in shock on reaching the peak.

Revealing she broke down in tears, Mr Schneiter said: “She said it was her first happy tears she’s ever had.

“We were tired after a long five days and camped out that night, but she was like a little kid again and wanted to check everything out, exploring almost like it was nothing.”

He said they spent time on ledges throughout the climb “just relaxing… talking about the world… talking about life”.

El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park
Image:
El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park

Selah comes from a family of hiking enthusiasts who have developed a special connection to Yosemite’s trails.

Mr Schneiter, a climbing instructor, claims to have met his daughter’s mother, Joy, while hiking in the region years prior.

Selah is now encouraging her seven-year-old brother to follow in her footsteps.

In 2017, American rock climber Alex Honnold became the first person to scale El Capitan without ropes or safety equipment.

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Mines used in tanker attacks 'strikingly' like Iran's, US says

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Pieces of mines recovered after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman “strikingly” resemble Iranian mines, the US navy has said.

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