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Hong Kong unions, students fail to get support for strikes against security law

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Hong Kong police control access to a street in the central Mongkok neighbourhood during the demonstrations. A new wave of protests rise in Hong Kong at the news that the Chinese government will unilaterally pass the National Security Law 23.

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Pro-democracy labour unions and a student group in Hong Kong failed to garner enough support to hold strikes against looming national security legislation imposed by Beijing, in a blow for the Chinese-ruled city’s protest movement.

After a year of often-violent unrest, anti-government demonstrations have lost momentum due to higher risk of arrest, with recent rallies failing to receive police approval due to coronavirus restrictions on large crowds.

A strike was intended to open a new arena of resistance, but organizers said only 8,943 union members participated in a city-wide poll, falling short of the 60,000 threshold to go ahead, even as 95% of the votes were in favour.

Separately, the Secondary School Students Action Platform said it would not initiate a class boycott, as they fell short of some of their targets for in-person votes.

Voting took place on Saturday and the results were announced around midnight.

The unions represented almost two dozen industries, including aviation, transport, construction, technology and tourism. Most were formed in the past year as pro-democracy activists have spearheaded the biggest push to unionize the laissez-faire, ultra-capitalist finance hub – where collective bargaining rights are not recognized – since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997. 

China on Saturday announced details of the national security legislation, unveiling Beijing will have overarching powers over its enforcement and signalling the deepest change to the city’s way of life since the handover. 

The planned law has alarmed foreign governments as well as democracy activists in Hong Kong, who were already concerned that Beijing was tightening its grip over the semi-autonomous city.

Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong have sought to reassure investors that the law will not erode the city’s high degree autonomy, insisting it will target only a minority of “troublemakers” who pose a threat to national security.

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Trump advisor Navarro calls TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer an ‘American puppet’

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A TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone with Chinese flag on the background.

Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro dubbed TikTok’s new CEO Kevin Mayer, an “American puppet” for working at the Chinese-owned social media app, in an interview with Fox Business on Sunday.

Navarro also used the interview to double down on accusations that Chinese apps are gathering data on Americans and handing that over to Beijing. He also said to expect “strong action” from President Donald Trump on TikTok and other Chinese apps.

TikTok has been in the cross-hairs of Washington for some months. But pressure on TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based Bytedance, rose last week when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the government is “looking at” banning the viral app.  

We have never shared TikTok user data with the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked. Period.

The Trump administration maintains that TikTok and other Chinese apps gather lots of data from American users and send that back to China, accusations repeated by Navarro. 

“What the American people have to understand is all the data that goes into those mobile apps that kids have so much fun with and seem so convenient, it goes right to servers in China, right to the Chinese military, the Chinese Communist Party, and the agencies that want to steal our intellectual property,” Navarro told Fox.

“Those apps can be used to steal personal and financial information for blackmail and extortion, they can be used to steal business intellectual property and proprietary secrets.” 

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Navarro also mentioned WeChat, China’s largest messaging app which is owned by technology giant Tencent

“TikTok and WeChat are the biggest forms of censorship on the Chinese mainland, and so expect strong action on that,” he alleged. 

TikTok does not operate within mainland China. Instead, ByteDance runs a very similar product called Douyin.

After mentioning that India banned several Chinese apps, Navarro said: “TikTok, WeChat, I suspect the president is just getting started with those two,” without elaborating if that meant a ban was coming. 

In response to Navarro’s comments, a TikTok spokesperson said protecting the privacy of its users’ data is a “critical priority.” 

“Our Chief Information Security Officer has decades of industry and US law enforcement experience. TikTok’s parent is a privately owned company backed by some the best-known US investors, which hold four of its five board seats,” a TIkTok spokesperson told CNBC. 

“TikTok is enjoyed by users throughout the world, but the app is not even available in China. As we have said repeatedly, we have never shared TikTok user data with the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked. Period.”

Tencent declined to comment. 

TikTok has faced accusations of censorship in the past but has denied that it removes “content based on sensitivities around China or other governments.” In regards to privacy, TikTok has previously said that U.S. user data is stored in the United States, with a backup in Singapore. The app also said that it has “never provided user data to the Chinese government” nor would it do so if asked. 

Meanwhile, services operating on the Chinese mainland, including WeChat, regularly censors posts and messages that are deemed sensitive to the Chinese government. 

TikTok CEO an ‘American puppet’

For its part, TikTok has been trying to distance itself from its Chinese parent company. 

ByteDance hired former Disney executive, Kevin Mayer, to be TikTok’s CEO earlier this year. His priority was seen as rebuilding trust with regulators

But Navarro criticized the hire, calling Mayer an “American puppet” and saying that the strategy of putting a U.S. citizen in charge is “not going to work.” 

TikTok was not immediately available for comment specifically on the remarks regarding Mayer. 

The White House trade advisor also said that any plans to spin-off TikTok into an American company would also not be beneficial to the U.S.

“If TikTok, if it separates as an American company, that doesn’t help us because … we’re going to have to give China billions of dollars for the privilege of having TikTok operate on U.S. soil,” Navarro said. 

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Poland’s incumbent Duda wins presidential election

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Andrzej Duda (R), the current Polish President and candidate for the presidential election 2020, accompanied by wife Agata (C) and daughter Kinga (L), seen on the final day of Duda’s presidential campaign, in Rzeszow.
On Friday, July 10, 2020, in Rzeszow, Podkarpackie Voivodeship, Poland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto | Getty Images

Poland’s incumbent Andrzej Duda has won the presidential election, results from over 99% of polling stations show, with remaining uncounted votes unlikely to sway the final outcome, the National Electoral Commission said on Monday.

Duda, an ally of Poland’s ruling nationalists, is expected to help the Law and Justice (PiS) party continue its reforms of the judiciary, which have been criticised by the European Union, and generous social spending programs.

According to the latest results, Duda received 51.21% of the vote, while opposition candidate Rafal Trzaskowski got 48.79% of the vote. The difference in votes between the candidates amounted to around 500,000. 

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of the campaign staff, but I think that this difference is large enough that we have to
accept the result,” Grzegorz Schetyna, the former head of Poland’s opposition Civic Platform (PO) grouping and member of parliament told private broadcaster TVN24 on Monday. 

Poles voted with almost record turnout, reported at 68.12% by the commission. The Commission said it wasn’t sure when it would announce full official results as some polling stations, including some abroad, had not yet submitted their official counts.

The opposition had earlier said it was collecting information about what it says were voting irregularities. “We are gathering information and signals about different irregularities and we are still only talking about polls and only a percentage of results from the National Electoral Commission so we don’t have a full picture of the situation,”
Tomasz Siemoniak, a PO member of parliament told Reuters. 

PiS officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The foreign ministry was also unavailable for comment. “Today or perhaps at the latest tomorrow…we will be able to indicate what the scale of these protests is,” Sylwester Marciniak, the head of the electoral commission, told a news conference on Monday.

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Amcham survey on impact of China national security law in Hong Kong

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A barge displays the words ‘Celebrate national security law’ on Victoria Harbour on July 1, 2020 in Hong Kong.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

A large majority of American companies in Hong Kong said they were concerned about the new national security law passed by China last month, according to a poll — but over 64% said their companies have no plans to leave the city.

The survey — conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong between July 6 and July 9 — polled 183 respondents, which represent 15% of its membership, on China’s new national security law and what it means for businesses.

Beijing says new law is aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference. But critics say it undermines the autonomy promised to Hong Kong for 50 years after it was handed over to China from the U.K. in 1997.

Survey results showed that of the 76% who expressed concern about the new security law, about 41% were “extremely concerned,” while 36.6% was “somewhat concerned.”

Over half of the respondents said they felt “less safe” living and working in the city, while 26% said they felt safer, according to the Amcham survey. Despite that, 48% said they personally had no plans to leave.

CNBC reached out to the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council for comment and did not immediately hear back.

It’s the ambiguity that is making people worried, so they are worried about the rule of law, and whether that will actually continue to exist the way it has under one country, two systems.

Tara Joseph

president, American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, told CNBC on Monday: “There is a small minority who feel much better because the streets … are quieter, and they feel they are safer there. But the majority … were concerned, or extremely concerned about the national security law.”

“So what it’s showing us is that the new normal in Hong Kong is not so normal, and there are a lot of question marks out there as far as businesses are concerned,” she added.

The introduction of the law sparked concerns among some about the impact of Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub. Washington said it will revoke Hong Kong’s special trading status with the U.S.

Last week, a Bloomberg report surfaced, which said U.S. officials in the Trump administration were looking for ways to undermine the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the greenback.

Despite those fears, however, more than 64% of the respondents indicated their companies have no plans to move out of Hong Kong.

They cited that there was potential in China and the Greater Bay area, an economically prosperous region comprising nine Chinese cities in Guangdong province and two special administrative territories — Hong Kong and Macao. 

However, the respondents were generally downcast about the overall business prospects in Hong Kong, saying that the city’s image has taken a hit as a result of the security law.

Around 42% said they were “pessimistic,” and around 25% said they were negative in the short run, but optimistic longer-term.

“Nobody wants to leave, but there are some question marks now that are arising now as a result of the national security law. And what makes people most uncomfortable as the survey is telling us is: they really want to hear some answers,” Josephs said.

“It’s the ambiguity that is making people worried, so they are worried about the rule of law, and whether that will actually continue to exist the way it has under one country, two systems. They are worried very much as well… about this idea of foreign interference, and where does that leave the U.S. community,” she added.

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