Buhari, W/Africa Presidents Lay Foundation Of New ECOWAS Headquarters

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has performed the official ground-breaking ceremony of the new ECOWAS Headquarters complex also known as the Eye of West Africa, to be constructed by the Chinese Government.

President Buhari declared that the edifice will strengthen the brotherhood of African countries.

The building which comes in the aftermath of engagements and an agreement between the Peoples Republic of China and ECOWAS was envisioned as an all-inclusive architectural phenomenon.


READ ALSO: Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat Flag-Off Re-Election Campaign


It would represent the three hundred and eighty million West African Citizens and would house the three major ECOWAS Institutions, including the ECOWAS Commission, the Community Court of Justice and the Parliament.

President Buhari was accompanied by the Chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and President of Guinea Bissau, Mr. Sissoco Embalo; President of the ECOWAS Commission, Doctor Omar Alieu Touray; Ambassador Representing the Government of Peoples Republic of China; Permanent Representatives and Members of Diplomatic Corps as well as Heads of ECOWAS Institutions and Commissioners to the ceremony at the Airport road in Lugbe, Abuja.

He gave directives to the various ministries, departments and agencies under the Coordination of Nigerian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, to ensure smooth facilitation of the project.

The Eye of West Africa which is China’s commitment to the sub-regional organisation is expected to be completed in twenty six months and commissioned by February 2025.

China Police Deploy High-Tech Tools To Crush Protests

 

Chinese police have deployed sophisticated surveillance tools in a push to stamp out a nationwide wave of unrest, using facial recognition software and location data to track down and detain protesters.

Frustration over prolonged Covid restrictions has boiled over, triggering protests demanding an end to lockdowns and greater political freedoms at a scale unseen in decades.

As Beijing announced a crackdown against the protests, its vast security apparatus swung into gear, using state-of-the-art surveillance to track down activists, according to a human rights lawyer offering free legal advice to protesters.

“In Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, police have seemingly used very high-tech methods,” said Wang Shengsheng, a lawyer based in the city of Zhengzhou.

“In other cities, it seems like they have relied on surveillance footage and facial recognition,” she told AFP.

Beijing police may have used phone location data either captured from on-site scanners or Covid health codes scanned by people taking taxis to areas where protests took place, she said.

“Many callers from Beijing were confused as to why they were contacted by police when they genuinely just walked past the protest site and didn’t take part,” she added.

“We have no idea how exactly they did this.”

Crackdown

Wang has received over 20 calls in recent days from protesters or people whose friends and relatives have been detained. Most detentions she was told about lasted under 24 hours.

Protesters who contacted Wang for help have been targeted too, she said.

In Shanghai, police have confiscated the phones of all those she was in touch with and who were summoned for questioning, “perhaps to extract all their data”, she added.

Callers from Guangdong told Wang that their accounts on the encrypted Telegram messaging app were hacked after they registered ID documents with police en route to a protest.

Some friends of detained Beijing protesters also told her they saw their friends’ Telegram accounts active while they were in custody, suggesting police may have been accessing them.

Wiping out the evidence

Encrypted protesters’ chat groups — only accessible in China with illegal VPN software — are on high alert for police infiltrators as news spreads of further arrests and intimidation.

Participants have been urging each other to wipe all evidence of the protests — including chat histories, videos and photos — from their phones in anticipation of police checks.

One Beijing resident told AFP that two friends who attended protests in Shanghai and Beijing were detained on Sunday and Tuesday respectively.

The Shanghai protester was released on Monday evening but their phone remains in police hands, he said, asking to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

On highly surveilled Chinese social media apps, any users posting protest content can be easily tracked down as platforms require real-name registration.

“Phone and social media sweeps are likely ongoing in physical spaces and virtual communities,” said Rui Zhong, a China analyst at the Wilson Center in Washington.

AFP journalists saw multiple police officers filming protesters with small handheld cameras at Sunday’s Beijing rally.

One protester told AFP that she and five friends were called by local police after they attended Sunday’s rally at a riverbank in the city’s embassy district.

She later told AFP she was summoned to the police station Tuesday to write a declaration of what happened, but got turned away after not having a recent Covid test result.

‘You don’t have any privacy’

Encrypted chat group users are sharing tips and legal advice on what to do in case they are interrogated, arrested or have their phones confiscated by police.

In Shanghai, an AFP reporter witnessed multiple arrests and confirmed that police had forcibly checked one protester’s phone for foreign social media apps blocked in China which have been used to spread information about the protests.

“What’s the right to privacy? You don’t have any privacy,” a police officer said to a 17-year-old Shanghai protester during a Monday altercation, according to an audio recording he provided.

Many attendees were first-time protesters who lacked the experience and organisation necessary to build cohesive social movements, according to some protesters who spoke with AFP.

“When people go missing or are killed in ordinary criminal cases, we don’t see such high-tech tracking technologies,” said Wang.

“But in public protests, we appear to see sophisticated digital technologies being used.”

“I feel very sad, because we have such effective technology but it’s being used in the wrong place.”

“If our phones can be seized and manipulated at will, if our accounts can be logged onto (without our consent), what freedom do we have left?”

A ‘Dear Friend’ To Russia – Putin Mourns Late Chinese Leader Zemin

A photo combination of former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin and Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Credit: AFP

 

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin — who was hailed as a great communist revolutionary and was announced by Beijing to have died earlier — was a “dear friend” to Russia.

“As a dear friend of our country, Jiang Zemin made an invaluable contribution to the development of Russian-Chinese relations… the bright memory of such an authoritative politician and a wonderful person will forever remain in my heart,” Putin said in a message of condolence to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, according to a Kremlin statement.

READ ALSO: Former China Leader Jiang Zemin Dies At 96

Protester Shot By Hong Kong Police Jailed For Six Years

Police fire tear gas at protesters on Hennessy Road, in Hong Kong on August 31, 2019,

 

A Hong Kong man shot by police at point-blank range during democracy protests in 2019 was jailed for six years Wednesday on charges that included trying to snatch the firearm that wounded him.

Chow Pak-kwan, 23, lost his right kidney and was injured in his liver and spine after a traffic cop shot him at a road intersection amid clashes between protesters and the authorities.

Footage of the incident showed an officer drawing his gun, pointing it at protesters blocking the road, grappling with one of them and eventually firing at Chow, who was unarmed.

Judge Adriana Noelle Tse Ching sentenced Chow to six years in jail for attempted robbery, obstructing a police officer and attempting to escape from custody.


READ ALSO: US Senate Votes To Protect Same-Sex Marriage


The judge said Chow’s attempt to grab the officer’s gun could have inflamed the crowd’s emotions and was a factor contributing to the lengthy sentence.

Another defendant in the case, Woo Tsz-kin, 22, was also jailed for six years after being found guilty of obstructing a police officer and attempted robbery.

The protest took place near the height of Hong Kong’s citywide protests three years ago, which began in opposition to a proposed extradition bill before growing to include calls for greater freedoms.

Rights activists have criticised police for using excessive force to quell protests, with Chow’s shooting sometimes cited as an example.

Police have insisted that officers were acting in accordance with the law and following internal protocols.

As of August, Hong Kong had arrested nearly 10,300 people over the 2019 democracy protests and have prosecuted or initiated legal proceedings against 2,900 of them, according to police.

Flags To Fly Half-Mast In China After Jiang’s Death

A picture of the Chinese flag.
The Chinese flag.

 

Flags at major Chinese Communist Party and government buildings in China and worldwide will be flown half-mast after former president Jiang Zemin died Wednesday, state media reported.

The order, from Jiang’s funeral arrangement committee, applies from Wednesday until the date of his funeral, yet to be announced, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Former China Leader Jiang Zemin Dies At 96

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 2, 1994 China’s President Jiang Zemin holds a press conference in Beijing before his departure for an official visit to Russia and Ukraine. AFP

 

Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, who steered the country through a transformational era from the late 1980s and into the new millennium, died Wednesday at the age of 96, state news agency Xinhua said.

Jiang took power in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and led the world’s most populous nation towards its emergence as a powerhouse on the global stage.

READ ALSO: Protesters Clash With Police In Southern Chinese Megacity

“Jiang Zemin passed away due to leukemia and multiple organ failure in Shanghai at 12:13 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2022, at the age of 96, it was announced on Wednesday,” Xinhua reported.

Xinhua said the announcement of his death was made in a letter expressing “profound grief” at Jiang’s death, addressed to the whole Communist Party, military and Chinese people.

His death came after all medical treatments had failed, it said.

“Comrade Jiang Zemin was an outstanding leader… a great Marxist, a great proletarian revolutionary, statesman, military strategist and diplomat, a long-tested communist fighter, and an outstanding leader of the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Xinhua quoted the letter as saying.

Jiang’s death comes as China sees a flare-up of anti-lockdown protests that have morphed into calls for wider political freedoms — the most widespread since the 1989 pro-democracy rallies that were crushed the year Jiang took power.

“During the serious political turmoil in China in the spring and summer of 1989, Comrade Jiang Zemin supported and implemented the correct decision of the Party Central Committee to oppose unrest, defend the socialist state power and safeguard the fundamental interests of the people,” state broadcaster CCTV said on Wednesday.

State broadcaster CCTV said flags would be flown at half-mast at Chinese government buildings.

When Jiang replaced Deng Xiaoping as leader in 1989, China was still in the early stages of economic modernisation.

By the time he retired as president in 2003, China was a member of the World Trade Organization, Beijing had secured the 2008 Olympics, and the country was well on its way to superpower status.

Analysts say Jiang and his “Shanghai Gang” faction continued to exert influence over communist politics long after he left the top job.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, Chinese state media all posted the same black-and-white photo of a chrysanthemum on their official accounts on social media platform Weibo.

Jiang’s entry on Baidu Encyclopedia, a Chinese site similar to Wikipedia, also turned black-and-white.

Jiang is survived by his wife Wang Yeping and two sons.

AFP

Protesters Clash With Police In Southern Chinese Megacity

Students light candles on the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in solidarity with protests held on the mainland over Beijing’s Covid-19 restrictions, in Hong Kong on November 28, 2022. AFP

 

Protesters clashed with police in the southern Chinese megacity of Guangzhou overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, according to witnesses and footage, part of a wave of demonstrations across the country triggered by Covid restrictions.

Security personnel in hazmat suits formed ranks shoulder-to-shoulder, taking cover under see-through riot shields, to make their way down a street in the southern city’s Haizhu district as glass smashed around them, videos posted on social media showed.

In the footage — geolocated by AFP — people could be heard screaming and shouting, as orange and blue barricades were pictured strewn across the ground.

People are seen throwing objects at the police, and later nearly a dozen men are filmed being taken away with their hands bound with cable ties.

A Guangzhou resident surnamed Chen told AFP on Wednesday that he witnessed around 100 police officers converge on Houjiao village in Haizhu district and arrest at least three men on Tuesday night.

China’s vast security apparatus has moved swiftly to smother protests across the country, as frustration over heavy-handed Covid rules bubbled after a fire in a locked down building in Urumqi in the northwestern Xinjiang region killed 10 people last week.

Haizhu, a district with more than 1.8 million people, has been the source of the bulk of Guangzhou’s Covid-19 cases. Much of the area has been under lockdown since late October.

Earlier in November, protesters in Haizhu had crashed through lockdown barriers and marched onto streets in a rare outburst of public anger against Covid restrictions.

Videos of that protest circulated on social media on November 14, and verified by AFP, showed hundreds of people taking to the street in Haizhu. Some tore down barriers set up to keep locked-down residents from leaving their homes.

‘Trembling and crying’

Meanwhile, videos published on China’s Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday night showed long lines of traffic as residents rushed to leave the neighbouring Tianhe district.

One student who was told to leave her college dormitory said on Weibo: “I used to think this would be the happiest time of my life… Now I receive an emergency notification at 1:00 am, I end up trembling and crying in the corridor at 2:00 am, and I watch my classmates flee with suitcases at 3:00 am. At 4:00 am, I sit alone on my suitcase and cry, waiting for my parents to come…

“At 5:00 am, I finally got in the car and escaped from this man-eating place. I used to say that this land is kind … now it’s like hell,” the writer who uses the pseudonym Ludao Lizi said on a verified Weibo account.

Zhang Yi, a spokeswoman for the Guangzhou National Health Commission on Tuesday said “the epidemic in Tianhe District is developing rapidly, and the risk of social transmission continues to increase”.

AFP

 

China To Accelerate Push To Vaccinate Elderly Against COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 28, 2021 a healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Chinese made Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine, at makeshift tents in Tirana’s main square. (Photo by Gent SHKULLAKU / AFP)

 

China said Tuesday it would speed up a push to vaccinate people aged 60 and older against Covid-19 after the country posted record daily case numbers in recent days.

The announcement comes after a weekend of protests demanding an end to the country’s strict zero-Covid policy, which responds to even small caseloads with harsh lockdowns and quarantine orders.

Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC) pledged to “accelerate the increase in the vaccination rate for people over the age of 80, and continue to increase the vaccination rate for people aged 60-79”.

It also said it would “establish a special working group… to make special arrangements for the vaccination of the elderly against Covid”.

“It is necessary to conduct popular science education on the meaning and benefits of vaccination, and fully publicize vaccines’ efficacy on preventing severe illness and death,” it added.

READ ALSO: Taiwan Couple Charged For ‘Bribing’ Voters With Chinese Covid Tests

China’s low vaccination rates, particularly among the older population, have long been seen as prolonging Beijing’s no-tolerance approach to Covid.

Just 65.8 percent of people over 80 are fully vaccinated, NHC officials told a press conference Tuesday.

And China has not yet approved mRNA vaccines, proven to be more effective, for public use.

Many fear that lifting that policy while swathes of the population remain not fully immunised could overwhelm China’s healthcare system and cause over a million deaths.

But the zero-Covid policy has stoked massive unrest, with people taking to the streets in China’s major cities on Sunday to protest draconian lockdowns and broader restrictions on freedom of movement.

A deadly fire last week in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region, was the catalyst for the wave of outrage, with protesters blaming Covid restrictions for hampering rescue efforts — claims the government has denied.

China logged 38,421 domestic infections Tuesday, slightly down from record highs seen over the weekend and comparably low when compared to caseloads seen in western countries during the height of the pandemic.

China Moves To Curb Rare, Nationwide Protests

A picture of the Chinese flag.
The Chinese flag.

 

Chinese security forces on Monday filled the streets of Beijing and Shanghai following online calls for another night of protests to demand political freedoms and an end to Covid lockdowns.

People have taken to the streets in major cities and gathered at university campuses across China in a wave of nationwide protests not seen since pro-democracy rallies in 1989 were crushed.

A deadly fire last week in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region, was the catalyst for public anger, with many blaming Covid-19 lockdowns for hampering rescue efforts.

Beijing has accused “forces with ulterior motives” for linking the fire to Covid measures.

At an area in the economic hub of Shanghai where demonstrators gathered at the weekend, AFP witnessed police leading three people away. China’s online censorship machine also worked to scrub signs of the social media-driven rallies.

A planned protest in the capital Beijing later on Monday came to nothing as several dozen police officers and vans choked a crossroad near the assembly point in the western Haidian district.

Police vehicles lined the road to nearby Sitong Bridge, where a lone protester hung banners last month denouncing President Xi Jinping before being detained.

Demonstrators had shared online a plan to march to the bridge following a successful rally the day before near the Liangma river.

In Hong Kong, where mass democracy protests erupted in 2019, dozens gathered at the Chinese University to mourn the victims of the Urumqi fire, an AFP journalist said.

“Don’t look away. Don’t forget. We are not foreign forces. We are Chinese youth,” they shouted.

People also displayed banners and held flowers in the Central district of the financial hub, on which Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law after the 2019 protests.

And in Hangzhou, just over 170 kilometres (106 miles) southwest of Shanghai, there was strict security and sporadic protests in the city’s downtown, footage circulating on social media and partly geolocated by AFP showed.

Chants and banners 

Protesters have notably used the rallies to call for greater freedoms, with some even demanding the resignation of President Xi, recently re-appointed to a historic third term as China’s leader.

Large crowds gathered Sunday in Beijing and Shanghai, where police clashed with demonstrators as they tried to stop groups from converging at Wulumuqi street, named after the Mandarin for Urumqi.

The BBC said one of its journalists had been arrested and beaten by police while covering the Shanghai protests, although China’s foreign ministry insisted the reporter had not identified himself as such.

The unrest prompted the United Nations on Monday to call for China to respect the right to protest.

“We call on the authorities to respond to protests in line with international human rights laws and standards,” UN Human Rights Office spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters.

“No one should be arbitrarily detained for peacefully expressing their opinions.”

In Beijing on Monday, where at least 400 people gathered for several hours the previous night, a repeat rally took place, an AFP journalist said.

One protester told AFP that she and five of her friends who attended the protest received phone calls from Beijing police demanding information about their movements Monday evening.

In one case, she said, a police officer visited her friend’s home after they refused to answer their phone.

“He said my name and asked me whether I went to the Liangma river last night… he asked very specifically how many people were there, what time I went, how I heard about it,” she told AFP, asking to stay anonymous for safety reasons.

AFP journalists at the tense scene of the Shanghai protests on Monday also saw a heavy police presence, with temporary blue fences in place along the pavements to stop further gatherings.

Three people were then detained by police at the site, an AFP journalist saw, with law enforcement preventing passersby from taking photos or video of the area.

Shanghai police did not confirm to AFP how many people had been detained despite repeated enquiries.

An AFP journalist also filmed people being detained on Sunday.

 ‘Boiling point’ 

China’s strict control of information and continued travel curbs tied to the zero-Covid policy make verifying the numbers of protesters across the vast country challenging.

But such widespread rallies are exceptionally rare, with authorities harshly clamping down on all opposition to the central government.

At the scene of the Beijing riverside rally, where rows of police vehicles were in place on Monday, a jogger in her twenties told AFP she had seen the protests on social media and that she supported them.

“This protest was a good thing, it sent the signal that people were fed up with too strong restrictions,” said the jogger, who asked not to be identified.

“People have now reached a boiling point because there has been no clear path to end the zero-Covid policy,” Alfred Wu Muluan, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore, told AFP.

“The party has underestimated the people’s anger.”

China reported 40,052 domestic Covid-19 cases Monday, a record high but tiny compared to caseloads in the West at the height of the pandemic.

AFP

US Bans Gear From China’s Huawei And ZTE Over Security Risk

This file photo taken on May 31, 2021 shows a Huawei logo at the flagship store in Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province. STR / AFP
This file photo taken on May 31, 2021 shows a Huawei logo at the flagship store in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province. STR / AFP

 

US authorities announced a ban Friday on the import or sale of communications equipment deemed “an unacceptable risk to national security” — including gear from Chinese giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE.

Both firms have been on a roster of companies listed as a threat by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the new rules bar future authorizations of their equipment.

The move is the latest in a series of actions to limit the access of Chinese telecom firms to US networks, and comes during a long-running standoff between the world’s two biggest economies.

US officials have shown growing wariness in recent years of Chinese telecommunications companies and technology.

“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders,” said chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement.

She added that the new rules are a part of ongoing work to guard against security threats.

A Huawei spokesperson offered no comment on the ban when contacted by AFP.

The order also affects other companies, including video surveillance equipment firms Hangzhou Hikvision and Dahua Technology.

The FCC said Friday that it was also seeking comment on future action relating to existing authorizations.

Previously, Washington had banned Huawei from supplying US government systems and strongly discouraged the use of its equipment in the private sector, with fears that Huawei equipment could be compromised by Chinese intelligence.

In 2019, it put Huawei on a trade blacklist that barred US suppliers from doing business with it, cutting off the Chinese firm — also a top smartphone brand — from Google’s Android mobile operating system.

The United States has cited national security fears as well to restrict the operations of China’s big three state-owned mobile carriers.

Ten Dead, Nine Injured In China’s Xinjiang Fire

a File Photo used solely for illustration.

 

Ten people were killed and nine injured in a fire in a residential building in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, state media reported Friday.

The blaze broke out in a high-rise building on Thursday night, state news agency Xinhua said, at about 7:50 pm (1150 GMT).

“Ten people died despite emergency treatment,” Xinhua reported.

“The injuries sustained by nine others are not life-threatening,” it added, saying an investigation into the fire had begun.


READ ALSO: UK Clamps Down On Chinese Surveillance Cameras


Deadly fires are common in China, due to weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcing them.

This week, 38 people were killed and two were injured in a fire at a factory in central China’s Anyang city.

Authorities blamed “electric welding in which workers violated safety measures”.

UK Clamps Down On Chinese Surveillance Cameras

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking at the Despatch box during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on November 23, 2022. (Photo by JESSICA TAYLOR / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP)
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking at the Despatch box during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on November 23, 2022. (Photo by JESSICA TAYLOR / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP)

 

UK government departments were ordered Thursday to stop installing Chinese-made surveillance cameras at “sensitive sites”.

The move comes with the government moving more forcefully against China and its companies on security grounds. Last week it ordered a Chinese-owned firm to divest most of Newport Wafer Fab, Britain’s biggest semiconductor maker.

According to the campaign group Big Brother Watch, most public organisations in Britain use CCTV cameras made either by Hikvision or Dahua.

In July, a group of 67 MPs and lords urged London to ban the sale and use of surveillance equipment made by the two companies, whose products have allegedly been complicit in rights abuses against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

The government’s new order stopped short of an outright ban on the companies.

But it discouraged the use in Britain of “visual surveillance systems” made by firms required by Chinese law to share intelligence with Beijing’s security services.

No such cameras should be connected to “core networks” at government departments, and ministries should consider replacing them rather than waiting for scheduled upgrades, it said.

A government review has concluded that, “in light of the threat to the UK and the increasing capability and connectivity of these systems, additional controls are required”, senior minister Oliver Dowden told parliament.

“Departments have therefore been instructed to cease deployment of such equipment on to sensitive sites, where it is produced by companies subject to the national intelligence law of the People’s Republic of China.”

Some individual UK ministries have already been removing Hikvision gear, after one of the company’s cameras in June 2021 caught then health secretary Matt Hancock kissing an aide in violation of Covid rules. He was forced to resign.

AFP