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World breaking news today July 31: Hong Kong blocks 12 democrats from election

11:21 | 31/07/2020

World breaking news today July 31: Hong Kong blocks 12 democrats from election as China security law shadow looms. Meanwhile, Malaysia rebukes Beijing as South China Sea, Herman Cain died of coronavirus, TikTok and Zoom's ties to China investigation in US, and gold prices also make headlines today. 

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world breaking news today july 31 hong kong blocks 12 democrats from election

Civic Party members have been disqualified from running for election to the legislature in Hong Kong, China July 30, 2020 (Photo: Reuters)

Hong Kong blocks 12 democrats from election

Hong Kong on Thursday disqualified a dozen pro-democracy candidates from running in a key election, citing reasons including collusion with foreign forces and opposition to the new China-imposed national security laws.

It was the most sweeping move yet seen on the city’s electoral freedoms, with even moderate democrats targeted. Some critics including Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten called it an “outrageous political purge”, Reuters commented.

Those disqualified included pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, some members of the Civic Party, a moderate, old-guard opposition group, and others who won an unofficial “primary” vote held by the opposition camp this month.

The move comes one month after Communist Party rulers in Beijing announced the national security law that reins in dissent in the semi-autonomous city. It could also steer China further onto a collision path with the West.

The government said there could be more disqualifications.

Critics said the move sought to curb the ascendancy of a young, more defiant generation of democrats after an overwhelming win in last year’s lower-level district council elections.

Hong Kong has disqualified candidates before but not on this scale. The disqualification of Civic Party candidates signals Beijing is becoming less tolerant of even moderate democrats, who have for decades been a vocal opposition in the legislature.

Malaysia rebukes Beijing as South China Sea ‘lawfare’ heats up

Malaysia has recently rebuked China for claiming Kuala Lumpur had no right to seek the establishment of its continental shelf in the northern part of the waters.

According to SCMP, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government, in a note verbale to the world body dated July 29, stressed that its application was fully within its rights under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

The unusually strong statement, seen by This Week in Asia on Thursday, said Malaysia rejected “in its entirety the contents” of an earlier note by Beijing on December 12.

The Chinese note had itself been a response to a Malaysian submission to an Unclos body stating that there were areas of potential overlapping claims in the areas where it was seeking to delimit its territory. China at the time had said the Malaysian submission “seriously infringed China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea”.

In its latest response, Malaysia said it rejected “China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’.”

A source familiar with Malaysia’s historic position on the sea dispute said while the wording of the latest submission had been surprising, the contents of the note verbale reflected the country’s long-held rejection of China’s “nine-dash line”.

world breaking news today july 31 hong kong blocks 12 democrats from election

Malaysia has recently rebuked China for claiming Kuala Lumpur had no right to seek the establishment of its continental shelf in the northern part of the waters (Photo: SCMP)

Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate, dies of coronavirus

Herman Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and ardent supporter of Donald Trump, has died of coronavirus at the age of 74.

Cain, 74, had been ill with the virus for several weeks and was in a high-risk group due to his history with cancer. It is unclear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalised less than two weeks after attending the US president’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 20 June.

Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, was photographed at the event without a face mask and not physically distancing from other supporters. Public health officials had warned that the rally could put lives at risk and eight Trump campaign staffers tested positive for Covid-19.

At a White House briefing on Thursday, Trump described Cain as “a wonderful man” and “dear friend of mine”. He added: “He was a very special person. I got to know him very well and, unfortunately, he passed away from a thing called the China virus.

world breaking news today july 31 hong kong blocks 12 democrats from election
Herman Cain was a 2012 Republican presidential candidate (Photo: Lowell Sun)

Senators are calling for the Justice Department to investigate TikTok and Zoom's ties to China

Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican, wrote to the US Justice Department on Thursday to urge a probe of video technology company Zoom and social media company TikTok, Business Insider reported.

"Based on numerous reports, we are extremely concerned that Zoom and TikTok have disclosed private information about Americans to the [People's Republic of China] and engaged in censorship on behalf of the Chinese government," they said in the letter.

While both companies are headquartered in the US, TikTok is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, and Zoom recently came under fire from American lawmakers after disclosing it had deactivated the accounts of three US-based human-rights activists at the request of the Chinese government.

The senators called for the DOJ to open a probe into both companies, saying Zoom and TikTok "have failed to answer even basic questions about their business operations, including who has access to personal information and when they comply with request from China or other governments."

TikTok's new US-based CEO, Kevin Mayer wrote a blog post this week committing the company to transparency, and suggesting that Americans have nothing to fear from the app.

Zoom also said it would not comply with future censorship requests following backlash over the account deactivations, and introduced end-to-end encryption in June after it got slammed for "mistakenly" using data centers in China.

world breaking news today july 31 hong kong blocks 12 democrats from election
Senators Richard Blumenthal wrote to the US Justice Department on Thursday to urge a probe of TikTok and Zoom (Photo: MSN)

Trump Allows Existing Keystone Oil Pipeline To Boost Capacity

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a presidential permit on Wednesday granting the operator of the existing Keystone oil pipeline, TC Energy, the right to increase the maximum throughput capacity, while the Keystone XL project continues to face significant legal hurdles to starting construction.

Under the permit, the limit to ship crude oil from Canada to the U.S. refineries via Keystone is being raised to 760,000 barrels per day (bpd), up from 590,000 bpd in a previous presidential permit, TC Energy’s spokesman Terry Cunha told Bloomberg via email.

Alberta, the heart of Canada’s oil industry, which has been plagued by pipeline shortage for years, welcomed the increased maximum shipment capacity.

The permit for increased capacity of Keystone comes three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that construction of the long-delayed and once-resurrected Keystone XL project cannot begin. The justices at the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Keystone XL cannot use the so-called Nationwide Permit 12 that allowed pipelines to cross rivers with minimal review if they meet specific criteria. The Supreme Court, however, allowed other pipeline projects to return to use that permit aimed at fast-tracking construction of vital oil and gas infrastructure, according to Oil Price.

world breaking news today july 31 hong kong blocks 12 democrats from election
(Photo: Oil Price)
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