European leaders, reaching across the fault lines of last century's battlefields, said on Friday that they had struck a deal on a European constitution, the latest step in the gradual but creaking process toward a more united continent. \nUnder the agreement, for the first time, the continent -- through the 25-nation EU -- would have a president, a foreign minister and a single rule book to replace the web of treaties that govern the complex relationships among the union's member countries. But the constitution still faces a hard test: ratification by all 25 members, which could be exceedingly difficult in the face of strong skepticism in some countries and voter apathy. At least seven of the nations have decided to ratify the pact by referendum. \nWhile the leaders toasted their success with champagne, the past two days were marked by dogged and at times polarized talks that ended in compromises many participants strongly criticized. Many of the compromises limited the scope of decision-making in sensitive areas such as taxation and social issues. Negotiators inserted what they called "emergency brakes" for countries worried about retaining their national prerogatives, notably Britain. \n"We have to move at the pace of the slowest camel in the train," said John Palmer, director of the European Policy Center in Brussels. \nThe constitution is a legalistic document of nearly 350 articles -- perhaps not what leaders had envisioned when they called for a "more democratic, more transparent and more efficient" system at a meeting two-and-a-half years ago in Brussels. \nBut it contains a string of innovations. Among them is creation of a European public prosecutor, a sort of nascent federal attorney-general who would be responsible for investigating and bringing to trial those cases where the EU's financial interests are at stake. According to officials, they could involve crimes like fraud in the EU budget or counterfeiting of euro notes and coins. Ultimately the prosecutor could also be responsible for prosecuting "serious crime having a cross-border dimension." \nThere are also provisions for countries to take part in special combat units if they choose, an issue closely watched by Washington; and for closer cooperation on military procurement. \n"This is definitely a step forward," said Marco Incerti, research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies. "They have increased transparency and simplified the institutions to some extent." \nWith its demands to keep a national veto on a wide range of issues including taxation and foreign policy, Britain was pitted against France and Germany, whose delegations were grinding their teeth at what they saw as their neighbor's intransigence.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting