Prime Minister John Howard yesterday tried to discredit former defense chiefs and senior diplomats who lambasted his decision to take part in the US-led invasion of Iraq, saying they had retired before the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. \nThe 43 eminent Australians, including two former chiefs of defense and three ambassadors, issued a scathing public statement at the weekend, accusing the government of rubber-stamping US foreign policy and of joining the Iraq war on the basis of false assumptions and deceptions. \nHoward questioned the relevance of their opinions in the era of global terrorism. \n"Every single person who signed that statement had retired from service well before the 11th of September, 2001," Howard told Sydney radio station 2GB. "We're living in a different and more dangerous world and some of the older approaches are no longer quite as relevant." \nSome government lawmakers were even harsher in their criticism. \n"I think we have to ask the question, these doddering daiquiri diplomats, would they have done any different?" lawmaker Deanne Kelly said. "The world has changed too from the comfort zone they lived in. Frankly they should keep their opinions to themselves." \nOne of the statement's signatories, Peter Gration, Australia's military chief from 1987 to 1993, including during the first Gulf War, said the government can not brush aside the criticism "by saying these are old guys and their opinion doesn't count." \n"This is the first time in my memory that 43 Australians who've held very senior positions in agencies, have been key diplomats abroad and have been heads of armed services have come out to make such a strong statement," Gration told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio. \nThe opposition Labor Party lawmaker responsible for foreign affairs, Kevin Rudd, agreed. \n"This is classically arrogant John Howard trying to dismiss criticism and remove all responsibility from himself," he said. \n"These former military heads have extensive diplomatic experience between them under governments both Liberal and Labor and, because of their professional engagement, remain deeply in contact with the rest of the official community, including in a period since Sept. 11." \nLater in parliament, Howard said Gration had also stated in an article published in November 2002 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. \n"The argument that I took this country to war based on a lie is itself a lie," Howard told lawmakers. \nThe statement comes as some commentators predict Howard this week will call for elections to be held Sept. 18. Opinion polls predict the election will be too close to call, but have suggested the Iraq war will be a major issue with up to 75 percent of voters believing the invasion was not justified. \nHoward's decision to commit 2,000 troops to the invasion sparked the biggest peace protests in Australia since the Vietnam War. Australia still has nearly 900 troops in and around Iraq, and Howard says they must remain there as long as they are needed. Labor leader Mark Latham has pledged to bring some home by Christmas if he wins power.
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