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These are the tech companies censoring anti-China protests

Wave of Chinese censorship hits Western companies

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After going through today’s global news, you might find yourself wondering: what the hell is going on with China? As of late, the country has absolutely dominated headlines all over the world. If you don’t live in any China-owned territory, these headlines are very likely about the recent controversies surrounding Western companies.

Following the wave of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, China has started controlling disseminated information about the incidents. Of course, the controversy of Chinese censorship has always existed throughout modern history. However, this time around, the Chinese government is tapping its resources in the corporate world.

Western companies have also started censoring pro-Hong Kong sentiments among their representatives and official channels. Naturally, the general public is largely accusing these companies of selling out to the Chinese money-making regime.

Most of the corporate clout has eked out only this week. However, the controversy has existed as early as the first major Hong Kong protest. Let’s run through this tenuous history.

Come fly the hostile skies

Naturally, the first spark of Chinese censorship started in Hong Kong’s home turf. In August, the protests came to a huge head when protestors swarmed the Hong Kong International Airport, grounding several flights for several days. In the middle of all this, Hong Kong’s own Cathay Pacific found itself in a corporate nightmare. Who should the company (and its employees) support: China or Hong Kong?

Unsurprisingly, several Cathay Pacific employees have come out in support of the protests. The higher-ups were not happy. Spurred by Chinese intervention, the company’s managers have suspended employees involved in the protests.

Because of the relative infancy of the issue, Cathay Pacific’s troubles drowned in a sea of larger protests that followed the airport protest.

Clock’s TikTok-ing

The tech world got its first taste of Chinese intervention through the popular short-video social media app, TikTok. Created by the Chinese developer ByteDance, TikTok is a lot more susceptible to government intervention. Case in point, the app has banned all anti-China content. The ban covers any mentions of Tiananmen Square and Tibet.

Strangely enough, TikTok was created for a more global audience, compared to the developer’s more Chinese-targeted Doujin app. Regardless, TikTok enforced the more stringent ruling across the entire platform. The ban was the world’s first taste of Chinese censorship. Unbeknownst to the world at the time, the situation was about to get worse.

Houston, we have a problem

This week, NBA started the larger party. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a pro-Hong Kong image. The image came with the statement, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The obvious political opinion was shut down immediately after the tweet. NBA heads, including Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and commissioner Adamn Silver, reiterated that individual opinions don’t represent the organization. Morey himself issued an apology soon after.

Unfortunately, the damage was done on both sides. Chinese companies have suspended cooperation with the NBA, especially with the Houston Rockets. Yao Ming’s own Chinese Basketball Association ceased its partnership with the Texan team. Tencent. Additionally, Tencent has ceased its livestreams of NBA matchups with the Rockets. Nike has also pulled its Houston Rockets merchandise from its Chinese stores.

On the Western end, the general public is calling for more integral responsibility on the part of the NBA. The NBA has always touted itself as an inclusive organization, drafting players from all over the world. The inclusivity, however, does not apply when profits are involved, according to Western protests.

Image source: Reddit

Related to this, the ESPN has also stopped reporting on any of the NBA’s political opinions. Curiously, the broadcast company has recently televised a map of China. The map includes the 9-dash demarcation line that represents the country’s claims on the disputed South China Sea.

An Apple a day doesn’t keep China away

Concurrent with NBA’s woes, Apple has also found itself in the crossfire. Recently, the Chinese government has urged the company to pull offensive apps from the App Store in the region. The order includes HKmap.live and the Quartz news app. Apparently, these apps revealed critical police movements to protestors who had the app. Soon after, Apple gave in, joining the growing number of companies succumbing to Chinese pressure.

Apple pulled the apps. The company’s head honcho issued an embattling defense for his actions. In an internal memo, he said:

“However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimise individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law.”

However, Hong Kong protestors have disputed his claims, reiterating the obvious political motivation behind the move. Like the NBA, Cook’s statement is remarkably non-confrontational, seeking to please both sides in the conversation.

Not a-MEI-zing

Videogame company Blizzard is likewise facing immense backlash for similar decisions. Earlier this week, Blizzard censored and banned a professional Hearthstone player, Blitzchung, from its tournaments. The ban also strips him of prize money that he fairly won at a recent tournament. In that tourney, he went off on a pro-Hong Kong tirade during his victory speech. “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” he declared. The speech was immediately cut short and removed from Blizzard’s official channels.

More than the NBA or Apple, Blizzard’s action sparked humungous global outrage. The fine went beyond simple censorship, stripping a worthy winner from rightful prizes. In defense, Blizzard invoked its right to penalize players for offending significant portions of the population.

Regardless, the public is already calling for a huge boycott against Blizzard’s products. Gamers have started unsubscribing and uninstalling popular games World of Warcraft and Overwatch. American lawmakers have asked for formal investigations against Blizzard’s actions. Pro-Hong Kong protestors have also started using a Chinese Overwatch character, Mei, as one of their protest icons. On the other hand, rivaling game companies have come out in support for Blitzchung.

The cost of luxury

Outside of the tech world, the lifestyle industry is also feeling the pressure. Apparel brands Gap and Zara have recently altered their websites. Previously, their websites included Taiwan and Hong Kong as individual countries, which China has requested to change.

People are also investigating whether Disney is censoring Winnie the Pooh in certain countries. According to a Reddit thread, Winnie the Pooh’s official site redirects to Disney’s official site in some countries. The internet has compared Winnie the Pooh’s appearance to President Xi Jinping, sparking a Chinese war against the cartoon character.

After this week, the corporate world is on notice. Who are they siding with? For some, the temptation of more profits is more important. For others, their integrity remains intact.

SEE ALSO: Trade War: China’s loss is everyone’s gain

Enterprise

UK Prime Minister caught using a Huawei P20

After issuing warning about the company

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Image source: ITV

Whenever you lobby against a certain thing, you’d better not get caught using that same thing. Surprisingly (or not), UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not receive that memo. On live television, the leader of the increasingly Huawei-phobic country used a Huawei P20 to take a selfie with the show’s interviewers.

On ITV’s This Morning, the Prime Minister engaged in an interview about his governmental policies. After the interview, he whipped out last year’s popular flagship from Huawei, inviting the hosts for a selfie.

Ironically, Johnson issued a statement, exercising caution over Huawei’s entry into UK’s 5G market. Currently, the country is deliberating business with the Chinese tech company. Unlike the US, the UK is still on the fence about a China-sponsored deal.

However, the Prime Minister recently brought a warier approach to a future deal, focusing on national security over corporate interests. Still, Johnson remains open to foreign investments, decrying unnecessary biases against international help.

If anything, Huawei is assuring other countries that its technology will not interfere with their respective national securities. On the other side, the company’s primary rival, the US, is asking other countries to reconsider trade deals with Huawei, citing the cybersecurity risk in allowing the company to take over a country’s telecommunications.

Regardless of the UK’s decision, Johnson’s P20 comes at an interesting time. To make matters a bit more muddled, Johnson’s representative alleges that the phone came from a staffer, rather than the Prime Minister’s own pocket. Is the UK for or against Huawei? Only time will tell.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Freebuds 3 review: Best value wireless earbuds

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Enterprise

Google’s founders step down from parent company

Sundar Pichai will take over as Alphabet CEO

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Today’s world is dominated by personalities. Facebook is already completely synonymous with Mark Zuckerberg. Apple is already completely synonymous with Tim Cook. Unsurprisingly, technology’s biggest leaders are dominating the discussion surrounding their respective companies. However, amidst today’s cults of personalities, one big company is keeping it relatively lowkey: Google.

Even since the company’s inception, Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have traditionally shied away from the limelight, letting the products speak for themselves. In fact, in 2015, the founders stepped down from their leadership roles at Google, surrendering the reins to incumbent CEO Sundar Pichai. Meanwhile, Page and Brin restructured (and headed) the entire corporation under a larger parent company, Alphabet. Still, despite the restructuring, the duo kept to their shadows.

Now, Page and Brin are taking an even larger step back. In a sudden farewell letter issued today, the duo is stepping down from Alphabet’s top seats. Once again, Pichai will take over as CEO of both Alphabet and Google.

“And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet,” the letter said. However, the duo will still “remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders.”

On the other side of the board, Pichai is taking a confident approach to the new leadership role. “I will continue to be very focused on Google and the deep work we’re doing to push the boundaries of computing and build a more helpful Google for everyone,” Pichai said.

Pichai’s promotion comes at an interesting time. For one, Google is currently under negotiations with Huawei to resurrect the latter’s Android-powered products. Who knows where Alphabet and Google will go from here?

SEE ALSO: Google Pixel 3 saved a man from a bullet

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Enterprise

ING Bank has a new way to entice you to save

By offering rebates

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ING is being aggressive with its efforts to shakeup digital banking in the Philippines. After providing an all-digital way to create a savings account and offering aggressive interest rate, the bank is now offering rebates on transfer fees.

While the emphasis these holiday season is to spend, ING is encourage Filipinos to save by offering a fixed PhP 100 rebate for every successful electronic bank transfer, for up to two transactions per month.

The promo begins right now and will last until January 31, 2020. So if you’re wondering where you should put your hard-earned bonus, think about saving instead of spending. This promo will work alongside the 4 percent per annum interest rate.

ING first entered the Philippines in November 2018. In 2019, they launched an aggressive campaign to get more Filipinos to save by offering an alternative to your usual banks — one that’s purely digital with sign up possible all on the app. Best of all, there’s zero maintaining balance.

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