The human rights record of the human rights defender 2016


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Chinese documentary reveals US hypocrisy on human rights

A TV documentary highlighting the US’s double standards on human rights issues was aired by China’s State-run CCTV on Sunday. The series, by illustrating the true human rights situation in the US, exposed its hypocrisy over the issue.

Citing media reports both inside and outside the US, the documentary called “the human rights record of global police” revealed how the superpower tramples on US citizen’s human rights. The prisons, for example, are rampant with corruption, torture of prisoners and sexual abuse. Career women are subject to discrimination and sexual harassment at work.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI, forces Internet companies to provide clients’ information without court approval, the documentary said.
The airing of the documentary came days after the US, along with 11 other countries, pointed fingers at China’s human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council.

Since the 1970s, the US State Department has been submitting annual reports on human rights to its Congress, poking its nose into other countries’ human rights records while leaving many of its own problems unaddressed.

The country that prides itself as the “global police” was blamed that what it did is just to serve its own strategic interests.

Ji Hong, s researcher with the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that the US always holds a sense of superiority. It considers itself a global leader with the best system and human rights record.

The documentary exposed the US’s lack of willingness and capability to improve its record. The documentary also echoed China’s position on human rights that all countries should face up to their own problems and have more dialogues with others to advance the progress of human rights in the international arena.
Based on extensive media reports both inside and outside the U.S., and interviews of many human rights experts from China, the U.S., France, Canada, Russia and Switzerland, the 45-minute TV program revealed the U.S. trampling on American people’s human rights in all walks of life.

In 2015, more than 560,000 people across the United States were homeless, 25 percent of whom were under age; the country’s primary women’s prison Lowell Correctional Institution, where 2,696 convicts are held, is rampant with corruption, torture of prisoners, and sexual abuse; women are subject to sexual harassment and sexual assaults of different forms, and career women subject to discrimination at work, the documentary showed, citing media reports.

Of teenagers aged 15 and above who succumb to injuries in the States, one quarter die in shooting incidents; the Federal Bureau of Investigation forces Internet companies to provide clients’ information without a court approval, according to the documentary.

The United States has been using double standards on practically every human rights-related issue, which is showcased both by its invasion of citizens’ privacy through online surveillance and civilian deaths caused by its drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, it showed.

For a very long time, the United States has been quite condescending, with the belief that it has the best system and human rights record, and as a result, it tends to find fault with other countries, Ji Hong, researcher with the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in the program.

By Yang Xun (People’s Daily)

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Information is power, overloaded, who and where can we trust?


A global survey gauging trust in society finds that people of a feather really do flock together.

 

THE person you see in the mirror is the most trusted.”

No, that is not a self-help mantra or nostalgia for Michael Jackson’s old hit Man in the Mirror.

Rather, as the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals, that is a common belief in the world when it comes to trust.

People now are increasingly reliant on a “person like yourself” (rising 6% in trust) more than the “leaders” of society like CEOs, government officials, technical experts or even academic experts, according to global communications firm Edelman’s annual survey that measures trust levels in the world.

Says Edelman Malaysia managing director Robert Kay, it reflects the way people in Malaysia are increasingly sharing and weighing information and opinions online.

“When it comes to information on social networking sites, content sharing sites and online-only information, Malaysians trust friends and families more at 74% compared to a company CEO at 57% or elected officials at 53%,” shares Kay at the launch of the Barometer in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday.

For its fifth survey in Malaysia, Edelman polled 1,350 Malaysians online from October to November last year.

What some might find surprising is that in today’s celebrity-obsessed world, online personalities rake in only 45% “believers”, while celebrities rank last in their trustworthiness at 30%.

Interestingly, Malaysians’ overall trust in online content, specifically that shared on social media has dipped seven points to 42%.

Kay points to the rampant sharing of misinformation online in the past year as the main reason.

Consequently, search engines hold their lead as the most trusted source for information at 66%, he adds, as people feel they have more control over what they read and see.

The rise in peer-to-peer trust inevitably coincides with the decline in public faith in public institutions and the business world.

Faith in the press among the “informed public”, however, has jumped 13% – from 46% last year to 59% this year.

Asked how much they trust the media – on a scale of zero to nine – to do the right thing, Malaysian citizens say they have a lot more faith in the press than before.

This, says Edelman, puts Malaysia’s more informed citizens’ trust in media at the same level as the elite of the United States.

“Malaysia has one of the biggest rises in media trust among the informed public globally, possibly due to the constant coverage of alleged corruption at 1MDB,” Kay notes, stressing that it is crucial for the media to continue pursuing rigorous, balanced and transparent reporting to maintain credibility.

While the survey did not distinguish between trust in local and international media, the trust in the media in Asia highlights the perceived role of the media in this region, Edelman Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa CEO David Brain reportedly said in Mumbrella Asia, a discussion site on the region’s media.

“The media – through Western eyes – is expected to keep politicians to account, but in Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, there is ‘a social contract that the role of the media is about nation building’, and less about revealing the truth,” Brain had explained.

In a panel discussion on the Barometer results, The Malaysian Insider CEO Jahabar Sadiq points out that even as trust in business captains and political leaders fell, those who are perceived to be critical and caring of society and are vocal on social media, such as CIMB group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak and former Cabinet minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, are deemed as “trustworthy”.

Comparing Malaysia to Britain and the United States, Umno Youth exco member Shahril Hamdan suggests the dip in public trust towards the government is a natural development as the nation matures.

“As democracy matures, the cynicism level of people toward the government increases.

“Regardless of how the government communicates or performs, people will put less trust in the government and its leaders.”

Maxis Malaysia Head of Consumer Business Dushyanthan Vathiyanathan believes that it is time for public institutions and the business sector to transform and engage more with people.

“People now are interested in knowing what is happening and not in what you tell them.

By Hariati Azizan The Star/Asia News Network

“You have to be transparent with them and inform them of anything and everything. That’s because now they have information and do their checks.”

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Panel Discussion of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer for Malaysia

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World Internet Conference 2015 Live from Wuzhen, China


Video: President Xi Jinping delivers keynote speech at WIC

Chinese President Xi Jinping began to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second World Internet Conference (WIC) held in the river town of Wuzhen in east China’s Zhejiang Province Wednesday.
 

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Xi calls for: No double standards in cyber security, cyber sovereignty, inclusive Internet community to build shared cyber future

WUZHEN, Zhejiang, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for joint efforts to combat cyber crimes and Internet terrorism, while underscoring that there should not be any double standards in safeguarding cyber security.

“We can not just have security for one or some countries, leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of security of others,” Xi said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second World Internet Conference held in the river town of Wuzhen, east China’s Zhejiang.

Cyberspace is for all mankind. Its future should be in the hands of all nations and countries should step up communication, broaden consensus and deepen cooperation, the Chinese president said.

Xi Jinping has put forward five proposals to build a community of shared future in cyberspace.

Speaking at a government-organised conference in Wuzhen Town attended by executives of global and Chinese Internet companies, he called for efforts to speed up the building of global cyber infrastructure and promote connectivity.

“China stands ready to work with all parties concerned to come up with more investment and technical support to jointly advance the building of global cyber infrastructure and enable more developing countries and their people to share the development opportunities brought by the Internet,” Xi said.

China’s President Xi Jinping laid out his vision for the internet, calling for respect of different governance models and standardized online security, placing China at the front of debates on online control and sovereignty.

“Each country should join hands and together curb the abuse of information technology, oppose network surveillance and hacking, and fight against a cyberspace arms race,” Xi told China’s second World Internet Conference.

Major Internet players such as Facebook, Microsoft, and China’s Alibaba attended the conference.

Participants hail President Xi’s remarks at WIC

Participants hail President Xi’s remarks at WIC.

 

Commentary: “Shared and governed by all” only way for Internet to get out of “Hobbes Jungle”

BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Twenty-eight years ago, the founding father of the German Internet Dr. Werner Zorn helped Beijing send its first email to the outside world, which said: “Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world.”

However, today, China, together with other developing countries, still find themselves trapped in a jungle due to an expanding digital divide and a lack of joint governance.

The divide, a technological gap between developing and developed countries on an international scale, is mainly caused by some Western countries’ arrogance and monopoly of information and communication technologies.

For example, the central nervous system of the global Internet with 13 root severs is completely dominated by the West, with the United States having 10 root severs while Britain, Sweden and Japan possess one respectively.

The ever-enlarging gap is detrimental to the stability and sustainable development of the international community, leading to anarchy in cyberspace and to some extent, gradually transforming it into a Hobbes Jungle where the stronger always has a bigger say over the destiny of smaller ones.

In addition, the divide has begun to show side effects like cybercrimes or even cyberterrorism as it accelerates social inequality, which provides fertile ground for extremism.

Like China, the United States is also a victim of cyberanarchy and such side effects. The recent shooting rampage in southern California, where two attackers radicalized by fanatical propaganda of the Islamic State (IS) on the Internet opened fire on innocent people, has sent a strong signal to Uncle Sam and its Western allies that they need to share and govern cyberspace with others.

After all, the Law of Jungle is relentlessly fair to everyone. In the long run, it neither favors the United States for its preponderance nor discriminates against the IS for its extremism.

In this sense, the opening of the Second World Internet Conference on Wednesday in China’s Wuzhen with the theme of “an interconnected world shared and governed by all — building a community of common future in cyberspace”, is a boon to nations worldwide threatened by the Law of Jungle.

If they want to get out of the jungle, they should bear three things in mind.

First, teamwork. Treat each other with respect and equality. The jungle is too enormous for egoism. Selfishness and hegemony worship will only ruin the mission. So the hefty ones like the United States should learn to cooperate if they want to defeat common enemies like cybercrimes.

Second, sharing. Don’t let the smaller ones be knocked out. Help them grow. Otherwise, they will become accomplices of the jungle. The Western countries who enjoy early advantages of information technology should loosen their restriction on technology transfers to developing countries.

Thirdly, joint governance. Never seek hegemony in decision-making. There are many paths to leave the jungle and the one you choose may not suit others. The governance of cyberspace needs the participation of all parties and all voices should be heard before a final decision is made.

By Tian Dongdong Xinhua

Cyber security depends on US cooperation

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks next to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, January 13, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

China’s attempts to cooperate with the United States to safeguard the strategic stability of cyberspace have been welcomed, as the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong have suffered a series of high-profile cyber attacks this year, according to the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers Global State of Information Security Survey. The average financial loss caused by cyber-crimes in the region, says the report, rose 10 percent year-on-year to $2.63 million, compared with a 5 percent decline globally.

In cooperating to safeguard cyberspace, Beijing and Washington could seek the Internet equivalent of the code of safe conduct agreed between their militaries to avoid naval and air encounters, which has helped manage several bilateral disputes.

The two countries should first try their best to not point the finger at each other in case a conflict over cyber security emerges. The latest round of tensions in cyberspace started in early 2013, when American private security company Mandiant released a report, “APT1: Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units”, accusing the Chinese military of stealing US intellectual property.

Such a hysterical attitude, to a point, reflects the US’ anxiety over China’s impressive economic growth in the recent years. It is, therefore, important that the US seek to adjust its strategic perception of China and accept that the power gap between them is closing.

Beijing, on its part, ought to make more efforts to make its ideas clear to acquire a bigger say in global cyber-security affairs. Besides, neither country, especially the US, should make a habit of “making enemies” by taking irresponsible actions, even for the sake of national security.

True, most cutting-edge technologies in the age of the Internet can be lawfully and strategically used to gather military intelligence and keep cyber attacks at bay. But highly politicized discussions and operations, which used to be kept secret, can now be made public by the media today. So the challenge is to keep such details confidential.

In regard to China-US cyber cooperation, the major problem lies in Washington’s attempts to create enemies for political motives. Tactics such as exaggerating the perils of the so-called Chinese cyber-attacks and intimidating the American public and legislature with some selectively chosen materials, for example, have been routinely used by the US cyber-security authorities to create more room for political maneuverings and get more military budget.

Such tricks may have eased some of their pressure to safeguard homeland security, but they have come at the cost of cyberspace stability which China and the US both need. They have also failed to protect the two countries’ national interests, which need them to closely coordinate rather than oppose or accuse each other.

Washington should also be careful about its military industry, which is basically bolstered by certain security enterprises and departments trying to abduct the national security policy.

For some US security companies, gathering evidence on the imaginary cyber-attacks from China to help thwart them in the future can guarantee the consistent increase in their market values. Likewise, relevant governmental organs also tend to overstate the cyber security issue to increase their budget and influence security affairs.

China and the US should not let such parochial and hawkish mindset affect Washington’s cyber-security strategy, because neither country can emerge as winner in a cyber war; in fact, such a war will cause huge damage to the world. As a responsible major power, the US is obliged to push forward the China-US strategic dialogue on cyber security to make global cyberspace more stable, rather than using double standard to defend its controversial strategy and tactics, and condemn China for absurd reasons.

By Shen Yi (China Daily)
The author is an associate professor in the Department of International Politics at Fudan University in Shanghai.

China key to turning cyberspace truly global

A visitor tries out wearable device at the Light of the Internet Expo in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, Dec 14, 2015. [Photo /chinadaily.com.cn]

China holds a pivotal role in the Internet. It had more than 650 million Internet users by the end of last year and it is the largest and fastest growing information and communications technology consumer market in the world. The Chinese ICT sector is currently valued at €433 billion ($477.472 billion) and it is growing at an annual average rate of 7 percent, the fastest in the world. The country has made tremendous progress in Internet development in the past decade having become the most active e-commerce market in the world.

However, if we look at the distribution of the world’s ICT sector, China does not rank first. It ranks third. In 2012 China accounted for 13 percent of the world’s ICT, behind the United States (32 percent) and the European Union (23 percent). In the same year, the value of the EU’s ICT sector exceeded €516 billion.

These figures show the tremendous growth opportunities of China’s ICT industry. Obviously, the strategy should not be just to copy leading brands or seek to produce “Chinese” products. The ICT industry is not the car industry. It doesn’t just produce a series of final products; it produces interconnected systems too. In the ICT industry, we cannot innovate in isolation. Each single new product or system needs to be compatible — to interoperate — with those of upstream service providers and of the applications that users want.

Even more than in other globalized industries, the keyword in ICT is specialization. In other words, China should not promote investments in areas where other countries or economies are strong, but seek cooperation instead. In this regard, an analysis of the ICT statistics of China and the EU show how complementary China’s and Europe’s ICT sectors are.

China is very strong in manufacturing — more than 50 percent of the ICT sector comprises the manufacturing of telecom equipment, consumer electronics and electronic components. The EU instead dominates in high-end innovative services and IT applications, which together account for more than 55 percent of regional ICT sector.

The EU is a major technology hub and it can provide a key contribution for the growth of new ICT markets in China if adequate cooperation agreements are timely discussed and concluded, for example, in niche markets like the Internet of Things, smart cities, big data, e-health, cloud services, which will drive growth in the ICT industry in the next decade.

But opportunities for cooperation also exist in the “traditional” telecom segment. China and the EU are home to the world’s major telecom vendors. Synergies in 5G development are clear, especially following the signing of the EU-China Agreement on 5G last September in Beijing.

The EU-China political and economic relationship is very developed, though there are some challenges, which we need to overcome to improve cooperation in the digital field, such as the lack of mutual understanding of the reciprocal markets, divergences in the approach to cyber security and, related to it, a lack of global Internet confidence. Moreover there are substantial regulatory divergences between the Chinese and EU rules, for example, on consumer protection and data protection.

The EU has just started its ambitious “Digital Single Market” strategy, which should in the coming years reduce barriers to doing business across the EU’s internal borders, provide EU companies scale and resources to grow and make the EU an even more attractive location for global companies.

The EU’s Digital Single Market strategy will offer substantial investment opportunities to Chinese ICT companies.

However, in the global Internet ecosystem, the concept of attracting investment by making one’s investment conditions more attractive than those in competing economies is outdated. We need a global single, open cyberspace.

The second World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, could be the starting point of discussions between China and the EU, for instance, on how to facilitate online purchases of digital contents and to promote affordable high quality parcel delivery. Obviously, at a later stage anecdotal evidence should be complemented thorough academic study of respective Internet regulations in China and the EU.

By Luigi Gambardella (China Daily)
The author is president of ChinaEU, a non-profit platform aiming to boost bilateral digital cooperation.

Related:

Wuzhen showcases China’s Net prosperity

If we all apply the rules of the US, many societies could not afford the consequences.
Source: Global Times | 2015-12-16 0:48:01


Aerial view of Wuzhen, venue for World Internet Conference

Wuzhen World Internet Conference 2015


Related post
  World Internet Conference to be held Dec 16~18 2015 Wuzhen China

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the upcoming Second World Internet Conference (WIC) in the river town of Wuzhen in east China …

 

World Internet Conference to be held Dec 16~18 2015 Wuzhen China


Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the upcoming Second World Internet Conference (WIC) in the river town of Wuzhen in east China’s Zhejiang Province, an official announced on Wednesday.

Xi is expected to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, which is scheduled to be held between Dec. 16 and 18, said Lu Wei, minister in charge of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), at a press conference.

More than 2,000 attendees from over 120 countries and regions will participate in the conference, with foreign guests accounting for roughly half, Lu said.

Conference participants include representatives of governments, international organizations, Internet companies, academics, experts, think tanks and foreign and domestic college students.

The representatives also include the prime ministers of Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as senior officials from the United Nations, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Lenovo, Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.

The conference will cover 22 topics, including Internet cultural transmission, Internet innovation and development, digital economy cooperation, Internet technology standards and cyber space management.

Ten sub-forums will be held during the conference on topics such as the “Internet Plus” strategy, digital China and Internet innovation.

An expo and more than 80 press conferences will be held during the second WIC, showcasing cutting-edge technology and the latest achievements from about 260 enterprises from all over the world.

Local officials from Zhejiang Province praised the changes the WIC has brought to Wuzhen and provincial economic development. They vowed to provide high-quality services for the conference.

Lu also defended the CAC’s role in Internet management when responding to questions about access to some foreign websites, saying their business activities should abide by China’s laws and regulations.

“China adheres to reform and opening up to the outside world,” said Lu, adding that “for those foreign firms that want to enter China, there is a basic rule: they must abide by Chinese laws and regulations.”

Lu proposed joint efforts to build a “peaceful, safe and transparent” Internet for the welfare of people worldwide.

Guo Weimin, deputy head of the State Council Information Office (SCIO), said the SCIO will provide on-the-spot press release service during the second WIC.

The conference will be co-hosted by the CAC and Zhejiang provincial government.

The first WIC was held in Wuzhen in November last year.

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Smartphone handset: build it yourselves


Build-your-own Google handset reconstructs smartphone

Barcelona (AFP) – With a smartphone that slots together piece by piece like Lego, US Internet giant Google is trying to reinvent the mobile as most phone makers are honing sleeker handsets.

The company aims to challenge its rival Apple’s thin iPhones with the Google Ara project, giving smartphone aficionados the option to build their phone themselves.

Analysts say tech boffins will love it but remain cautious about how popular it may be compared to polished conventional smartphones that sit snugly in the palm.

Google says the Ara phone is part of its bid to widen Internet access to users in developing countries and could create a new industry for assembly-ready handset parts.

Google’s associate, US firm Yezz, presented a prototype of the build-your-own device this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest wireless telecom trade fair.

The phone consists of a base structure on which various square, magnetic modular parts can be attached: screen, battery, camera, speakers and more. Google plans to release it in three sizes.

Build-your-own Google handset reconstructs smartphone

Ara would allow users to replace individual components rather than throwing the whole thing away and buying a new handset. It says the base unit will last at least five or six years.

“That is good for the environment,” said Annette Zimmermann, a telecom specialist at German consultancy Gartner.

– Emerging markets –

Ara “could reshape the mobile landscape,” said Paul Eremenko, director of the Ara Project, in a presentation to experts in January.

He said it aimed to gain six billion potential clients — the current billion people who currently use smartphones “and five billion future users”, most of them in emerging markets.

Google says a mid-range Ara phone could cost between $50 and $100 to produce, but has not given details of the likely sales price, leaving questions marks over how sustainable such a product would be.

“Google is not looking to make money directly with Ara,” said Jerome Colin, a telecom expert at French consultancy group Roland Berger.

“It is basically looking to spread smartphones in countries with low purchasing power, and to unify the telecom world around its Android system.”

– ‘Paradox of choice’ –

Tech fans and bloggers queued up to see the prototype presented in Barcelona, but analysts were sceptical.

“The trend in mobile phones is to have small, thin, really integrated products. If you make a product modular it immediately means that you’re going to have to make compromises on that,” said Ben Wood, head researcher at consultancy CCS Insight.

“The other question mark I have is: beyond geeks, who really knows” about components? he added.

“If I said to you, which processor do you want in your smartphone, I think you could stop people in the street and they’d just look at you like you’d landed from Mars.”

Eremenko acknowledged that consumers risked being overwhelmed by too many technical options when it comes to choosing components.

“We need to resolve the paradox of choice,” he said in January.

Google plans a test launch of the device in Puerto Rico by the end of this year.

“We will have to see if the public takes to it,” said Zimmerman.

Google dominates the world of Internet searches and its Android operating system can be used on 80 percent of the world’s smartphones. It also holds a large market share in wireless tablet devices.

Its senior vice-president Sundar Pichai said in Barcelona on Monday that it was in talks with telecom companies about possibly using their networks to operate its own mobile phone services in the United States.

AFP

More South Koreans opt for tech startups instead of ‘chaebols’ and beyond Samsung


Korean Startup incubatorIncubator: The Yongsan startup incubator centre in Seoul. The government has poured billions into startups, in line with the president’s push to foster a ‘creative economy’ that would move beyond the traditional manufacturing base. — AFP

SEOUL: As an engineering major at Seoul’s Yonsei University, Yoon Ja-young was perfectly poised to follow the secure, lucrative and socially prized career path long-favoured by South Korea’s elite graduates.

But the idea of corporate life in an industrial giant like Samsung, however well-remunerated, simply didn’t appeal so instead Yoon joined the swelling ranks of young Koreans looking to make their mark in the volatile world of tech startups.

In her final year at college, Yoon, now 26, created a Pinterest-style image-sharing app, StyleShare, for fashion-conscious young women.

“I was always into fashion, and there were so many moments that I wanted to grab someone on the street and ask what is that pretty dress or pair of shoes she’s wearing,” Yoon said.

“All the fashion magazines only talked about expensive brand clothes, which didn’t help ordinary people like me,” she said.

The app became a hit and now has more than one million users.

Yoon said her parents initially panicked when it became clear the app was more than a fun hobby and she wasn’t going to get a “real” job. “But they soon became strong supporters,” she said.

Her father, a loyal LG employee for two decades, even offered some of his retirement savings to help kick-start the business.

For her parents’ generation nothing matched the stability and prestige that came with a job in one of the family-run conglomerates, or “chaebols”, that dominate the national economy.

The likes of Samsung, LG and Hyundai remain magnets for many of the country’s brightest graduates. But with the global economy in low gear and the smartphone era opening new doors, an increasing number like Yoon are forsaking a rigid career structure to try tech entrepreneurship.

The number of new “venture firms” – high-risk, largely tech-related enterprises – stood at 30,053 last month, according to the state-run industry tracker Venturein.

That figure was almost double the 15,401 registered in 2009 – a milestone year when the first iPhone went on sale in South Korea and brought the app-making industry with it.

Under President Park Geun-hye, the South Korean government has poured billions of dollars into startups, in line with her push to foster a “creative economy” that would move beyond the country’s traditional manufacturing base.

“There is an astounding amount of money, from both the private and state sectors, flowing around in the market right now,” said Jang Sun-hyang, investment director at Mashup Angels, a Seoul-based startup incubator.

“The word ‘startup’ didn’t even register in the public consciousness in, say, 2011. Now it’s one of the hottest buzzwords among college kids,” Jang said.

According to government data, the pool of private and public investment available to tech startups stood at 2.5 trillion won (RM8.4bil) in 2014, up 62% from a year ago.

South Korea’s hyper-wired populace also offers a fertile ground for tech businesses – most households have broadband access and 80% of people own smartphones.

More than 60% of smartphone users – the highest ratio in the world – use ultra-fast 4G service that allows users to download a feature-length film in a few minutes.

Google is set to open “Campus Seoul” this year to help train budding startup firms and facilitate their expansion, while Samsung and LG are also boosting investment in startups.

As the number of other incubator centres popping up offering office space, business advice and potential investment opportunities rise, the capital is drawing comparisons with US tech haven Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

But challenges remain. The relatively small domestic market means successful start-ups have to look overseas if they want to keep growing.

Crossing language and cultural barriers can be daunting, even for established firms like Kakao Talk, the South’s top mobile chat app with 48 million global users which has struggled to expand into Southeast Asia.

And the consequences of failure are high in a society where experience counts for little if there is no successful outcome. — AFP

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Climing over the Great Firewall


Great Firewall

As the Chinese government further restricts online communication, virtual private networks are trying to overcome the barriers.

There are alternatives to the blocked services, but let’s just admit that the features on the censored sites are still the most appealing and user-friendly.

IT began with Line and KakaoTalk, foreign instant messaging apps, around July last year.

Instagram was next, during the height of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in September.

I remember reaching out for my mobile phone one day after I woke up, checking my Instagram feed as part of my morning ritual, but for some reason, it just would not load smoothly.

Last month, the default mail app in my phone, which is synced to my Gmail account, also stopped working.

These bans imposed by China restricted communication even further as sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Youtube have long been inaccessible in mainland. The censorship is put in place to control what the people see online.

Frustrated, a fellow foreign journalist commented: “The Chinese government has been actively advocating connectivity, but the ban is causing the total opposite.”

To overcome the inconveniences, foreigners residing in China and some Chinese nationals rely mainly on virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the blocked sites and apps.

With a fee, VPNs help users bypass restrictions and censorship on their mobile phones and computers by connecting them to servers outside China.

The act of using VPNs is cheekily known as “fan qiang” or “climbing over the wall” as the censorship is referred to as the Great Firewall, after the Great Wall of China.

Of course, there are alternatives to the blocked services, but let’s just admit that the features on the censored sites are still the most appealing and user-friendly.

Communicating with the world outside China is also easier with the common platforms of Gmail and Facebook, but unfortunately, accessing them within the borders of China is difficult.

Lately, the grip on the Internet was tightened with the Chinese authorities clamping down on VPN services. Users reported interruptions and failures to connect to VPNs.

Responding to the interrupted services, an official from the Industry and Information Technology Ministry (MIIT) said in a press conference this week that the move is essential for the healthy development of the Internet in China.

MIIT director of telecom development Wen Ku said the ministry has to employ new methods to “maintain cyber security and steady operation” with the rapid development of the Internet.

He reminded foreign sites to abide by Chinese laws if they want to operate in the country.

“Certain negative content should be regulated according to the Chinese law,” he said.

To a question on whether blocking VPNs would affect the vitality of the Internet, Wen said the development of Internet services in China is concrete proof of the effective policies, citing Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba as an example of success stories.

But as the Chinese saying goes, “As the virtue rises one foot, the vice rises ten feet.”

While the Chinese authorities upgraded the Great Firewall, VPN providers such as StrongVPN and Astrill vowed to overcome the disruption.

“Notice to StrongVPN users, we are currently working diligently to find a resolution with certain servers not working in China,” StrongVPN posted on its website.

It also enticed possible customers to subscribe to its services to “protect your online security, personal privacy and help promote Internet freedom”.

Astrill said the increased censorship is “just a way for China to say ‘we don’t want you here’”.

It told its users, “We know how access to unrestricted Internet is important for you and we are doing our best.”

The tug-of-war continues.

Source: Check-in China by Tho Xin Yin

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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