• Comments off

    What the United States Can Take Away from Hong Kong’s Protests

    What began as a protest against Hong Kong’s proposed extradition law has evolved far beyond that. Protests in China’s most autonomous special administrative region have progressed to uncharacteristically violent levels. Law enforcement is combating and killing protesters in the streets. Such blatant acts of protest are strange for a typically orderly culture. So, why is this happening, and what can we take away from it?

    The aggravator here was certainly the recent extradition policy proposal. A law titled the “Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill 2019” (the Future Offenders Bill) would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite fugitives to mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau. The bill’s purpose was purportedly to close legal loopholes that thwarted extradition of those charged with serious crimes. For example, in one reported case involving a murder in Taiwan, the Hong Kong resident accused of the crime could not be extradited to Taiwan to face the charges (CNN). In theory, the proposed bill would have enabled this case and others of its kind to move forward and ultimately get justice for victims.

    As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong enjoys certain degrees of freedom that other areas of China do not. Under China’s “one country, two systems” regime, Hong Kong has a somewhat separate legal system. This allows for limited free press and competitive, free market business practices. Hong Kong citizens who enjoy such freedoms feared the implementation of the new law would allow the government to extradite journalists critical of the regime, activists fighting for a democratic system, and business transactions deemed by powers in Beijing to not be in best interests of mainland China. After much forceful protesting—a march of roughly 1 million participants, the likes of which haven’t been seen since China’s reacquisition of Hong Kong in 1997 — the bill was withdrawn.

    Hong Kong wants democracy and a rule of law. Such notions are antithetical to China. The violence of law enforcement against the protesters raises questions of human rights and police brutality. It culminated in a bloody, week-long siege when protesters occupied Polytechnic University’s Hong Kong campus. The police stormed in, ostensibly to regain control of what they considered a situation spiraling out of control.  In the aftermath, Hong Kong city leader Carrie Lam, who maintained a hard line against anti-government protests, experienced major losses in local elections (Associated Press). The pro-democracy bloc won control of 17 out of 18 district councils. While she refused to make any concessions to the protesters, she did say she would accelerate discussions to address grievances. Only time will tell if she is being truthful.

    The United States cut off the supply of anti-riot materials to China in solidarity with Hong Kong’s movement toward democracy. While more symbolic than substantive (China certainly has whatever it needs to quell riots), it does illustrate how we as a nation support our core ideology to preserve the founding principles of our Constitution. The destruction of democracy in Hong Kong also provides a good lesson here at home: we should never forget the importance of the freedoms provided in the Constitution and resist any government attempts to dilute them or worse, take them away.

  • Comments off

    What Does the Impending Chinese Tariff Increase Mean to IP Theft in the U.S.?

    One platform of President Trump’s campaign encouraged a shift to self-reliance with goods and services domestically manufactured in America. One tool he has used to advance that goal is increasing trade tariffs on China. The increases were scheduled for December 15, however, they have been suspended after the U.S. and China agreed to a new phase that provided concessions from each country. As a result, uncertainty overshadowing the interim trade agreement partially reached with China in October has been relieved.

    The tariff increase would affect many American consumers. Some of those effects are obvious: the prices of household goods, for example, could drastically rise. But our problems with China will not be solved by tariff concessions.

    Less obvious than the trade imbalance is the impact on China’s continuous theft of our intellectual property (IP). China steals our IP with impunity. While IP theft may not sound like a matter of great concern to many, it covers everything from the likeness of a popular new toy to innovative scientific and technological research. Virtually everything your mind creates is intellectual property. Stealing it is a serious offense. No one questions that China is among the world’s worst IP thieves.

    There is serious money involved China’s theft of IP. The time spent developing cutting-edge technologies or curating research by our engineers and scientists translates to real dollars. One glaring example occurred earlier this year when indictments were unsealed concerning Chinese telecom company Huawei’s successful espionage scheme to steal T-Mobile’s superior phone testing bot. T-Mobile estimated lost profits and punitive damages totaled roughly $502 million. However, these acts don’t stop at America’s big corporations; they are also in our schools.

    The FBI is reaching out to universities across the country concerning foreign study programs with China. These efforts came about in the wake of a University of Kansas researcher’s indictment on charges of working for a Chinese university full time while accepting thousands in U.S. federal grants. A Texas professor was recently arrested in a trade secret case over circuit board fraud. While IP theft by China has been happening for years, the recent and rapid advancement of technology on university campuses has made private information a serious target more easily stolen.

    If competing countries can gain access to classified technological and scientific research at the level of theft we see in China, there’s no telling what other sensitive information is subject to breach.

    In the latest agreement that forestalled application of the December tariff increases, China promised to address IP theft. Can we trust them? No one should be laboring under the impression that China is an honest regime. They are common thieves who have stolen billions from us.

    Let’s hope the Trump Administration assures that China keeps its word. But for me, I’m not holding my breath.