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The standing committee of China's National People's Congress rubber-stamped draconian new security legislation for Hong Kong that bans activities deemed subversive or secessionist. The imposition of the law prompted political groups to disband and set the stage for protests in the city, as well as friction with Western countries over what is seen as a breach of China's international obligations under the 1984 arrangement governing the 1997 handover to Beijing of the former British colony, which was promised a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.

COVID-19 Leaves Cambodians With Debt Dangers

Exiled activists with Cambodia’s banned opposition party are trying to help hundreds of thousands of people left jobless and unable to pay debts to microfinance lenders after the shutdown of the economy to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign to urge rural borrowers to stop their loan payments for at least six months was denounced by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who threatened to arrest those who try to “sabotage” his government.

Not a Lot to Celebrate at 67

President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping passed his 67th birthday as China deals with fallout from the coronavirus epidemic, trade and security tensions with the United States while other Western countries are rethinking ties with China, a pushback from Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, civil unrest in Hong Kong, deepening estrangement with Taiwan, and global condemnation of its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Wind of Truth: Dynastic Duo on the Defensive

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong has led a campaign to pressure South Korea to stop the flow of anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border in balloons by defectors. North Korea cited the leaflets, which criticize Kim Jong Un's nuclear threats and human rights record, when it cut off communications with the South on June 9.

Mekong Power Grab: Laos Beggars Downriver Neighbors

Laos has ambitious plans to become the "Battery of Southeast Asia" by building seven hydro-power dams on the Mekong River, and damming its tributaries, to generate and export electricity to its neighbors. But the mega-projects have displaced thousands of Lao citizens without bringing cheaper power. And dams are adding to the problems of farmers downstream in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos itself, who are suffering drought, a reduction in fish stocks, and from other environmental damage to the vital ecosystem.

Propaganda Gift Horse Bites China Diplomat

Chinese state media and officials have tried to score easy propaganda points from U.S. racial tensions and social unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but the tactic can backfire spectacularly, as Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying found out recently. When she tweeted "I can't breathe" — using some of Floyd's last words with a policeman's knee on his neck — readers were quick to shoot back: "I can't tweet," reminding everyone that twitter is blocked by China.

China's Wolf Warrior Diplomats: Is Life Imitating Art?

Under Xi Jinping, China's diplomats have abandoned charm for an aggressive approach called "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy, with envoys taking to Twitter to insult their host countries or threaten trade war against governments that criticize China. Named after a 2017 action blockbuster featuring a Chinese Rambo shooting up foreign bad guys in Africa, the pugnacious diplomacy has been directed at countries as distinct as Sweden, Venezuela and India -- and appears to be getting the same reviews as the movie. Wolf Warrior won awards inside China, but foreign critics cringed at what they described as "heavy-handed flag-waving," "jingoistic jubilance," and "unintentionally amusing" dialog.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

The European Commission on May 7 put Cambodia on a blacklist of 12 "high-risk" countries with deficient anti-money laundering programs that "pose significant threats to the EU's financial system." Money laundering in Cambodia often takes the form of elites, including relatives of strongman Hun Sen, hiding money of unknown provenance in overseas banks or real estate, an RFA investigation has shown.

China Tightens Its Grip on Hong Kong

China said on May 21 it would "perfect the legal system" of Hong Kong with national security legislation targeting dissent, while media reports said the Chinese Communist Party might simply insert the unpopular law directly onto Hong Kong's statute book without ratification by the city's legislature -- moves that threaten the "high degree of autonomy" and a separate legal jurisdiction the former British colony was promised for 50 years after 1997.

This Fan Mail Isn't Very Friendly

While state propaganda portrays China as a heroic helper in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic, a number of governments around the world are exploring legal options for holding Beijing accountable for covering up the outbreak in critical early days.

Damming the Mighty Mekong River Dry

Eyes on Earth Inc., a U.S. research firm specializing in water, published a study April 13 showing that China’s 11 Mekong River dams held back water and exacerbated a damaging drought in downstream countries Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Partners in Deception?

Critics of China's controversial early handling of the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan say the World Health Organization (WHO) has been co-opted by Beijing and is addressing the global pandemic with political deference to Beijing.

Giving China a Zoom Lens Into Our Privacy?

Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Technologies, acknowledged in a live-streamed broadcast on April 8 that the company had made “missteps” in the face of surge of users working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, including routing traffic through China, raising security and privacy concerns.

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