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An overview of Human Rights Violation in Xinjiang

Anushka Saraswat

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The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) clampdown on Uighur and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has attracted profound scrutiny and polarized the international community. As many as 1.5 million, have been pitilessly detained in large networks of recently constructed camps, where they are forcibly reeducated and politically indoctrinated.

These vexatious developments have not only molded Chinese politics at home but also international politics and debate. Chinese authorities have tactfully pressurized countries with the Uighur population to repatriate them to China. Beijing has established an international coalition to support its draconian policies: when 22 countries had sent a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council mandating China to refrain from its unjustifiable internments in Xinjiang, that letter was contradicted by another letter from 37 countries defending the Chinese government’s “deradicalization, counter-terrorism, and vocational training policies.” The issue exacerbated tensions between the U.S. and China which lead to the U.S. putting sanctions against individuals and companies coming from China.

The Chinese policies in Xinjiang are glaringly disturbing and repugnant. Any effort to change the situation requires a substantial understanding of the threat perceptions of Chinese in the region, specifically the recent strategy of intensified collective repression.

Decoding China’s Repressive Strategy in Xinjiang

After the XUAR Party Secretary Chen Quanguo returned from the Central National Security Commission symposium in Beijing, the CCP policy in Xinjiang started to spring in 2017. The time frame of this upsurge is puzzling as the public security officials had repeatedly claimed that the strategy was working and there had been fewer cases reported that involved Uighur in Xinjiang, or anywhere in China. Surprisingly, CCP changed strategies after the period.

Various domestic factors have resulted in China’s long-standing security buildup and oppression in Xinjiang: political violence and contention involving the Uighur population in the region; the establishment of second-generation minority policies under President Xi Jinping that made CPP’s turn towards assimilations; and the leadership of XUAR Party Secretary Chen. The increased oppression that took place in 2017, however, was largely motivated by China’s external security threats- most significantly the belief that the terrorist networks may diffuse back into Xinjiang from cross borders.  

There are two reasons attributed to the heightened Chinese insecurity. First, the CCP was alerted by the handful of contacts between Uighur and Islamic militant organizations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East in 2014-2016 which also included arrests in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, additionally, up to 5000 Uighur fighting alongside the militant groups in the Middle East.

The connection of Uighur groups abroad to the violent incidents in Xinjiang is highly questionable. The western scholars are doubtful, and even the most generous calculation of Uighur militant capability does not imply that the insurgency inside Xinjiang is present, or even impending. Additionally, the contacts that took place in 2014-16 were confined to a few cases. Nevertheless, these contacts exposed the shift of possibility of cooperation between Uighur and Islamic militants groups in Southeast Asia and the Middle East from completely theoretical to an emerging operational reality. In 2015 and 2016, leaders of several militant groups in the Middle East with some associated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State also made statements signaling their desire to target China.

The aforementioned developments seem to have got the CCP’s notice. In 2019, the New York Times published leaked documents that quoted Xi saying, “East Turkestan’s terrorists who have received real-war training in Syria and Afghanistan could at any time launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.” The documents reveal the fact that despite the Chinese party-state uses the eloquence of terrorism to deflect or reduce international pressure and justify oppressive actions; senior party members including Xi himself fear terrorist threats from abroad subverting their rule at home.

The other element that added to the CCP’s shift in strategy was a change in how the party perceives the nature of domestic threats to regime stability. In 2014, Xi disseminated a new “comprehensive security” framework, which cautioned that international happenings could destabilize regime at home and called for heightened vigilance. The framework required party workers to focus on the increased vulnerability to jihadist infiltration, as they compared it to a virus: even if people showed no sign of radicalism they could still be infected by the extremist virus unless they were properly inoculated. 

The two developments reshaped the Chinese perception of counterterrorism and its incidental domestic security policies. As a result, Beijing increased deployment of counterterrorism activities abroad, while at the same time its military delegates visited the Middle East and grew regional counterterrorism cooperation with the Southeast Asian countries. The CCP also targeted diaspora networks to prevent terrorist threats from reentering China; they suggested that detention and reeducation should psychologically and politically make the population resilient to jihadist infiltration.

Eventually, the CCP is unjustifiably imprisoning and forcibly re-educating a large number of people who have merely shown any inclination towards anything except normal Uighur cultural or Muslim religious practice, based on threat perceptions that may be inaccurate in most cases. 

The nondemocratic nations often get threat assessments wrong simply because they have difficulties in obtaining good information to initiate with. The very narrative of vaccination, paradoxically, makes that clear: people who are evidently “symptom-free” are nevertheless being thrown in detention and reeducation camps on a massive and intensive scale.

Beijing’s policy of “preventive repression” in the context of counterterrorism took a threat that was at a low level, to begin with, and sought to make sure that it would never materialize into anything more significant. The consequences of this approach have resonated inside China and across the world.

Implications for Current Policies

The United State’s policy concerning Xinjiang should balance two objectives: acknowledging that there may be some genuine concern about terrorism on Beijing’s part and criticizing the use of that concern to justify the indiscriminate repression and collective punishment. The objectives are not paradoxical, but segregating them will require a careful adoption of measures on the part of the U.S. and international policymakers.

Involvement with the CCP’s efforts to curb the terrorist threats doesn’t mean uncritically accepting its response to the problem. Moreover, for the United States or the international community to assist China in fighting terrorist threats, it’s pertinent that Beijing remains transparent. The Chinese security behaviour, characterized by the inability to know the situation may become a hurdle in cooperation against security threats as countries don’t know what will be done in their name.  

The United States should focus its rhetoric and policy on the large number of innocent people who are trapped in Beijing’s counterterrorism dragnet. It is pertinent that policymakers make efforts to communicate with the people who have suffered due to Beijing’s draconian policies. The United States and the international community should acknowledge that the CCP’s policies are targeting and punishing people who don’t qualify as “terrorists” under any rational definition of the word. The international community must find ways to exert pressure on Beijing over the human rights consequences of the current measures while at the same time limit its attempts to modify current international human rights norms in a way favourable to it.  

The American policymakers and other advocates have, over the past year, shifted their stance towards a simplistic “it’s not counterterrorism” argument that discharges CCP’s insecurities. The engagement of blatant arguments over whether Xinjiang is a case of counterterrorism may not be effective, especially when it appears that the CCP at least partly perceives it that way. The possibility of persuading the CCP to change course on a counterterrorism basis may not be helpful, but the chances of success may be probably higher if the issue is treated solely as a matter of human rights violation.

Though CCP’s emphasis on counterterrorism has largely been instrumental there are risks involved in the current approach. Turning down Beijing’s assertion of security concerns will only set up the CCP to dig in and display graphic images of violence to justify and prove that it faces a real threat. If Beijing successfully convinces domestic non-Uighur audiences in China or in other countries that the Uighur is a threat to security the U.S. dismissals could backfire. Additionally, this approach is neither a helpful tool for American foreign policy nor does it minimize human rights violations in Xinjiang. Consequently, the United States and other democracies should collectively say that no matter how real the CCP perceives the terrorist threats to be, they are not a blank check to approve of Beijing’s massive human rights violations. To add more, the U.S. and European democratic counterparts should keep on pressuring China on the emergence of human rights violation from Xinjiang but to effectively confront the situation they must refrain from getting bogged down in an unhelpful “is it counterterrorism” debate.

Another alternative is that other countries could stress upon the use of indiscriminate repression and false positives in the use of violence, which is commonly backfired: if the CCP is only concerned with regime preservation, the strategy it has adopted in Xinjiang is incredibly risky. For instance, the Uighur who have been targeted unjustifiably after living their lives as “model citizens” may challenge the CCP as a result of being repressed.

The aforementioned approach is of particular significance for countries that must decide on how they take a stance and what are they going to do about the opposing stances adopted by the U.S. and China on this issue. Taking into consideration that most countries are concerned about counterterrorism and seek to be respectful of human rights may align with the United States, weakening the global support for the legitimacy of China’s preferred approach. This will facilitate the United States to emphasize more credibly that Beijing’s linking of international terrorism with its domestic policies of repression poses an unnecessary conundrum for nations that aim to genuinely collaborate with China to reduce common terrorist threats. The mass internment of Chinese Muslims makes it harder for countries with a sizeable Muslim population to approve of the law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation with China. Turkey, in recent criticism of China’s Uighur Policy, stated the approach as “a great embarrassment for humanity”.

However, if these countries see an increased risk of terrorism at home as a result of cutting off counterterrorism cooperation with China, they may have to face significant potentially difficult tradeoffs. Countries that have significant counterterrorism cooperation with Beijing are mostly absent from the U.N. letter adopting a public stance on Xinjiang. To be realistic, the United States may not be able to convince every country to dramatically change their stance on China’s counterterrorism approach as some of them are well known for their own human rights violations. As a consequence, the United States should try to be on the record for trying to offer realistic alternatives.

The deployment of the aforementioned principles can effectively address the problem of foreign fighters from Xinjiang who participate in Syria and the broader Middle East. This challenge is not confined to China, as it is a global one that reflects the absence of common democratic or international proposal for resolving such glaringly disturbing issues. If international democratic community doesn’t create a mechanism Beijing will tactfully work bilaterally with the countries to simply meet its repatriation demands to punish and re-educate its own nationals, adding to the already devastating human rights violation while leaving the broader global issue unresolved.

Rather than conceding to China’s initiative on this issue, the United States and its allies must lead the way for initiating an international solution to address and validate security concerns among countries. Additionally, the measures should be compatible with human rights: they do not rest on repatriating individuals where they will be persecuted or executed without any justifiable trial. This will lead the United States and the international community to remove Beijing’s internal and external justification for its current policies, making it harder for it to defend at home or abroad.

To sum up, the international community should keep its focus on China’s massive human rights violations in Xinjiang. To do this effectively, it’s pertinent that it must carefully and strategically engage with China’s counterterrorism narratives.

Ms. Saraswat is pursuing her Bachelors in Global Affairs (Hons.) at the Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana, India. The author can be reached at 19jsia-anushka.s[at]jgu.edu.in

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East Asia

From Patriotism to Humanity: China Leading the Fight of the COVID-19

Sabah Aslam

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The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has not only impacted human and social life in terms of disease and infection but also created a controversy in the international media and social network to the point that some western media fell into the trap of racism and xenophobia showing an unusual and an inhuman reactions, instead of solidarity and unity exhibition.

Since China is the first country infected with this virus, so it has already started its fight, the government as a leader has put a clear and effective strategy with successful measures of treatment, protection and prevention. In order to maintain the situation the government dedicated all kind of resources and today’s statics shows an increasing of the confirmed infections and death cases and a considered decrease of healed people’s number.

As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization’ Chief TedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus has defended his earlier praise of China’s response to the outbreak and mentioned that all the member of the WHO has praised China for what it did by taking action in the epicenter, helped to prevent cases of being exported to other provinces in china and the rest of the world. This formal statement just confirmed the truth to the world about China’s reliability and the sacrifices made to safeguard the world.

All Chinese government’s management and measures wouldn’t be successful without the great response of the society. As a matter of fact we need to acknowledge the high level of patriotism of the Chinese citizens. No matter their social status;the military, police, engineers, workers, doctors and nurses, business and company owners, celebrities, civilians and ordinary people, students and volunteers, young-middle-old generations, all this people responded to the call of duty applied and followed meticulously all the recommended measures by the government, indeed by their own free will, they sacrificed wealth, made many donations, provided help and assistance donated free masks , free supplies, goods, food and even provided free services, and differently some people made a priceless contribution such the doctors, fully dedicated, working on clock on the front line risking and even sacrificing their lives to save other people’s lives.

Meantime, in the other side of the globe the coronavirus kept spreading, the virus is traveling the world it has no boundaries and it’s affecting the economy, the social life and the public health, it becomes a public enemy, presenting a threat especially for the African communities, in fact many of them they do not have neither the financial means nor a good health security. But since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Africa CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) took many actions and followed the Chinese in term of union and solidarity.

Indeed Africa CDC collaborated with the World Health Organization to train in-coming analysts in event-based surveillance. Also The Africa CDC has been working with member states to build infection prevention and control capacities in healthcare facilities and with the airline sector to support screening of travelers.

These prevention measures may help control the COVID-19, but African leaders still need to pay attention and follow suit to avoid an outbreak and not reproduce the Italian or Iranian scenarios. Recently, World Health Organization chief TedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus warned about the efficiency of the prevention measures and said mediocre preparations could have fatal consequences. He also said the real struggle lies in management of the situation in case of an outbreak.

Generally, Africa doesn’t have a high level of public health. Many diseases and viruses have appeared on the continent, such as HIV, Ebola and tuberculosis. In order to fight and eliminate this threat, a number of African governments have increased expenditures allocated to health and started cooperation for health development with the Chinese government.

China promised to continue to scale up assistance to African countries by creating a health care intuitive allowing the African countries to achieve independent and sustainable development. The plan also contain a long-term strategy of health development, exchange of scientists and new research and technical support for strengthening health-related capacities under the International Health Regulations. China aim to improve African medical and health service and hospital management to provide a better services to the African people by training medical staff, public health workers and administrative personnel. Besides China promised to upgrade its medical and health aid programs for Africa, particularly flagship projects such as the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cooperation’s plan shows the Chinese-African comity, the friendship and the mutual respect and we can clearly see that China is determined to the contribution in the development of the African nations. The actual epidemic situation of the COVID19 in Africa needs more attention and prevention, the collaboration precisely with china will be a wise action considering the Chinese experience of management, logistics, and organization to maintain the situation in case of outbreak and bringing out the best of the Sino-African alliance.

Despite that China is still fighting this epidemic in its own territory, the government express his readiness to help the other infected countries, recently the Chinese Foreign Ministry expresses sincere thanks for the support and assistance provided by many countries such South Korea and Japan, adding that China is ready to improve and strengthen the mechanism of responding to health and epidemic emergencies and promote the exchange of epidemiological information, exchange of experiences, prevention and control, to implement cooperation In the areas of diagnosis, treatment, research programs, and the development of medicines and vaccines.

China is acting heroically; in the middle of its own fight against the virus the PRC still showing gratitude and good will to help others countries. Till now Africa still has the chance to prevent and learn the Chinese experience, sadly some Africans countries still didn’t take serious prevention measures but China can provide the help and the assistance.

During the outbreak of the COVID-19 we all have seen the Chinese citizen showing patriotism and helping to maintain the situation, meanwhile the Chinese government have shown the same to the world, the lockdown was a strategy to stop the virus from spreading globally, if the Chinese government didn’t take the decision to lockdown cities and stop flights and traffics, experts confirmed that the COVID-19 could infect much more of global population, in fact it was a noble and human act, full of altruism and unselfish, all the matter was the human life.

Now China jumps to the next step which is helping the affected countries and proposing ways of preventions, sharing the genetic code for the virus with researchers around the world and providing medical trials information, treatment, and research programs for the development of medicines.

It’s time for solidarity and support and to have hope. This is a matter of life or death, and China can fight against the outbreak with the rest of the world to the safety…. to restore faith in humanity.

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East Asia

Predicting the course of US-China relations in the post Covid-19 era

Ayush Banerjee

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Authors: Ayush Banerjee and Dhritiman Banerjee*

The coronavirus pandemic is a natural threat to the geopolitical order. And it is needless to state that this majorly affects the currently international paradigm in a manner that the world has not seen before. Although there have been a few instances where pandemics have shaken the mortality rates, no pandemic has spread this amount of sheer panic among the public at large. This is largely due to the growing interconnectedness and the advent of the cyberspace. Just as the internet has influenced the lives of the most privileged public, data has been influential in academics and politics alike. However, this argument has its own set of problems that continue to affect public-politic relations in ways more than one.

In the same regard, one of the most strained and keenly debated relations in international politics is that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. In the context of the virus itself, the virus originated in Wuhan, a province in China while the most number of fatalities have resulted in the United States of America. This idea fuelled with the new world media at the public level created an atmosphere of tension on such platforms. On Twitter notably, there were several instances of a tweet naming Covid-19 as ‘Chinese Virus’ spread like wildfire. This sparked a major controversy even at the diplomatic level. Even Donald Trump momentarily subscribed to the idea and deliberately worded his speech to use the phrase ‘Chinese/China virus’ to refer to Covid-19 at least 20 times between March 16th and March 30th 2020. The US Secretary of State- Mike Pompeo went on to accuse China of its lack of transparency, even scrapping a joint G7 statement after its members refused to refer to the virus as the ‘Wuhan virus.’ China has remained apologetic ever since. Hence, it can be rightly inferred that the relationship shared between China and USA have strained ever since the Covid-19 outbreak.

However to predict how the outbreak might jeopardise the current paradigm of world politics we must look no further than the Phase One Trade deal signed between the two countries. This deal previously ended an 18-month long trade war between USA and China. Through this deal, China committed to purchasing $200 billion additional foreign goods and services in the sectors of agriculture, energy and manufacturing. However, it is evident that in the post-Covid19 era, it will be rather implausible for China to adhere to the terms of the deal due to reasons more than one. The IMF estimated the reality of an unprecedented economic slowdown in which China is expected to grow at only 1.2% this year. Several reports suggest that investors are planning to pull out their investments from Chinese industries to fit in with the Western bandwagon.

The outbreak turned pandemic coupled with the authoritarian nature of China’s response to the entire situation has had a detrimental effect on their domestic economy creating various tremors in the anticipation of demand for various products and services. For instance, the 12 most Covid-19 affected countries account for over 40% of the Chinese exports. Nations like India and Italy that also make that list of twelve may voluntarily pull out of importing to China as they are set to gain from deferring of investments. These nations are also top suppliers of intermediate goods for the Chinese economy. The Chinese economy is quite dependent on external demand stimuli from the US and most western European states such as the United Kingdom. Therefore, until the point in time the US and EU economies completely recover from this pandemic, Chinese policymakers are bound to hold back domestic stimulus efforts as it will only have little effect if the global economy is in shambles.

The Chinese economy has crippled down considerably due to the ongoing trade war that has led to a disproportionate ratio of debt to the annual Gross Domestic Product. This ratio reached an overwhelming 248.8% by the end of March 2019 and it has only increased ever since. China has also been forced to restructure the debts of the Belt and Road initiative (erstwhile OBOR). This restructuring meant that the capital owed to China as loans by the contributing states have been readjusted to affect the projected collection considerably. As Covid-19 nearly decimates the economy of most developing nations, it is becoming increasingly difficult for these states to pay their loan back to China within the stipulated timeframes. Thus adding to the stress on the Chinese economy at large.

There has already begun a region-specific boycott of Chinese goods and industries, especially in conservative parts of USA, among the southern districts. Instances of racial abuse against ethnic Chinese communities have been on an unfortunate rise. These are all deterministic factors of public consciousness, if not, public opinion for the future that lies ahead of us. This reaction has already seen international spillovers and investors have become more anxious about investing in Chinese companies.

According to Deepanshu Mohan, the world may experience radical shifts in the global political economy post-Covid19 based on two factors namely, the relative degree of economic recovery in the affected nations and the existing domestic political scenarios in such nations. He further states that in the post-Covid19 era, protectionist trade policies are likely to increase in the developed nations who in the name of ‘supply security’ may disentangle trade relations with China which will inversely affect the current geopolitical world order. Donald Trump could also make the pandemic a focal point in the 2020 election campaign and therefore aim to capitalise on the anti-China fervour in the US and thus strain relations even further. There lies evidence for this as well. Trump recently presented his anguish towards China being categorised as a ‘developing’ state under the World Trade Organisation list and due to the low contributions of China to the World Health Organisation. Although this may seemingly appear appropriate accusations, this is far from the whole truth. The USA, themselves have cut major proportions of its funding capacity towards the United Nations especially concerning peacekeeping and security operations.

Minxin Pei, on the other hand, stated that the Covid-19 outbreak has led the average American to view the Chinese political system with chronic scepticism as Americans blamed the repressive Chinese political system for the pandemic with the Harris poll indicating widespread American dissatisfaction with the alleged Chinese cover-up of the virus. This poll also showed overwhelming support for US punitive measures on China and the removal of US investments and businesses from China. These developments could lock the two countries into a cycle of escalation that could trigger another potential international diplomatic conflict leading to numerous security issues and economic degradation. USA and China remain the two largest economies in the world. Hence, it can be inferred that this fallout of diplomatic and economic ties between the two states might amount to significant damage in the entire global political order and the globalised system of economies and markets. In the US itself, the number of jobs created since the recession in 2008 has been washed away in two weeks.

The trade war between the two economic giants had already shaken the world before the outbreak. And the prevalent fault lines will only widen in the post-Covid19 era just as a global economic slowdown is expected. Thus, it is imperative for the world economy that this US-China relation remains amicable and stable. However, the available narratives indicate a significant detour from the ideal stability that USA and China should normatively maintain to protect the global economy from crumbling down like biscuits. The USA has resorted to legislations that are actively anti-China in terms of financial relations and international trade while China has strengthened its protectionist response system both politically and economically during this outbreak.

The Covid-19 outbreak has not acted as an impediment to Chinese aggression in the South China Sea region either. China has recently renamed 44 features in the disputed region, a decision that is considered illegal under international law. This has been time and again criticised by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. With increasing US-China missile competition a reality in the region post the abrogation of the INF treaty, the post-Covid19 era will likely see more prominent conflicts in the South and the East China Sea regions which is a strategically important waterway for both the countries alongside other nations such as Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and India.

*Dhritiman Banerjee is an undergraduate student at the Department of International Relations at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. He has recently published for the Millenniumpost, a Kolkata based newspaper as well as contributed to publications like the Geopolitics and South Asia Monitor. His interests lie in International Relations in general and Strategic Studies in particular.

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East Asia

Political unrest in Hong Kong and Global Pandemic

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Things started from a murder of a girl in Taiwan ending up into an unseen scenario in Hong Kong. Rising tensions in the region of China and Hong Kong, situation is getting worse. First of all the episode of extradition bill and now becoming the series of different surprises, the advent of National Security Bill is not acceptable among the Hong Kong citizens. According to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong is ought to be the autonomous and free liberal region along china being constituted as a “one country, two systems.” As per this treaty, China is violating International law: which is a direct threat to its soft policy and international image.

 Secondly, the role of United States in Hong Kong is mainly concerned about the large number of U.S. Nationals working there especially at naval ports and their security. While on the national level the sustainability of democratic values and freedom in Hong Kong to whom these acts of China’s Communist party are challenging. United States being the global hegemon owns the responsibility to protect and keep the check on practice of international laws and its violation in any region of the world. Although the whole global community is concerned about the present situation of Hong Kong and its upcoming outcomes. States sign treaties and agreements on the basis of one’s predetermined political and social culture and works accordingly, so following the current scenario the Protest in Hong Kong is going to be game changing event. If the bill passed, Hong Kong will be a Chinese administered territory like another small city of Chinese Communist party but on the other hand if failed to pass this bill Hong Kong can have a victory to win the democracy and write the fate of their state in a new way.

Furthermore, the wave of global pandemic in the form of COVID 19 has already questioned the worth of human security. Millions of people are dying due to this disease originated from Wuhan, China. World is already questioning the Chinese role. Above all the differences, we all are human beings living in the world of chaos. Divisions led towards the more divisions. There is a dire need to fight collectively to this coronavirus. Being humans, we need to apply the only global value that is being human fellow. Social distancing is the new normal now but Hong Kong’s political situation is getting more anti distance campaign due to the political unrest. China needs to slow down the process. Human security needs to be the priority. Although to raise the voice of Hong Kong’s people social media can be a better platform. Let’s shake hands for peace rather than division.

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