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China has been engaged in an aggressive policy of attempting to expand its influence into the regions around the mainland. The most notable and current example of this is Hong Kong. On Tuesday, China passed and implemented its controversial and wide-ranging security law in the autonomous region.
The details of the law’s 66 articles were kept secret until after it was passed.
Several things are now illegal and enforceable by Beijing on the island, including secession (breaking away from the country), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism (using violence or intimidate against people), and collusion with foreign or external forces.
Critics say the new law undermines the freedoms Hong Kong is meant to have under the “one country, two systems” framework.
This came about when the island territory was handed back to China from British control in 1997.
The two systems framework ensured that certain freedoms that people in mainland China did not enjoy, including freedom of speech, were protected.
Many view the situation in Hong Kong as a sign of things to come for Taiwan, the island nation which sits just off the mainland’s east coast.
The People’s Republic of China, as it is officially known, lays claim to Taiwan, and refers to it as its own in global political discourse.
A contentious issue, many countries refuse to recognise Taiwan as being China – yet some organisations such as the WHO welcome the claim.
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Earlier this year, Taiwanese voters cast their vote for the next president.
A sweeping victory for Tsai Ing-wen – who will now serve her second term – proved more than just a success for her Democratic Progressive Party.
A proponent of Taiwanese independence, Ms Tsai’s majority signalled a desire from the people to officially and permanently break-away from the mainland’s grip.
Recognising the danger, China threw the weight of its technological capabilities against the election, promoting and pursuing a campaign of disinformation in a bid to delegitimise Ms Tsai.
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A 2019 study by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that Taiwan was the most exposed to foreign dissemination of false information.
False reports included claims Ms Tsai’s doctorate degree was fake or that Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong kicked an elderly man when he visited Taiwan in October and met members of the DPP.
Jarvis Chiu, senior manager for the Institute for Information Industry which assisted the Taiwan government during the elections to prevent disinformation, explained China’s intricate methods.
At the time, he told The Guardian: “China has multiple ways of pushing misinformation. We’ve found that content mills are no longer simply producing fake information. More and more, they are manipulating opinions.”
Mr Chiu said armies of trolls left thousands of comments under a candidates post or a news article, intended to shift the focus of the debate.
Fake social media accounts also shared pro-Beijing content or inflated the number of likes such content received.
He said: “China won’t give up this practice. It will only increase and because it is non-military, it won’t get much global attention.”
Yet, despite the fake news campaign employed by Beijing, Ms Tsai secured just over 57 percent of the ballot – a record 8.2million votes.
This was well ahead of her rival Han Kuo-yu, whose campaign proposed closer ties with China would result in economic benefits.
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