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Great Britain revokes China’s state broadcaster CGTN license

Peking, Düsseldorf, London The action of the British broadcasting regulator against the Chinese foreign broadcaster CGTN (China Global Television News) is making waves. The broadcast ban is fueling the political conflict between London and Beijing – and calling into question the company’s expansion plans.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry sharply criticized the decision on Friday. “We urge Britain to immediately stop its political maneuvers and correct its mistakes,” said a spokesman in Beijing. “China reserves the right to take necessary measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese media.”

The British authority Ofcom withdrew the broadcasting license from the CGTN operator Star China Media Limited (SCML) on Thursday. The reason she gave was that SCML did not produce content, but only distributed it. Editorial decisions are made by the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, which in turn is controlled by the Communist Party in Beijing. UK broadcasting law requires a license holder to have control over the content broadcast.

Ofcom also rejected CGTN’s application to transfer the license from SCML to CGTNC. The station has not proven that CGTNC is organizationally separated from the Chinese government, the supervisors said. Political institutions generally do not receive a broadcast license in Great Britain.

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CGTN is supposed to spread Chinese soft power

The decision is a serious setback for the global ambitions of the English language broadcaster. CGTN emerged from the news channel CCTV News in 2016.

The company invested heavily in the three foreign hubs Washington, Nairobi and London and hired native English speakers to expand Chinese soft power in the world. At the start of CGTN, the head of state and party, Xi Jinping, asked the staff personally: “Tell a good story about China and spread the voice of China!” The station must work towards anchoring China’s role as a creator of “world peace” globally.

Now this expansion is in question. It is unclear how the European headquarters in the West London district of Chiswick will continue. The broadcaster initially did not comment on the Handelsblatt request. Originally, around one hour of broadcasting time was to be contributed from there to the 24-hour English-language program. The remainder of the program was delivered from Beijing, Washington and Nairobi.

The British TV providers Sky and Freesat have already removed CGTN from their offerings. However, the license withdrawal only affects the TV channels. The program can continue to be received via the Internet anywhere in Europe.

Forced partial withdrawal from Washington

The Washington office has also had to shrink after the US State Department limited the number of accreditations for the five major Chinese state media to 100 last year. Before that there had been a total of 160 employees in the USA.

In the USA, CGTN is now obliged to disclose its ownership structure and payments from abroad. The documents submitted show that CGTN is subordinate to the Chinese state and received payments from China of more than $ 24 million between December 2018 and January 2019 alone. Advertisement is also placed on CGTN, but to a comparatively small extent.

UK and China

After the license withdrawal, the BBC now fears retaliation from Beijing.

(Photo: RAINER UNKEL)

The total budget of CGTN is not known, the broadcaster does not disclose any figures. Professor David Shambaugh of George Washington University estimates that Beijing spends more than ten billion dollars each year to exert international influence, of which the media is only a part.

CGTN railed against “anti-China forces”

CGTN is repeatedly criticized for its reporting. Most recently, a journalist for the station claimed that the vaccine against the coronavirus developed by the German company Biontech could have caused the deaths of several patients. The sources she shared for it had turned out to be misinformation. In addition, the station had called the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong terrorism.

CGTN acknowledged the withdrawal of the British broadcasting license in an official statement with “disappointment” and “strong rejection”. After all, you have an “18 year good record” in Great Britain. The decision was made “under the influence of right-wing extremist organizations and forces hostile to China,” said the broadcaster, without substantiating this claim.

There is a risk that Beijing will respond with retaliatory measures against the British media. Last year, China had expelled at least 16 US media correspondents in response to the reduction in US accreditations for Chinese state media.

Now the BBC could come into focus, observers fear. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Thursday already demanded a public apology from the British broadcaster for alleged false reports about the corona pandemic.

Retaliation against BBC feared

The BBC is also under heavy fire for reporting on human rights violations against the Muslim Uyghur minority in western China’s Xinjiang region. Just this week, the station published a report on how Uyghurs are not only being forcibly detained and indoctrinated in detention centers in Xinjiang, but also systematically raped.

The BBC has published many exclusive reports on Xinjiang and Hong Kong, all of which are false, wrote Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalist state newspaper “Global Times” on Twitter. “I have a strong suspicion that the BBC was closely instigated by US and UK intelligence.”

It is initially unlikely that Beijing will resort to economic sanctions against Great Britain as it did in the dispute with Australia. However, relations between London and Beijing continue to deteriorate. One of the reasons for this is the action taken by the Chinese government in Hong Kong. Last year, the British government also excluded the Chinese tech company Huawei from setting up its 5G network.

The Ofcom decision is now seen as the next unkind act. “It is likely that China will react harshly to this,” said Peter Dahlin, co-founder of the non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders, which filed the complaint with Ofcom.

“It cannot be emphasized enough how important CGTN is in the planned expansion of the Communist Party of China for soft power and influence in Europe, which has only become more important with the deterioration of relations with the US.”

More: Merkel criticizes China too quietly – one comment

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China’s probe landed on the moon

EFor the first time in decades, a space probe has landed on the moon to take rock samples. It is the first time that China has undertaken such a rock-collecting mission on the moon – and is considered an important step in the nation’s ambitious space program.

A lander of the space probe named after the Chinese moon goddess “Chang’e 5” landed “successfully” on the surface on Tuesday, as China’s state news agency Xinhua and the state broadcaster CCTV unanimously reported. The aim of the Chinese mission is to bring rock samples back to earth for the first time in 44 years. On a successful return to earth, China would be only the third nation after America and the Soviet Union to have succeeded in such an undertaking.

“Chang’e 5” was launched on November 23 (German time) from the space station in Wenchang on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. A greater challenge for the researchers than the arrival on the moon, where Chinese probes had landed twice before, is the further course of the mission.

At 8,200 kilograms, the “Chang’e 5” is the largest spacecraft in the “Chang’e” fleet to date and consists of four modules: the orbiter with the return capsule and the lander with the ascent stage. After touching down on the lunar surface, the lander is supposed to use a long arm to collect lunar rocks and samples from holes up to two meters deep and stow them in a chamber. This action should take two days. Then the return journey is due.


Technicians are working on the space mission at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) in Beijing.
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Image: dpa

The plan is to bring around two kilograms of material back to earth. Researchers hope that the samples will provide new information about the volcanic activity of the moon. For comparison: the American Apollo missions brought with them around 380 kilograms of lunar rock. The Soviet Union collected around 300 grams with unmanned missions.

China has an ambitious space program. The plan is not only to send people to the moon again in the medium term. A Chinese probe is currently on its way to Mars. In addition, the construction of a space station is to begin next year. In the current lunar journey of the Chinese, space experts see not just a geological mission, but an important technology test, for example for future manned flights to the moon.

“Chang’e 5” is the Chinese’s second moon mission in two years. In January 2019, China landed as the first space travel nation with “Chang’e 4” on the relatively unexplored far side of the moon. A rover has been abandoned to continue exploring the surface. With “Chang’e 3”, the Chinese landed a probe on the front of the Earth’s satellite in 2013 – far later than the Russians and Americans. After unmanned probes, America also brought twelve astronauts to the moon between 1969 and 1972.

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Where most of the surveillance cameras are located worldwide


A surveillance camera near the Reichstag in Berlin
Image: KARSTEN THIELKER

A billion surveillance cameras will be in operation worldwide for the first time next year. Most of them can be found in China – but even a German city makes it into the top 50.

BErlin has moved into the top league of the most camera-monitored cities in the world. As the market observers of the analyst house Comparitech have determined, 17,464 of these monitoring devices are currently in use in the German capital. So there are 4.9 cameras per thousand inhabitants. This places the city on the Spree in 50th place in the list of cities in the world where most digital surveillance cameras are located.

Stephan Finsterbusch

The overall ranking covering 150 cities is led by the Chinese metropolis Taiyuan. The capital of the province of Shanxi currently has around 3.8 million inhabitants and is located about 500 kilometers southwest of Beijing. It currently has 465,000 so-called closed-circuit televisions or CCTV for short on streets, squares or buildings. For every thousand residents of Taiyuan there are 119 devices – a world record.

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