21 Million Chinese Cellphone Users Disappear in Three Months of Pandemic

A woman wearing a Minnie Mouse face mask looks at her mobile phone in Beijing on February 11, 2020. - The death toll from a new coronavirus outbreak surged past 1,000 on February 11 as the World Health Organization warned infected people who have not travelled to China could be …

By John Hayward – 3/24/2020

The opacity of the Chinese Communist government obliges responsible outside observers to look for clues to the truth of the coronavirus epidemic, instead of merely repeating official information without question.

The official count from China is 3,277 fatalities from 81,171 infections as of Tuesday, but the Epoch Times noted the troubling disappearance of some 21 million cell phone accounts in China over the past three months – an unprecedented decline that hints at more fatalities than Beijing is prepared to admit.

It should be stated at the outset that we should not be forced to read tea leaves to figure out what really happened in China, especially in the virus epicenter of Hubei province and the city of Wuhan, where Chinese officials are currently making claims of zero new infections that no one seriously believes. While more responsible governments issue troubling warnings of a second wave of infections, severe enough to prompt the re-imposition of quarantine procedures that were only recently lifted, China claims it has no second wave and all of its new coronavirus cases are imported.

With that in mind, the Epoch Times thought it was a bit odd for 21 million Chinese cell phones to abruptly disappear, given that cell phone usage has been increasing constantly in China for years, and phones have been touted as an important tool for containing the coronavirus epidemic:

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced on March 19 the number of phone users in each province in February. Compared with the previous announcement, which was released on Dec. 18, 2019, for November 2019 data, both cellphone and landline users dropped dramatically. In the same period the year before, the number of users increased.

The number of cellphone users decreased from 1.600957 billion to 1.579927 billion, a drop of 21.03 million. The number of landline users decreased from 190.83 million to 189.99 million, a drop of 840,000.

In the previous February, the number increased. According to MIIT, the number of cellphone users increased in February 2019 from 1.5591 billion to 1.5835 billion, which is 24.37 million more. The number of landline users increased from 183.477 million to 190.118 million, which is 6.641 million more.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s population at the end of 2019 was 4.67 million larger than in 2018, reaching 1.40005 billion.

The article went on to postulate that some of the landlines might have been shut down as a consequence of the coronavirus quarantines, particularly lines used by shuttered business operations, but the sheer magnitude of the cell phone user decline makes it more difficult to explain. China Mobile, the nation’s largest carrier, reported gaining 3.7 million new accounts in December but then losing over 8 million in January and February, months in which it posted gains of 3.5 million users the previous year.

The Epoch Times considered several explanations for the loss of users, such as migrant workers who kept different cell phones for their home and work cities – necessary due to some of China’s regulations on phone service – abandoning the work phone because it was not needed during the quarantine period, or people generally canceling their phone service because they wanted to save money during the hard months.

On the other hand, the government is currently requiring citizens to use their cell phones to generate “health codes” so their movements can be tracked and permission to travel can be restricted to healthy individuals, so as U.S.-based commentator Tang Jiangyuan put it, it is effectively “impossible for a person to cancel his cellphone.”

“Dealing with the government for pensions and social security, buying train tickets, shopping … no matter what people want to do, they are required to use cell phones,” Tang noted.

The New York Times explained just how heavily Chinese authorities are leaning on those cell phones to monitor their population, and not just for coronavirus infections:

The Times’s analysis found that as soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled “reportInfoAndLocationToPolice” sends the person’s location, city name and an identifying code number to a server. The software does not make clear to users its connection to the police. But according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency and an official police social media account, law enforcement authorities were a crucial partner in the system’s development.

While Chinese internet companies often share data with the government, the process is rarely so direct. In the United States, it would be akin to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using apps from Amazon and Facebook to track the coronavirus, then quietly sharing user information with the local sheriff’s office.

The system, which relies on a unit of the immense Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, assigns users a green, yellow, or red “health code” in the style of a traffic light. Predictably, Chinese citizens find the opaque system cryptic and frightening, since the government has not explained exactly how it works.

“In some cities, residents now have to register their phone numbers with an app to take public transportation,” the Times added.

At the beginning of March, the so-called Alipay Health Code system had been launched in the city of Hangzhou, expanded to 200 other cities, and was on its way to a complete nationwide rollout. The rollout ran into some hitches over the following weeks, from technical glitches to confusion caused by local governments adding their own health codes to the already intimidating system.

A correspondent writing for Bloomberg News on March 18 reported using the system and said it was in the process of being “rolled out nationwide at railway stations, restaurants, pharmacies, and more.” Other reports in China have noted how cell phones are ubiquitous there and are employed for everything from accessing public and commercial resources to telecommuting to school during the coronavirus lockdown.

With this in mind, it might not be completely impossible to get by in Chinese cities without a cell phone at the moment, but it seems unlikely that a huge number of citizens would choose this moment to get rid of their phones.

“Lacking data, the real death toll in China is a mystery. The cancellation of 21 million cellphones provides a data point that suggests the real number may be far higher than the official number,” the Epoch Times concluded.

 

 

Surrender: Hong Kong Leader Caves to 1 of Protesters’ 5 Demands, Will Withdraw Bill Allowing China to Extradite Dissidents

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By Frances Martel

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Wednesday that the government would fully withdraw the bill that launched the ongoing pro-democracy movement from the legislature, ceding to one of the five demands protesters have been posing to the government for the past three months.

The bill in question would have allowed the Communist Party of China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong, not just Hong Kong residents or Chinese citizens, into the Chinese prison system if accused of violating communist “crimes.” China has notoriously “disappeared” thousands of political dissidents into its prison system and severely restricts free speech and religious activity. Multiple investigations have found that China uses its political prisoners as forced organ donors, cutting them open and taking their organs alive to fuel a million-dollar industry.

Hong Kong residents naturally feared that exercising their rights to speech, assembly, or religion in what is ostensibly a free territory would result in being the victims of gross human rights violations and took to the streets this June.

In a public address Wednesday, Lam said the Legislative Council would fully withdraw the bill “in order to fully allay public concerns” and lamented the mostly police-driven violence her government has plunged the city into, though she appeared to equally blamed the peaceful protest movement.

“Our citizens, police and reporters have been injured during violent incidents. There have been chaotic scenes at the airport and MTR stations; roads and tunnels have been suddenly blocked, causing delay and inconvenience to daily life,” Lam narrated. “For many people, Hong Kong has become an unfamiliar place.”

Lam also announced that she would modify the membership of the existing police oversight organization, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. This is a nod to one of the remaining four demands – an independent inquiry on police brutality against protesters – but does not address concerns that the police would exonerate itself of human rights crimes if it conducts the investigation.

“The government believes that matters relating to police enforcement actions are best handled by the existing and well-established [IPCC], which was set up for exactly this purpose,” Lam insisted.

The Global Times, a Chinese regime propaganda outlet, was quick to applaud Lam and threaten protesters out of celebrating her moves as a win.

“Though the move is meant to show the SAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] government’s sincerity in addressing the political crisis, it should not be seen as a concession by Lam that could lead to a slippery slope,” the Global Times warned“and radical forces should not have any illusion of winning ground on matters related to the ‘one country, two system’ [sic] principle that governs Hong Kong and China’s sovereignty.”

The Global Times reported that Beijing supported Lam’s decision.

The protesters have made five demands on Hong Kong’s government: a withdrawal of the extradition bill, the independent inquiry on police brutality, freedom for political prisoners, direct election of lawmakers, and an apology for calling the June 12 protest a “riot.” Currently, Hongkongers are allowed to election only half of lawmakers in the Legislative Council, while the others are appointed by a small group of special interests representatives controlled by China. Similarly, only 1,200 Hong Kong residents, part of a special committee, can vote for their chief executive, and even then only among a list of candidates handpicked by China.

Prior to Wednesday, Lam had adamantly refused to withdraw the extradition bill, noting that legislators had tabled it and declaring it “dead” in July. Tabling a bill keeps it alive and allows lawmakers to revive it at any time.

“I have almost immediately put a stop to the [bill] amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity, or worries, whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council, so I reiterate here: There is no such plan, the bill is dead,” she said in July.

Protest movement leaders responded to this declaration by asserting that “dead” is not a legal term for a bill and that she gave no guarantees lawmakers would not bring it back to life.

Her statement followed the destruction of the Legislative Council floor and much of the building it uses as its headquarters. Protesters meticulously destroyed all the technology and every facility used to pass laws, but left historical documents, the building’s cafeteria, and other irrelevant areas untouched.

Lam’s concession follows the publication of a bombshell report this week by Reuters, revealing audio of the chief executive saying she would like to resign from the post, but she is not allowed.

“For a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable. It’s just unforgivable,” she said in the audio. “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down.”
Lam conceded on Tuesday that the audio is real, but claimed that her choice of words was taken out of context, and that she meant only that quitting was the easiest thing to do. Despite Lam admitting the audio was, indeed, of her voice, the Global Times called the Reuters report “fake,” without elaborating.

Protest leaders have called Lam’s withdrawal of the bill “too little and too late,” insisting they will continue their struggle for freedom from China.

 

Seth Rich Murder Update: FBI Claims They Didn’t Investigate but NSA Claims Can’t Disclose Files Due to Matter of National Security

By Joe Hoft – August 20, 2019

We first reported in late July that Texas businessman Ed Butowsky filed a lawsuit where he outed reporter Ellen Ratner as his source for information on Seth Rich. The DNC operative was murdered in the summer of 2016 in Washington DC. His murder was never solved. According to the lawsuit Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks the DNC emails before the 2016 election, not Russia.

This totally destroys the FBI and Mueller’s claims that Russians hacked the DNC to obtain these emails.

Butowsky claims in his lawsuit:

Ms. Rattner said Mr. Assange told her that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron, were responsible for releasing the DNC emails to Wikileaks. Ms. Rattner said Mr. Assange wanted the information relayed to Seth’s parents, as it might explain the motive for Seth’s murder.

On November 9 2016 Ellen Ratner admitted publicly that she met with Julian Assange for three hours the Saturday before the 2016 election. According to Ratner, Julian Assange told her the leaks were not from the Russians, they were from an internal source from the Hillary Campaign.

We later reported that Butowsky and his attorney, Ty Clevenger, requested and obtained documents from the FBI related to their case which we were able to analyze.

According to the duo, they obtained the transcript from former FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki where he states that the Obama White House was the entity that was pushing the Russia conspiracy as early as October 2016 –

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Rybicki was corrupt cop James Comey’s Chief of staff –

Clevenger stated in a post online that –

Newly released documents from the FBI suggest that the Obama White House pushed intelligence agencies to publicly blame the Russians for email leaks from the Democratic National Committee to Wikileaks.

This afternoon I received an undated (and heavily redacted) transcript of an interview of James Rybicki, former chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey, that includes this excerpt: “So we understand that at some point in October of 2016, there was, I guess, a desire by the White House to make some kind of statement about Russia’s…” and then the next page is omitted.

The comment is made by an unidentified prosecutor from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel or “OSC,” not to be confused with the office of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller (the OSC is a permanent office that investigates Hatch Act violations, and Mr. Comey was under investigation for trying to influence the 2016 Presidential election).

Roger Stone’s Indictment

Trump friend Roger Stone is facing charges from the Mueller gang that are based on this key question – who provided the DNC the Podesta emails to WikiLeaks?

The corrupt FBI and Mueller team claim the emails were hacked but neither entity inspected the DNC server which was supposedly hacked. They have provided no proof of this.

The DNC instead hired a firm Crowdstrike, with connections to Mueller and former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who provided a redacted report to the FBI and Mueller stating the emails were hacked by Russia.

Former NSA whistleblower Bill Binney claims he has evidence the DNC emails were not hacked but copied most likely on to a flashdrive or something similar.

Now This…

When Ty Clevenger requested documents from the FBI related to any investigation into the death of Seth Rich, they replied that they never investigated Seth Rich and they don’t even have any records on him –

But when documents were requested from the NSA, they replied that they won’t release their records regarding Seth Rich because it’s a matter of national security –

USC 552(b)(1) states:  This section does not apply to matters that are—

(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order;

So the FBI never investigated the Seth Rich murder even though the NSA said the case was a matter of national security?

This too does not pass the smell test.

Hat tip D. Manny

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