Trump ‘will tweet what he wants’ inside China’s Great Firewall
Trump ‘will tweet what he wants’ inside China’s Great Firewall
“The president will tweet whatever he wants,” the senior White House official told reporters aboard Air Force One shortly before Trump landed in Beijing.
“That’s his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not? So long as he can access his Twitter account, because Twitter is banned in China along with Facebook and most of the other social media.”
The official assured, “I’m sure we’ve got the gear aboard this airplane to make it happen.”
China monitors people’s Internet habits and blocks websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google in the name of “protecting national security.”
Chinese nationals can face fines or even jail time for unfavorable social media posts. Authorities have further tightened Internet controls in recent months, shutting down celebrity gossip blogs and probing platforms for “obscenity.”
Web users can circumvent the firewall if they download a virtual private network (VPN) — software that allows people to surf the Internet as if they were using a server in another country.
Foreign visitors can also access banned websites with their phones if they are in roaming mode — but only because the authorities currently allow it, according to experts.
Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, was ablaze Wednesday with comments about what Trump would do without his most cherished form of communication.
Since Trump’s election in 2016, critics among Chinese Internet users have mockingly described American governance as “rule by Twitter.”
Some commenters feigned ignorance about the verboten site.
“Fake news. What’s Twitter? This website doesn’t exist,” one quipped.
Others appeared to be asking for explanations about Twitter in earnest, while still others called on Trump to create a Weibo account.
“In the three days that Trump’s off Twitter, someone else will surely seize the throne,” commented a user on Zhihu, a question-and-answer platform akin to Quora.
Live from Idlib, an American broadcasts from Syria’s last rebel zone
- Around 3 million people live in Idlib and surrounding rebel territory, including foreigners who have joined the war against the Assad regime
BEIRUT: Pointing to a green screen as if presenting a weather forecast, Bilal Abdul Kareem analyzes the Turkish-Russian deal over Syria’s Idlib, broadcasting in his native English from inside the war-torn country’s last opposition stronghold.
The 47-year-old American is a long way from where he grew up near the Bronx, watching reruns of “Rocky” and eating at Italian restaurants.
Dressed in a charcoal suit jacket, the broad-shouldered and bearded Abdul Kareem stares into the camera and insists: “In this deal, this specific deal, nobody can say the rebels were not winners.”
For the past six years, he has reported from shrinking opposition territory in Syria’s north, filming the aftermath of airstrikes, interviewing hard-line fighters, even meeting Al-Qaeda members.
His contacts, including in Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), have granted him extensive access at a time when the risk of abduction makes much of Syria too dangerous for journalists from mainstream news outlets.
But it has also prompted allegations that Abdul Kareem is an extremist “propagandist” and would not have survived in the area had he been an impartial journalist — particularly given HTS’ history of harsh crackdowns against perceived foes.
Speaking to AFP from Idlib over Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook, Abdul Kareem denied the claims and directed accusations of his own: He is suing the US government for allegedly trying to kill him in Syria.
As the case drags through US courts, the self-described “bald-headed black guy in the middle of Syria” has remained in Idlib despite fears of a looming regime offensive, continuing to file dispatches for his media upstart, On the Ground News.
Born Darrell Lamont Phelps, Abdul Kareem embraced Islam before moving to the Middle East in 2002. He married and had children in Egypt, but declined to disclose their location for security reasons.
He arrived in Syria in 2012 from Libya, curious about the fighters battling President Bashar Assad’s forces in a conflict which at that point was just a year old.
Working first with major broadcasters including CNN, he founded OGN in 2015 as editors started to express “doubts” about his political stances, he said.
The channel now publishes on YouTube, Twitter, and a Facebook page with more than 86,000 followers.
“I have a good working relationship with every group, which doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with everything they do or they agree with everything I do,” he said.
A normal day begins with dawn prayers at 4:30 a.m., followed by a routine search of his car for bombs. The rest is up to the news cycle.
He could find himself on a motorcycle zipping toward a frontline, lapel mic in hand but without protective gear, or sipping tea with hardcore fighters most Americans would consider unsavory.
“I remember I had these very, very in-depth conversations with different Al-Qaeda members about America, Americans and the democratic system,” Abdul Kareem said.
He offered unsuccessfully to facilitate a dialogue between Western powers and Idlib’s militants, whom he insisted don’t have “blood dripping from their fangs and want to eat American children.”
The US has designated Al-Qaeda and HTS “terrorist organizations.” Around 3 million people live in Idlib and surrounding rebel territory, including foreigners who have joined the war against the Assad regime. “There are quite a few Americans here. All fighters,” Abdul Kareem said. Asked about his future, he recalled escaping second city Aleppo as it fell to the regime in 2016. If the same fate awaits Idlib, he said, “I would be one of the last people to leave.” Abdul Kareem’s 16-year absence from the US has made him miss simple things: speaking English, sugary cereals. But he fears the 2016 election of President Donald Trump has changed the country too much.
“It sounds like America is not the same America that I grew up in,” he said. His remaining links are with his sister, and a lawsuit he filed last year against Trump and a coterie of US officials, accusing the government of attempting to kill him five times. Once was on a reporting trip. “My car was hit with a drone strike. The car flipped up into the air and landed on its side facing the opposite direction,” he said. Abdul Kareem is demanding the government stop targeting him, remove him from any so-called “kill list” and disclose the names of other citizens who may be on it. In the meantime, OGN’s cameras keep rolling.
“I’m not in America because being here in Syria doing the work that I’m doing and covering the things I’m covering, in my estimation, is the right thing to do,” Abdul Kareem said.
“People are dying by the droves, and if I can do something to help people see what the real realities are, then what business do I have going back to America right now?“