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China, Russia use social media to fuel protests in UK

NewsChina, Russia use social media to fuel protests in UK

London: The disruption being caused through “Kill the Bill” protests in UK is an effort by the Sino-Russian alliance to destroy trust and confidence in political and institutional systems, in a bid to leave society demoralised and feeling powerless against events. This is in the footsteps of the recent CCP infiltrations into British institutions such as universities, independent schools, vaccine producers, defence manufacturers, and even the British Consulate in Shanghai, not to mention Huawei in British telecom and the 30 CGN workers involved in Hinkley Point C, the new nuclear power station in Somerset.

The newly introduced Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2019-2021 (PCSC or The Bill) allows the police to take a more proactive approach in managing highly disruptive protests. It is being suspected that China and Russia are using social media and other means to fuel these protests against the Bill.

Both China and Russia are infamous for cyber-attacks. Last year, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned that “Chinese linked actors are targeting super computers, communications companies and systems that allow home working, in countries around the world.” And recently the FCDO confirmed that Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, conducted cyber reconnaissance against officials and organisations at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games that were due to take place in Tokyo this summer. The targets included the Games’ organisers, logistics services and sponsors.

In the UK Government’s Response to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Report “Russia” in 2020, the Prime Minister notes “The Kremlin has shown a willingness and ability to operate globally to undermine the West, seeking out division and intimidating those who appear isolated from the international community”. The Russia Report said conducting cyber influence is part of this policy and comments that UK cyber accountability is an “unnecessarily complicated wiring diagram of responsibilities” with five ministries having different

threads of accountability, recommending “this should be kept under review by the National Security Council”. The Prime Minister responded that the line of accountability is clear with the ultimate ministerial oversight provided by the Prime Minister.

In spring 2019, Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists gridlocked London in an effort to inspire changes in UK’s environmental policy; although the protest passed off peacefully it was a great inconvenience to the capital and incurred an additional policing cost of £16 million. It transpires that what XR actually achieved is a significant change in police, crime and sentencing policy. As a result of the XR demonstration, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, has been after the government to update the 1986 Public Order Act, “specifically to deal with protests where people are not primarily violent or seriously disorderly but, as in this instance, had an avowed intent to bring policing to its knees and the city (London) to a halt…”

Since then, during the summer of 2020, many UK cities experienced the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, following the killing of George Floyd in the United States, some of which resulted in violent confrontations with and assaults on the police.

In March 2021, the government introduced the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2019-2021 (PCSC or The Bill) put forward by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice. The Bill allows the police to proactively approach and manage highly disruptive protests to prevent violence and serious disruptions to the public. The Bill also makes significant changes across the criminal justice system, amends police powers and how the police are supported to do their job of detecting and preventing crime. Additional public nuisances will include producing excessive noise or smells, or offensive or dangerous behaviour in public. The usual offences of endangering the life, health, property or comfort of the public, or to obstruct the public in the exercise or enjoyment of rights common to the public still apply. The Bill will also make significant changes to how offenders are dealt with including major reforms to “out of court disposals”, changes to sentencing law and changes to how offenders are managed in the community.

The Bill and the right to protest have come face to face over the vigil in London for Sarah Everhard, where thousands of mourners gathered to remember the young woman who was murdered; a policeman has been arrested, charged with her kidnap and murder. The peaceful vigil turned into a confrontation when a small minority of late arrivals did not comply with police requests for social distancing and quickly turned angry. Scenes of police being verbally abused and targeted with projectiles resulted in arrests, with much media coverage dedicated to the aggressive Antifa-style statements of the women arrested. In turn, this prompted a defensive set of statements from the Metropolitan Police. A report by HMICFRS, the Inspectorate of Constabulary, published on 30 March found police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd. They remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse and did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner. However, the inspectorate said “that public confidence in the Metropolitan Police suffered as a result of the vigil, and that given the impact of images of women under arrest—which were widely disseminated on social media—a more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better.”

The Bill has now become the contention of protestors nationwide. “The Bill” is also a London slang expression meaning the police. There have been large disruptive nationwide protests against the new provisions and powers in the Bill, despite Metropolitan Police and government assurances that freedom of expression (FoE) would be unaffected and that FoE is a cornerstone of British democracy. The protests against the PCSC are hash-tagged #KilltheBill, which in the context of the slang has a sinister double meaning, which some agitators have chosen to adopt.

All the above protests have a genuine cause, but malign elements from the hard left and adversaries who want to create societal division have crept into their increasing numbers; social media incentivisation and cyber influencing by the Sino-Russian alliance which desires to create chaos and break trust between state and society cannot be ruled out. This echoes protest situations in other English speaking democracies such as the storming of Capitol Hill. Now the Bill protests have the potential to turn into a situation resembling the farmers’ protests in India, which resisted sensible reforms, disrupted the country and attracted international opprobrium for India.

Further protests are scheduled in unlikely places—at Cornwall, which is the venue for the G10 in June. The Opposition (socialist) communication channels are much stronger than the government communication channels. MSM and local media networks are anonymously apprised of protests and the unrest proliferates on the oxygen of publicity and fame.

The perpetual battle between direct action and demonstration vs progressive discussions towards democracy has become a linchpin in the protest movement, which aligns with the Sino-Russian objective.

However, these self-appointed citizen assemblies risk legitimising violence and reinforce the government’s case for the necessity of The Bill. The recently published Integrated Review mentions “cyber” 156 times, with the new UK National Cyber Force perhaps acting as a counter to the Sino-Russian offensive cyber operations, which want political disruption to undermine confidence and discredit institutions.

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