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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China is imprisoning ordinary citizens who criticize the government on foreign social media — posts not even seen in China, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Human rights activists told The Journal this is a change from the past, when postings abroad were deterred through detentions and harassment.

  • "The growing use of prison sentences marks an escalation of China’s efforts to control narratives and strangle criticism outside China’s cloistered internet," per The Journal.

Details: "Chinese authorities have sentenced more than 50 people to prison in the past three years for using Twitter and other foreign platforms — all blocked in China — allegedly to disrupt public order and attack party rule," The Journal writes.

  • Twitter users typically with hundreds of followers, "though one had fewer than 30 followers when he was detained" — were arrested for criticizing state leaders and the Communist Party, and for discussing Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Beijing, according to court records obtained by The Journal.

The big picture: Government scrutiny over social media activity has increased as more people in China turn to the internet for news.

  • The Cyberspace Administration of China on Jan. 22 released new regulations for public internet accounts that ban "fabricating information, inciting extreme emotions, plagiarism, cyberbullying, blackmailing and artificially inflating the number of clicks," the South China Morning Post writes.
  • This allows the Chinese government to have more control over what gets shared on social media.

Go deeper

China to stop recognizing special U.K. passport for Hong Kong residents

A person holds up a British National (Overseas) passport in Hong Kong. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

China will no longer recognize the British National Overseas passport as a valid travel document or proof of identity, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Friday.

Why it matters: The announcement comes amid heightened tensions with the United Kingdom over its plan to offer potentially millions of Hong Kong residents a path to residency, and eventual citizenship.

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Former Google CEO and others call for U.S.-China tech "bifurcation"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new set of proposals by a group of influential D.C. insiders and tech industry practitioners calling for a degree of "bifurcation" in the U.S. and Chinese tech sectors is circulating in the Biden administration. Axios has obtained a copy.

Why it matters: The idea of "decoupling" certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies felt radical three years ago, when Trump's trade war brought the term into common parlance. But now the strategy has growing bipartisan and even industry support.

Emergency declaration issued in 17 states and D.C. over fuel pipeline cyberattack

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration said it's "working with" fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline to try and restart operations after a ransomware attack took it offline.

Why it matters: Friday night's cyberattack is "the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure" known to have occurred in the U.S., notes energy researcher Amy Myers Jaffe, per Politico. A regional emergency