U.S. Senate moves ahead with sweeping effort to counter China

By Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a meeting on April 14 to consider major bipartisan legislation to boost the country’s ability to push back against China’s expanding global influence, Senate sources said on Thursday.

The draft measure, seen by Reuters and titled the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, mandates a range of diplomatic and strategic initiatives to counteract Beijing, reflecting hardline sentiment on dealings with China from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

The bill is intended to address economic competition with China, but also humanitarian and democratic values, such as the treatment of the minority Muslim Uighurs, suppression of dissent in Hong Kong and aggression in the South China Sea.

It stressed the need to “prioritize the military investments necessary to achieve United States political objectives in the Indo-Pacific.” It called for spending to do so, saying Congress must ensure the federal budget is “properly aligned” with the strategic imperative to compete with China.

It calls for an enhanced partnership with Taiwan, calling the democratic self-governed island “a vital part of the United States Indo-Pacific strategy” and saying there should be no restrictions on the ability of U.S. officials to interact with Taiwanese counterparts. China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province.

The bill also says Washington must encourage allies to do more to check Beijing’s “aggressive and assertive behavior.” And it calls on every federal department and agency to designate a senior official to coordinate policies with respect to strategic competition with China.

“The United States must ensure that all Federal departments and agencies are organized to reflect the fact that strategic competition with the PRC is the United States top foreign policy priority,” the draft said, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

Another clause would limit assistance to countries hosting Chinese military installations, saying Beijing uses its so-called Belt and Road Initiative to advance its security interests and facilitate greater military access.

Introduced by Senators Bob Menendez, the committee’s Democratic chairman, and Jim Risch, its ranking Republican, the draft bill is 283 pages long. It was released to committee members overnight to allow a markup, a meeting during which the panel will discuss amendments and vote, in a week.

The measure is the Foreign Relations panel’s contribution to a fast-track effort in the Senate announced in February by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to write legislation to counter China.

The effort is supported by Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration.

The Senate Commerce Committee announced on Wednesday that it would hold a hearing on April 14 on its bipartisan measure to bolster U.S. technology. That bill, titled the Endless Frontier Act, was first proposed in 2020 and calls for $110 billion over five years to advance U.S. technology efforts.

Separately on Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department said it was adding seven Chinese supercomputing entities to an economic blacklist for assisting China’s military.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Toby Chopra and Jonathan Oatis)

Scientists call for new probe into COVID-19 origins: with or without China

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A joint China-World Health Organization (WHO) study into COVID-19 has provided no credible answers about how the pandemic began, and more rigorous investigations are required – with or without Beijing’s involvement, a group of international scientists and researchers said on Wednesday.

The joint study, released last week, said the likeliest transmission route for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, involved bats and other wildlife in China and southeast Asia. It all but ruled out the possibility it had leaked from a laboratory.

In an open letter, 24 scientists and researchers from Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan said the study was tainted by politics.

“Their starting point was, let’s have as much compromise as is required to get some minimal cooperation from China,” said Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, who drafted the letter.

The letter said the study’s conclusions were based on unpublished Chinese research, while critical records and biological samples “remain inaccessible”.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said last week China had withheld data.

Liang Wannian, China’s senior COVID-19 expert, denied this and appeared to rule out any further joint investigations in China, saying the focus should shift to other countries.

Metzl said the world might have to “revert to Plan B” and conduct an investigation “in the most systematic way possible” without China’s involvement.

China has rejected allegations that SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a research laboratory in Wuhan, the city where COVID-19 was first identified.

The joint China-WHO study said the lab leak was “extremely unlikely”, saying there was “no record” that any laboratory had kept SARS-CoV-2-related viruses. Tedros said more research was required to “reach more robust conclusions”.

Metzl said China should disclose information that would allow the lab hypothesis to be disproved.

“China has databases of what viruses were being held… there are lab notes of the work that was being done,” he said, “There are all kinds of scientists who are actually doing the work and we don’t have access to any of those resources, or any of those people.”

(Reporting by David Stanway, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

China sends more jets; Taiwan says it will fight to the end if there’s war

By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – China sent more fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defense zone on Wednesday in a stepped up show of force around the island Beijing claims as its own, and Taiwan’s foreign minister said it would fight to the end if China attacks.

The democratic self-governed island has complained of repeated military activities by Beijing in recent months, with China’s air force making almost daily forays in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. On Monday, China said an aircraft carrier group was exercising close to the island.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 15 Chinese aircraft including 12 fighters entered its air defense identification zone, with an anti-submarine aircraft flying to the south through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Taiwan’s air force sent up aircraft to intercept and warn the Chinese away, the ministry added.

Speaking earlier in the day, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the United States was concerned about the risk of conflict.

“From my limited understanding of American decision makers watching developments in this region, they clearly see the danger of the possibility of China launching an attack against Taiwan,” he told reporters at his ministry.

“We are willing to defend ourselves without any questions and we will fight the war if we need to fight the war. And if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day we will defend ourselves to the very last day.”

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and the U.S. State Department did not respond to requests for comment on Wu’s remarks. China has said its activities around Taiwan are aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty. The United States has expressed concern about China’s movements, and said its commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid”.

Adding to the stepped up military action near Taiwan, the U.S. Navy said the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain conducted a “routine” transit of the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.

‘PORCUPINE’ TAIWAN

Neither Taiwan nor China has said precisely where the Chinese carrier group is, or whether it is heading towards the disputed South China Sea, where a U.S. carrier group is currently operating.

Speaking in parliament, Taiwan’s Deputy Defense Minister Chang Che-ping said the Chinese carrier’s movements were being closely followed, and described its drills as routine.

A person familiar with Taiwan’s security planning told Reuters the carrier group is still “near the Japanese islands,” though declined to disclose the exact location.

Japan had said on Sunday that the Chinese carrier group had entered the Pacific after sailing through the Miyako Strait, through Japan’s southern Ryukyu island chain northeast of Taiwan.

Washington, Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier, has been pushing Taipei to modernize its military so it can become a “porcupine,” hard for China to attack.

Wu said Taiwan was determined to improve its military capabilities and spend more on defense.

“The defense of Taiwan is our responsibility. We will try every way we can to improve our defense capability.”

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it will run eight days of computer-aided war games this month, simulating a Chinese attack. A second phase of exercises, including live-fire drills and anti-landing drills, will take place in July, when hospitals would also practice handling mass casualties.

“The drills are designed based on the toughest enemy threats, simulating all possible scenarios on an enemy invasion on Taiwan,” Major General Liu Yu-Ping told reporters.

Asked if Washington’s de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan, would send representatives to the drills, Liu said such a plan was “discussed” but “will not be implemented,” citing military sensitivity.

(Reporting By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Roger Tung; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Peter Graff)

Chinese scientist says Beijing did share COVID-19 data with investigators

By Gabriel Crossley

BEIJING (Reuters) -A top Chinese medical expert said on Wednesday there was no factual basis to accusations that China did not share data with international researchers appointed by the World Health Organization to look into the origins of COVID-19.

Following the publication of the joint study into the origins of COVID-19 by China and the WHO on Tuesday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said China had withheld data from the international investigators.

But Liang Wannian, who was co-leader of the joint study, told reporters that researchers from both sides had access to the same data throughout the investigation and that the assertions about lack of access were not accurate.

“Of course, according to Chinese law, some data cannot be taken away or photographed, but when we were analyzing it together in Wuhan, everyone could see the database, the materials – it was all done together,” he said.

Responding to allegations that the expert panel did not have access to complete datasets and samples, Liang said no scientist ever had perfect information.

He also rejected complaints that the publication of the report had been repeatedly delayed, noting that “every sentence, every conclusion, every piece of data” needed to be verified by both sides before it could be released.

“Throughout we always upheld the principle of ‘quality comes first,'” said Liang, who is the head of a committee of experts on COVID-19 set up by China’s National Health Commission.

The joint study concluded that the most likely origin of COVID-19 was in animals, and probably passed through an intermediary species before it entered humans.

It also said more efforts were needed to see if COVID-19 could be traced back to wildlife farms in both China and southeast Asia.

Liang said China would continue to try to trace the origins of COVID-19, but the Chinese part of the joint research had been completed, and attention should now turn to other countries.

Tracing the origins of COVID-19 couldn’t be achieved overnight, he said.

“There are lots of diseases that have circulated for a long time and we still haven’t found their origins,” he said. “It still needs a lot of time.”

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by William Maclean and Andrew Heavens)

U.S. says hopes WHO report on virus origins is ‘based on science’

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States expects the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus pandemic to require further study, perhaps including a return visit to China, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Marc Cassayre, charge d’affaires at the U.S. mission to the U.N. in Geneva, also voiced hope that the WHO-led mission to the central city of Wuhan in Jan.-Feb. had access to the raw data and to the people required to make an independent assessment.

The lengthy report by the team – composed of international experts and their Chinese counterparts – is expected to be issued this week, the WHO says.

“We are hopeful that it will be based on science and be a real step forward for the world understanding the origins of the virus so we can better prepare for future pandemics,” Cassayre told a news briefing.

U.S. officials expected further work would be needed to identify the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, he said. “That would probably require, as we would presume, further studies of the team, maybe travel to China or further discussions.”

The probe was plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington, which under former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak.

Some team members have said China was reluctant to share vital data that could show the virus was circulating months earlier than first recognized in late 2019.

Ben Embarek, a WHO official leading the mission, said at a press briefing marking the end of the visit that the virus probably originated in bats, although it was not certain how it reached humans. He also effectively ruled out a lab leak.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later said that “all hypotheses remain open” and pledged full transparency.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

EU imposes China sanctions over Xinjiang abuses; first in three decades

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union imposed sanctions on Monday on four Chinese officials, including a top security director, for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the first sanctions against Beijing since an arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Accused of mass detentions of Muslim Uighurs in northwestern China, those targeted with sanctions included Chen Mingguo, the director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. The EU said Chen was responsible for “serious human rights violations.”

In its Official Journal, the EU accused Chen of “arbitrary detentions and degrading treatment inflicted upon Uighurs and people from other Muslim ethnic minorities, as well as systematic violations of their freedom of religion or belief”.

Others hit with travel bans and asset freezes were: senior Chinese officials Wang Mingshan and Wang Junzheng, the former head of China’s Xinjiang region, Zhu Hailun, and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau.

China denies any human rights abuses in Xinjiang and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

While mainly symbolic, the sanctions mark a significant hardening in the EU’s policy towards China, which Brussels long regarded as a benign trading partner but now views as a systematic abuser of basic rights and freedoms.

They are also likely to inflame tensions between Brussels and Beijing. The EU had not sanctioned China since it imposed an arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy crackdown. The arms embargo is still in place.

All 27 EU governments agreed to the punitive measures, but Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, called them “harmful” and “pointless,” reflecting the bloc’s divisions on how to deal with China’s rise and to protect business interests.

China is the EU’s second-largest trading partner after the United States and Beijing is both a big market and a major investor which has courted poorer and central European states.

POSSIBLE RETALIATION

But the EU, which sees itself as a champion of human rights, is deeply worried about the fate of the Uighurs. Britain, Canada and the United States have also expressed serious concerns.

Activists and U.N. rights experts say at least 1 million Muslims are being detained in camps in the remote western region of Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labor and sterilizations.

The EU’s sanctions take aim at officials who are seen to have designed and enforced the detentions in Xinjiang and come after the Dutch parliament followed Canada and the United States in labelling China’s treatment of the Uighurs as genocide, which China rejects.

Last week, China’s ambassador to the bloc, Zhang Ming, said that sanctions would not change Beijing’s policies, decrying the measures as confrontational and warning of retaliation.

The EU has also called for the release of jailed ethnic Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was jailed for life in 2014. He was awarded the European Parliament’s human rights prize in 2019.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by William Maclean)

Blinken warns China against ‘coercion and aggression’ on first Asia trip

By Humeyra Pamuk, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Ju-min Park

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China on Tuesday against using “coercion and aggression” as he sought to use his first trip abroad to shore up Asian alliances in the face of growing assertiveness by Beijing.

China’s extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas have become a priority issue in an increasingly testy Sino-U.S. relationship and are an important security concern for Japan.

“We will push back, if necessary, when China uses coercion and aggression to get its way,” Blinken said.

His visit to Tokyo with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is the first overseas visit by top members of President Joe Biden’s cabinet. It follows last week’s summit of the leaders of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

Blinken’s comments come ahead of meetings in Alaska on Thursday that will bring together for the first time senior Biden administration officials and their Chinese counterparts to discuss frayed ties between the world’s top two economies.

Washington has criticized what it called Beijing’s attempts to bully neighbors with competing interests. China has denounced what it called U.S. efforts to foment unrest in the region and interfere in what it calls its internal affairs.

In the statement issued with their Japanese counterparts, Blinken and Austin said, “China’s behavior, where inconsistent with the existing international order, presents political, economic, military and technological challenges to the alliance and to the international community.”

The two countries committed themselves to opposing coercion and destabilizing behavior towards others in the region that undermines the rules-based international system, they added.

The meeting was held in the “2+2” format with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi as hosts.

North Korea was in sharp focus after the White House said Pyongyang had rebuffed efforts at dialogue.

The isolated nation, which has pursued nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, warned the Biden administration against “causing a stink” if it wanted peace, state media said on Tuesday.

Blinken underscored the importance of working closely with Japan and South Korea on the denuclearization of North Korea.

“We have no greater strategic advantage when it comes to North Korea than this alliance,” he said. “We approach that challenge as an alliance and we’ve got to do that if we are going to be effective.”

‘UNWAVERING COMMITMENT’

The ministers also discussed Washington’s “unwavering commitment” to defend Japan in its dispute with China over islets in the East China Sea and repeated their opposition to China’s “unlawful” maritime claims in the South China Sea.

They also shared concerns over developments such as the law China passed in January allowing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.

China has sent coast guard vessels to chase away fishing vessels from countries with which it has disputes in regional waters, sometimes resulting in their sinking.

Motegi said China-related issues took up the majority of his two-way talks with Blinken, and expressed strong opposition to the neighbor’s “unilateral attempt” to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing that U.S.-Japan ties “shouldn’t target or undermine the interests of any third party,” and should boost “peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific”.

Blinken expressed concern over the Myanmar military’s attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election, and its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

He also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to human rights, adding, “China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abusing human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet.”

Motegi said Blinken expressed support during the meeting for the staging of the Tokyo Olympics, set to run from July 23 to Aug. 8 after being postponed from last year because of the coronavirus crisis.

But Blinken sounded non-committal in his remarks to Tokyo-based U.S. diplomats, saying the summer Games involved planning for several different scenarios. But he added, “Whenever and however Team USA ends up competing, it will be because of you.”

The U.S. officials ended the visit with a courtesy call on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is set to visit the White House in April as the first foreign leader to meet Biden.

Both will leave Tokyo for Seoul on Wednesday for talks in the South Korean capital until Thursday.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Ju-min Park, Antoni Slodkowski, Elaine Lies, Chang-Ran Kim, Ritsuko Ando and David Dolan; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez)

Beijing choked in dust storm stirred by heavy northwest winds

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese capital Beijing was shrouded in thick brown dust on Monday due to strong winds blowing in from the Gobi desert and parts of northwestern China, in what the weather bureau has called the biggest sandstorm in a decade.

The China Meteorological Administration announced a yellow alert on Monday morning, saying sandstorms had spread from Inner Mongolia into the provinces of Gansu, Shanxi and Hebei, which surrounds Beijing.

The tops of tower blocks in central Beijing were barely visible on Monday morning, and commuters could be seen wearing improvised headwear to protect their faces and hair.

“It looks like the end of the world,” said Beijing resident Flora Zou, 25, who works in the fashion sector. “In this kind of weather I really, really don’t want to be outside.”

Heavy sandstorms also hit neighboring Mongolia, with at least 341 people reported missing, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

Flights have been grounded out of Hohhot, capital of China’s Inner Mongolia.

Around a fifth of the incoming and outbound flights at Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport had been cancelled as of noon (0400 GMT), more than usual during the sandstorm season, according to aviation data provider Variflight.

The sandstorms were expected to shift south towards the Yangtze River delta and should clear by Wednesday or Thursday, the environment ministry said.

Beijing faces regular sandstorms in March and April due to its proximity to the massive Gobi desert as well as deforestation and soil erosion throughout northern China.

China has been trying to reforest and restore the ecology of the region to limit how much sand is blown into the capital.

Beijing has planted a “great green wall” of trees to trap incoming dust, and has also tried to create air corridors that channel the wind and allow sand and other pollutants to pass through more quickly.

The environment ministry said last year that the situation had improved, with the first storms now arriving much later in the year and not lasting as long as they did a decade ago.

Beijing and surrounding regions have suffered from high levels of pollution in recent weeks, with the city shrouded in smog during the national session of parliament which began on March 5.

“It’s hard to claim we are moving forward when you can’t see what’s in front,” Li Shuo, climate advisor with Greenpeace in Beijing, tweeted on Monday.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard, Stella Qiu and the Beijing newsroom; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry and Karishma Singh)

WHO investigators to scrap interim report on probe of COVID-19 origins: WSJ

(Reuters) – A World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19 is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new probe, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

In Geneva, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an email reply: “The full report is expected in coming weeks”.

No further information was immediately available about the reasons for the delay in publishing the findings of the WHO-led mission to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first human cases of COVID-19 were detected in late 2019.China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a WHO-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, Dominic Dwyer, one of the team’s investigators said last month, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.

The probe had been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

The team, which arrived in China in January and spent four weeks looking into the origins of the outbreak, was limited to visits organized by their Chinese hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions. The first two weeks were spent in hotel quarantine.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum)

Hong Kong to teach children as young as six about subversion, foreign interference

By Pak Yiu and Sarah Wu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong has unveiled controversial guidelines for schools in the Chinese-ruled city that include teaching students as young as six about colluding with foreign forces and subversion as part of a new national security curriculum.

Beijing imposed a security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 in response to months of often violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019 that put the global financial hub more firmly on an authoritarian path.

The Education Bureau’s guidelines, released late on Thursday, show that Beijing’s plans for the semi-autonomous Hong Kong go beyond quashing dissent, and aim for a societal overhaul to bring its most restive city more in line with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

“National security is of great importance. Teachers should not treat it as if it is a controversial issue for discussion as usual,” the guidelines said.

Teachers should “clearly point out that safeguarding national security is the responsibility of all nationals and that as far as national security is concerned, there is no room for debate or compromise”.

After the 2019 protests in which many of the demonstrators were teenagers, Chinese leaders turned to re-education in a bid to tame the city’s youth and make them loyal citizens.

Head of the Professional Teachers’ Union, Ip Kin-yuen, said the guidelines would cause “uncertainty, ambiguity and anxiety” for teachers and enforce a “restrictive and suppressive” education style that does not foster student development and independent thinking.

Raymond Yeung, a former teacher partially blinded by a projectile during 2019 protests, described the guidelines as “one dimensional, if not brainwashing”.

Wong, mother of primary school children, said the law was “clamping down on people’s individual thoughts” and adding national security to the curricula created a climate of fear.

“I am angry. They shouldn’t be bringing this into classrooms,” said Wong, who declined to give her first name due to the sensitivity of the issue.

However, not all parents were opposed to the changes.

“It’s a good start, no matter who you are and where are you from, you have to love your country,” said Feng, mother of a six-year-old.

‘WISE OWL’

Children in primary schools will learn how to sing and respect China’s national anthem, and gain an understanding of the four main offences in the new security law, including terrorism and secessionism.

In secondary schools, pupils will learn what constitutes such offences, which can carry sentences of up to life in prison.

Some legal scholars have said the law’s language is broad and vague, and the range of activities authorities might see as potential threats to national security was unclear and fluid.

An educational cartoon video released by the government shows an owl wearing glasses and a graduation hat explaining Hong Kong’s institutional architecture, its duties to the central government in Beijing and the national security law.

At one point the video says “national security affairs are of utmost importance to the whole country,” while showing smiling faces of a student, a chef and an engineer.

Schools are encouraged to “organize various game activities, such as puppet theatre, board games … to establish a good atmosphere and improve students’ understanding of national security”, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines said kindergartens can help students learn about traditional festivals, music and arts and develop fondness for Chinese customs to “lay the foundation for national security education.” Kindergarten children were not expected to learn about national security crimes.

The Education Bureau said it accepted international and private schools had different curricula, but said they had a “responsibility to help their students (regardless of their ethnicity and nationality) acquire a correct and objective understanding … of national security”.

Schools should also stop students and teachers from participating in activities deemed as political, such as singing certain songs, wearing various items, forming human chains or shouting slogans.

Teachers and principals are required to inspect notice-boards, remove books that endanger national security from libraries and call police if they suspected any breaches.

The bureau said national security education will become part of subjects such as geography and biology to enhance students’ sense of national identity.

(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom and Sarah Wu in Toronto; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Richard Pullin, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Michael Perry)