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CYBER WARS
China cracks down on bids to bypass online censorship
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 23, 2017


Hedge funder jailed in China insider trading case
Shanghai (AFP) Jan 23, 2017 - China has sentenced a former star hedge-fund manager to more than five years in prison for market manipulation, a court said, after an investigation following a stock market slump in 2015.

Xu Xiang, manager of the Shanghai-based private equity fund Zexi Investment, and two other executives were found guilty of market manipulation and fined an unspecified amount, the Qingdao Intermediate People's Court announced on a verified social media account.

Xu's was the first insider trading case to be brought to court in the country and involved more than 40 billion yuan ($5.8 billion), respected Chinese financial magazine Caixin reported.

Xu received five and a half years, while associate Wang Wei received three years and Zhu Yong two years with a three-year suspension.

Investigators targeted several investment executives on suspicion of insider trading after a 2015 stock rout that saw the Shanghai stock index tumble nearly 40 percent over a period of little more than two months after peaking in mid-June that year.

Authorities helped inflate the bubble by encouraging investments. But when it burst, officials quickly sought to pin blame on market manipulators.

A star investor, Xu's company managed four of the top performing Chinese hedge funds during the stock market meltdown, according to Bloomberg News.

Mainland Chinese stock exchanges have an unusually high proportion of non-professional investors and have been compared to "casinos", with insider trading and dramatic swings in share prices seemingly unconnected to underlying business prospects.

In November, after Trump's shock victory in the US presidential elections, a Chinese company whose name sounds like "Trump wins big" saw its shares surge, while a stock whose name is a homophone for "Hillary shares" plunged.

China has announced a 14-month campaign to "clean up" internet service providers and crack down on devices such as virtual private networks (VPNs) used to evade strict censorship.

The ruling Communist party oversees a vast apparatus designed to censor online content deemed politically sensitive, while blocking some Western websites and the services of internet giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

It passed a controversial cybersecurity bill last November, tightening restrictions on online freedom of speech and imposing new rules on service providers.

But companies and individuals often use VPNs to access the unfettered internet beyond China's "Great Firewall".

Telecom and internet service providers will no longer be allowed to set up or rent special lines such as VPNs without official approval, the ministry of industry and information technology said Sunday.

Its "clean up" campaign would last through March 2018, it said in a statement on its website.

The announcement comes days after President Xi Jinping extolled globalisation and denounced protectionism in a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he insisted that China was committed to "opening up".

China's internet access services market has grown rapidly, and the "first signs of disorderly development are also appearing, creating an urgent need for regulation", the statement said.

The new rules were needed to "strengthen internet information security management", it added.

IT expert Li Yi told the Global Times newspaper, which often takes a nationalistic tone, the new regulations were "extremely important".

While some multinationals such as Microsoft needed VPNs to communicate with overseas headquarters, other companies and individuals "browse overseas internet pages out of illegal motivations", Li said.

A 2015 report by US think tank Freedom House found that China had the most restrictive Internet policies of 65 countries it studied, ranking below Iran and Syria.

China is home to the world's largest number of internet users, which totalled 731 million as of December, the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center said Sunday.

rld/dly/sm

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