Huawei unveils phone system that could replace Android

Some officials also see the rise of Huawei and other Chinese tech competitors as a potential threat to US industrial leadership. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 August 2019

Huawei unveils phone system that could replace Android

  • Washington has labeled Huawei a security threat, an accusation the company denies
  • Huawei reported that sales in the six months through June rose 23.2% over a year earlier to 401.3 billion yuan ($58.3 billion)

BEIJING: Huawei on Friday unveiled a smartphone operating system that it said can replace Google’s Android, adding to the Chinese tech giant’s efforts to insulate itself against US sanctions.

The announcement of HarmonyOS highlights the growing ability of Huawei, the No. 2 global smartphone brand and biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers, to create technology and reduce its reliance on American vendors. US curbs imposed in May threatened Huawei’s smartphone sales by limiting access to Android and blocking Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., from supporting music and other services based on the system.

Huawei Technologies Ltd. wants to keep using Android, Richard Yu, CEO of its consumer device unit, said at a conference for software developers in the southern city of Dongguan. “However, if we cannot use it in the future we can immediately switch to HarmonyOS,” Yu said. He said that could be done in as little as two days if needed.

Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, is at the center of a battle between Washington and Beijing over the ruling Communist Party’s ambitions to develop companies that can compete in robotics and other fields. The Trump administration says Beijing’s efforts are based on stealing or pressuring companies to hand over technology. Washington and other trading partners say the Chinese campaign violates its free-trade obligations.

Washington has labeled Huawei a security threat, an accusation the company denies. Some officials also see the rise of Huawei and other Chinese tech competitors as a potential threat to US industrial leadership. Huawei spends about $12 billion a year on US semiconductor chips and other components. The company said the US export curbs might cut its projected sales by $30 billion over two years.

Since then, authorities have said vendors will be allowed to supply technology that is available from other sources. That came after American technology suppliers warned they would be hurt by the loss of one of their biggest customers. Huawei also has developed its own chipsets for low-end smartphones and servers, though it still needs US vendors for its most advanced products.

Yu said Huawei’s first smartphone using HarmonyOS would be released Saturday under its Honor brand. Huawei, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, reported earlier its smartphone shipments rose 24% in the first half of 2019 over a year ago to 118 million.
“We could have done better, but due to the challenges we face in the international market, our shipments dropped a bit,” Yu said.

Huawei reported that sales in the six months through June rose 23.2% over a year earlier to 401.3 billion yuan ($58.3 billion). That was up from 2018 growth of 19.5%, but Chairman Liang Hua warned Huawei will “face difficulties” in the second half. Liang said then that Huawei was reviewing its product lineup to make sure it could fill orders without US components if necessary.

On Friday, Yu said HarmonyOS is designed to operate on PCs and tablet computers as well as smartphones, allowing users to integrate music and other functions across multiple devices. HarmonyOS will be open source to allow outside developers to contribute to its development, Yu said.
“We want to build a global operating system, so it will not be used by Huawei alone,” he said.


Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest

  • The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world

BEIRUT: Lebanese journalists are facing threats and wide-ranging harassment in their work — including verbal insults and physical attacks, even death threats — while reporting on nearly 50 days of anti-government protests, despite Lebanon’s reputation as a haven for free speech in a troubled region.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Oct. 17 over a plunging economy. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping aside Lebanon’s entire ruling elite. Local media outlets — some of which represent the sectarian interests protesters are looking to overthrow — are now largely seen as pro- or anti-protests, with some journalists feeling pressured to leave their workplaces over disagreements about media coverage.
The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world. Amid Lebanon’s divided politics, media staff have usually had wide range to freely express their opinions, unlike in other countries in the region where the state stifles the media.
The acts of harassment began early in the protests. MTV television reporter Nawal Berry was attacked in central Beirut in the first days of the demonstrations by supporters of the militant group Hezbollah and its allies. They smashed the camera, robbed the microphone she was holding, spat on her and kicked her in the leg.
“How is it possible that a journalist today goes to report and gets subjected to beating and humiliation? Where are we? Lebanon is the country of freedoms and democracy,” Berry said.
Outlets like MTV are widely seen as backing protesters’ demands that Lebanon’s sectarian political system be completely overturned to end decades of corruption and mismanagement.
Rival TV stations and newspapers portray the unrest — which led to the Cabinet’s resignation over a month ago — as playing into the hands of alleged plots to undermine Hezbollah and its allies. Many of those outlets are run by Hezbollah, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. These media regularly blast protesters for closing roads and using other civil disobedience tactics, describing them as “bandits.”
For Berry, the media environment worsened as the unrest continued. On the night of Nov. 24, while she was covering clashes between protesters and Hezbollah and Amal supporters on a central road in Beirut, supporters of the Shiite groups chased her into a building. She hid there until police came and escorted her out.
“I was doing my job and will continue to do so. I have passed through worse periods and was able to overcome them,” said Berry, who added she is taking a short break from working because of what she passed through recently.
Hezbollah supporters also targeted Dima Sadek, who resigned last month as an anchorwoman at LBC TV. She blamed Hezbollah supporters for robbing her smartphone while she was filming protests, and said the harassment was followed by insulting and threatening phone calls to her mother, who suffered a stroke as a result of the stress.
“I have taken a decision (to be part of the protests) and I am following it. I have been waiting for this moment all my life and I have always been against the political, sectarian and corrupt system in Lebanon,” said Sadek, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, adding that she has been subjected to cyberbullying for the past four years.
“I know very well that this will have repercussions on my personal and professional life. I will go to the end no matter what the price is,” Sadek said shortly after taking part in a demonstration in central Beirut.
Protesters have also targeted journalists reporting with what are seen as pro-government outlets. OTV station workers briefly removed their logos from equipment while covering on the demonstrations to avoid verbal and physical abuse. The station is run by supporters of Aoun’s FPM.
“The protest movement has turned our lives upside down,” said OTV journalist Rima Hamdan, who during one of her reports slapped a man on his hand after he pointed his middle finger at her. She said the station’s logo “is our identity even though sometimes we had to remove it for our own safety.”
Television reporters with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar and Amal’s NBN channels were also attacked in a town near Beirut, when they were covering the closure of the highway linking the capital city with southern Lebanon by protesters. In a video, an NBN correspondent is seen being attacked, while troops and policemen stand nearby without intervening.
“This happens a lot in Lebanon because some media organizations are politicized. No one sees media organizations as they are but sees them as representing the political group that owns them,” said Ayman Mhanna, director of the Beirut-based media watchdog group SKeyes.
“The biggest problem regarding these violations is that there is no punishment,” Mhanna said. Authorities usually fail to act even when they identify those behind attacks on journalists, he added.
Coverage of the protests also led to several journalists resigning from one of Lebanon’s most prominent newspapers, Al-Akhbar, which is seen as close to Hezbollah, and the pan-Arab TV station Al-Mayadeen, which aligns closely with the policies of Iran, Syria and Venezuela.
Joy Slim, who quit as culture writer at Al-Akhbar after more than five years, said she did so after being “disappointed” with the daily’s coverage of the demonstrations. She released a video widely circulated on social media that ridiculed those who accuse the protesters of being American agents.
Sami Kleib, a prominent Lebanese journalist with a wide following around the Middle East, resigned from Al-Mayadeen last month. He said the reason behind his move was that he was “closer to the people than the authorities.”
“The Lebanese media is similar to politics in Lebanon where there is division between two axes: One that supports the idea of conspiracy theory, and another that fully backs the protest movement with its advantages and disadvantages,” Kleib said.