Walls of steel

11 December 2005

By night, the Hong Kong Exhibition and Conference centre is eerily quiet. The only sign of life are the expertly tailored heavies patrolling the perimeter. Staggeringly, the authorities have allowed Sunday's rally to march practically to the centre itself - far closer than the masses were permitted during the WTO's Seattle and Cancun ministerials (both of which ended in deadlock and, campaigners would say, a reprieve for the world's poor, thanks largely to mass mobilisations girding the loins of developing bloc negotiators inside).

After some prodding, HK police has admitted:

"The Correctional Services Department has made arrangements for the provision of penal places for detaining demonstrators after court appearance during MC6 [the WTO's sixth Ministerial Conference]. The Victoria Prison, which has a capacity of about 400 places for detaining demonstrators after court appearance, will be vacated."

It neglects to mention that the Victoria Prison was built by the British 141 years ago and named after a monarch who was crowned Empress of India and presided over the massive expansion of the East India Company, globalisation’s first big beast. How apt.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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