China

What is China’s CPPCC and How to Get Kicked Out of It

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 08:19
The ouster of Hong Kong lawmaker James Tien from the Chinese government’s top advisory body leaves him out of one of China's most prestigious clubs, where actors hobnob with billionaires, and everyone hopes to get close to the top politicians.
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Goldman at odds with rivals over Alibaba

FT China Feed - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 04:25
Investment bank’s research points to run up in share price as reason for neutral rating
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Party Document Lays Out Vision for Role of Law (Developing)

China Digital Times - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 02:30

On Tuesday, the Party Central Committee unveiled the fruit of its rule-of-law-themed Fourth Plenum meeting, the Decision Concerning Some Major Questions in Comprehensively Moving Governing the Country According to the Law Forward. This builds on last week’s Official Central Party Communiqué, which provided a broad overview of Party leaders’ conclusions. Both documents were swiftly translated into English by China Copyright and Media’s Rogier Creemers, with contributions on the Decision from China Law Translate’s Jeremy Daum.

The Decision continues the resurgence of Xi Jinping’s early constitutionalist rhetoric, but expresses a vision of rule by law, not of law in the Western sense. It warns that while China should “learn from beneficial experiences in rule of law abroad, […] we can absolutely not indiscriminately copy foreign rule of law concepts and models.” (See more on “nipping this trend in the bud” from China Media Project.) While conceding that “governance according to the law requires that the Party governs the country on the basis of the Constitution and the laws,” it states that “laws are important tools to rule the country,” rather than a framework within which to govern. Elsewhere, it describes the work of “perfecting legislative structures” as a matter of strengthening Party leadership. “Party leadership and Socialist rule of law,” it asserts, “are identical.”

But policies emerging from the Plenum could still rein in violations and abuses of the law by lower-level authorities. Moves to shield courts from interference by local officials, for example, are set to expand. The document also offers the prospect of some legal foundation for efforts to battle corruption, which have for the most part proceeded on a pointedly extra-legal basis.

In any case, the test of new policies will lie in their execution, not on paper, or in gestures like an oath of loyalty to the constitution or a new holiday (December 4th) in its honor. From Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee:

“We keep on talking now about ruling the country in accordance with the constitution, but I think we should not overdo this propaganda,” said Zhan Zhongle, a law professor at Peking University.

“These things are just formalities, the more important bit is the implementation. You know, China is a country that shouts slogans louder than any other country.”

[…] Since he took office in March 2013, Xi, who has a doctorate in law, has vowed to put “power within the cage of regulations” and waged a war against corruption, winning over many ordinary people. This year was the first time the party made “governing the country by law” the focus of the plenum.

[…] It is uncertain how much of an impact the plenum’s policies will have. Laws are often not enforced and can be abused by the police. Full details of the reforms will likely be unveiled in coming months. [Source]

Many observers, Wee reported last week, are pessimistic. The Brookings Institution’s Cheng Li said the scheme outlined in the Communiqué was “not a landmark […], certainly it’s not a philosophical or ideological change,” though he was reassured that it left “a lot of room for further debate.” Beijing-based scholar Zhang Lifan was more dismissive, saying “there’s nothing new there, it’s no different from 18 years ago. My hair has turned white while waiting for rule of law to be implemented.” Respected Peking University legal scholar He Weifang told The Financial Times ahead of the Plenum that he had already given up on promises of legal reform. “I have lost all hope and I just feel numb now,” he said. “In fact recently I have just been travelling around China visiting friends and getting drunk.”

Updated at 18:25 PDT on Oct 29: On his China Law Prof Blog, George Washington University’s Donald Clarke assesses the Decision’s various proposals, filing them as either positive steps forward (particularly on judicial reform), “meaningful but minor” changes, empty rhetoric (including 108 pledges to strengthen things, and 79 to perfect others), or areas of concern. He also notes some curious omissions.

The big-picture summary is that the Decision contemplates no fundamental reform in the relationship between the legal system and the Party. It is clear that institutionally speaking, the Party will remain above the law. At the same time, the Decision does contemplate some genuinely meaningful (and in my opinion positive) reforms. It also has a lot of stuff that might look meaningful but isn’t. […]

[… O]bedience of officials to law is presented throughout as a kind of internal Party policy goal: this is something that Party members should do, and officials will even be scored on it (Section 7, Subsection 3). Those who have a “special privilege” mentality will be criticized and educated, and if necessary removed from office. But because the Decision contemplates no changes in the relationship between the legal system and the Party, the system in which powerful officials can override law if they wish to remains comfortably in place. The Decision just wants them to wish to override it less often.

[…] The Decision has some welcome language on civil rights. It specifies the principle of the presumption of innocence (疑罪从无 yi zui cong wu: literally, something like “when there is doubt about the crime, err on the side of finding no crime”). It also endorses the principle of exclusion of unlawfully gathered evidence. I put both these items in the “meaningful but minor” category because I don’t want to say they’re meaningless, but at the same time we have heard this before and problems persist. [Source]

Clarke raises a particular objection to proposals to shield proceedings from outside influence by restricting media reporting. South China Morning Post’s Keira Lu Huang reports consternation among lawyers and legal scholars at similar secrecy rules under consideration by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which is reviewing draft amendments to China’s Criminal Law.

The restrictions refer to three types of cases – juveniles, personal privacy and those involving state secrets – that are “privately tried” behind closed doors.

Lawyers say they will be banned from releasing information about the cases, which could result in more miscarriages of justice.

According to a draft amendment on “obstructing judicial administration”, it would be a crime if defenders, appointed agents or other participants in a trial leak information that should not be known to the public” that which can result in mass media coverage or “other severe consequences” of trials under way.

[… B]ecause of frequent miscarriages of justice, mainland lawyers often chose to post information on social media or talk to the press to seek support from the public or pressure authorities to handle cases fairly. [Source]

Also at South China Morning Post, Andrea Chen highlights a People’s Daily article which reiterates the Decision’s claim that “Party leadership and Socialist rule of law are identical.” The two go hand in hand, quoted scholars argue, because the latter is a codified expression of the former.

“Rule of law” was listed as the theme of the party elites’ gathering last week. But scholars have been arguing the theme in China is different from the Western concept that no person, organisation or government agency, including the ruling party, is above law.

“It is wrong to say ‘rule of law’ contradicts the party rule,” the article quoted Wang Zhenmin, the dean of the Tsinghua Law School, as saying. “Law in China is the codification of the directives of the party.”

[…] The legal reform plans rolled out at the fourth plenum would further advance the party’s rule, Wang told the paper. From now on, party leaders must have their directives written in law [passed by the National People’s Congress] before they could rule the country

But the basis of all reforms in China, Xi said last night, “is to persist the ruling of the party”. [Source]

Updated at 23:50 PDT on October 29: Rogier Creemers has completed a translation of Xi Jinping’s Explanation concerning the ‘CCP Central Committee Decision concerning Some Major Questions in Comprehensively Moving Governing the Country According to the law Forward’ at China Copyright and Media. Meanwhile, the site’s translation of the Decision itself is now posted at Law Genius with annotations from Donald Clarke, who invites input from others.

Updated at 00:20 PDT on October 30: In his analysis of the Plenum documents at China Real Time, UC Berkeley’s Stanley Lubman focused on proposals to boost judicial independence by elevating local courts’ management to the provincial level and increasing transparency and accountability.

While the documents recognize the importance of independent courts, one particularly noteworthy paragraph in the communique demonstrates the determination of the party to maintain dominance over the legal system. In order to promote governing according to law, it says, the party “must forcefully raise the ideological and political quality, professional abilities and professional ethics of rule-of-law work teams.” Such teams, it says, should be loyal to the party, the country, the people and – last in the list – the law.

The notion of work teams harkens to the Mao Zedong era, when the party assembled groups of well-indoctrinated personnel with the specific aim of implementing specific party policies. Land collectivization in the 1950s and the Socialist Education Movement in 1964, among other campaigns, relied for their success on work teams, which were tasked with mobilizing lower-level officials and the masses. Aside from references to teams that have been sent to villages to quell protests over illegal land seizures, the term has rarely been used with reference to legal topics. [Source]

China Media Project’s David Bandurski noted another Maoist echo in a People’s Daily commentary on the Plenum:

A cursory reading would suggest the piece is what it seems to be — an anthem to “rule of law” (法治) that categorically rejects its evil twin, the autocratic “rule by man” (人治). In the People’s Daily Online version, a single sentence is bolded: “Nevertheless, some leading cadres are still obsessed with rule by man. In their eyes, legal process has too many limitations, and they think it’s better and more effective to deal with certain ‘defects’ by applying the flexible methods of rule by man.”

But if you think this is a simple struggle between the forces of light and dark, read more carefully.

The second paragraph of the piece praises the “Fengqiao experience” (枫桥经验), which as CMP director Qian Gang explained a year ago — when Xi Jinping surprised many by raising the specter — is a relic from one of the darkest chapters of contemporary Chinese “rule by man” under the Communist Party. [Source]

With all the rhetoric on how the legal system can serve the Party, Lubman also notes, there is little room left over for how it can directly serve the public:

It is disappointing that responsibility for initiating public interest litigation (as in such matters as product safety and environmental issues) is mentioned only in passing. The communique calls for establishing a prosecutorial system for such cases, rather than enlarging the right of classes of litigants or NGOs to sue. As Fu Hualing of Hong Kong University has noted, “There’s no room for civil society in this vision.” [Source]

Updated at 00:46 PDT on October 30: Eventual outcomes from Plenum policies on rule of law remain uncertain, but the past two weeks have seen some ill omens. Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee reported on Monday that as the Party declares a national holiday in honor of the country’s constitution, a filmmaker faces up to five years in prison after making a documentary about it:

Shen Yongping will be the first person prosecuted for documenting China’s constitutional history in a film called “100 years of constitutional governance”, his lawyer, Zhang Xuezhong, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.

[…] The film is about “the Chinese people’s pursuit of constitutionalism from the time of the Qing dynasty till the present day, and their failed experiences,” Zhang said, adding that he will argue the eight-episode documentary is not illegal.

[…] “The arrest of Shen is a signal from the government,” said Maya Wang from the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “Through these arrests, the government is making clear that the ‘rule of law’ should be understood as an instrument for the state to maintain its monopoly of power, not as a force to rein in arbitrary state power.” [Source]

Caixin’s Zhou Dongxu, meanwhile, described a sentencing rally held in Hunan three days before the Plenum began, and 26 years after the practice was banned:

The defendants, who were convicted in earlier trials, were taken to a public square for sentencing on the back of trucks that appeared to have special bars attached to keep them from fleeing. They were guarded by men in uniforms and wore placards around their necks giving their names and the crimes for which they were convicted.

A crowd of 5,000 people watched their sentencing, a local television station said. A video clip on the mass sentencing, which appeared on the local government’s website, has been removed.

[…] The events were not intended to be real court proceedings as much as events to burnish the image of local leaders, [Nankai University professor Hou Xinyi] said. “The judicial system cannot really decide many things anyway,” he said. [Source]

More analysis and background will be posted below as it appears.

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China Should Do More to Keep Peace in Middle East, Says Former US Envoy

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 01:23
A top Middle East specialist says China should work with the United States to maintain stability in the volatile region and help calm global oil markets.
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Dezan Shira Partners with Surmang for Maternal and Child Health in Qinghai

China Briefing - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 00:55

Dezan Shira & Associates has launched a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative with the Surmang Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating maternal and infant mortality in Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

The post Dezan Shira Partners with Surmang for Maternal and Child Health in Qinghai appeared first on China Briefing News.

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Fake China export invoices make comeback

FT China Feed - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 00:17
Phantom exports used to skirt country’s strict capital controls
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Picture China: Landslide Rescue, Beijing Tourism, Hong Kong Protests

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 23:27
The day's China news in pictures: Rescuers search for buried villagers after a landslide in Yunnan, tourists stroll on the Great Wall in Mutianyu, people gather to mark the one-month anniversary of Hong Kong protests and more.
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Zhou Xiaoping’s Claims Draw Fans and Critics

China Digital Times - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 22:42

For AP, Didi Tang profiles Zhou Xiaoping, the blogger lauded by President Xi Jinping who has been mocked online because of his propensity for creating facts out of thin air:

China’s stodgy state-run media often fall flat as they try to portray the West in an unflattering light, but Zhou’s approach has been more successful: His microblog has more than 500,000 followers, and party websites and newspapers have carried his articles. He deftly uses trendy online slang, including calling his readers “dear” with an abbreviated version of the Chinese phrase.

But his posts have drawn criticism from skeptics who say he distorts and misleads, raising the risk that official efforts to glorify him may backfire.

[...] Chinese propaganda officials have argued that it is important to safeguard Zhou’s free speech despite the criticism.

“Even though there are many blemishes in Zhou Xiaoping’s articles, it is a harbinger for free speech when he can speak up,” a statement posted on a government website run by the party’s central propaganda department and its central office for building and guiding spiritual civilization. “We can always analyze and debate whether the viewpoints are correct or not.” [Source]

Earlier this month, anti-academic fraud campaigner Fang Zhouzi wrote an essay critiquing Zhou’s work, and was quickly censored by propaganda authorities. Another netizen posted an annotated version of one of Zhou’s essays, pointing out all the factual errors. Zhou has also become the target of political cartoonists.

Read also about how Zhou got his nickname, “Cutlassfish Zhou” and why he is also called “bun filling.”

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China’s Jobs Picture Not As Rosy As It Looks

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 20:53
China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, has said repeatedly how happy he is with the strength in the country’s job market, despite slowing economic growth. That’s the main reason he sees little need to ease policy aggressively to spur growth, he says.
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Accounting Firms Came Out Against Protests Under Pressure from Beijing

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 20:06
Pro-Beijing entities encouraged local affiliates of the Big Four accounting firms to take out advertisements against Hong Kong’s protest movement in June, before the demonstrations got underway, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
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Photo: Big sign 傘誌, by 惠瑩 王

China Digital Times - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 16:46

Big sign 傘誌

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Yanhuang Chunqiu Fights for Editorial Independence

China Digital Times - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 16:31

The son of former party general secretary Hu Yaobang has taken over as publisher of liberal magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, which has faced a number of challenges from authorities over the past year. Minnie Chan reports for the South China Morning Post:

The appointment of Hu Deping to oversee outspoken political magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu was the publication’s first step to fend off official moves to threaten its independence, outgoing publisher Du Daozheng said yesterday.

Du, 91, said that Lu De, son of late vice-premier Lu Dingyi would be the magazine’s new deputy publisher and legal representative. Du would become an “honorary publisher”.

[...] “A consensus was finally reached: we should spare no effort to ensure our magazine survives,” Du said. “Our goal is to keep our editorial independence. We don’t want to be another political magazine like party mouthpiece Qiushi.”

Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said the magazine might try to use Hu and Lu’s princeling background and connections to gain more “political living space”.

Yanhuang Chunqiu has long had the support of retired high officials, giving it an unusual amount of independence, which editors have used to challenge the official line on historical events. In 2008, the magazine broke a propaganda taboo by publishing a favorable article about Zhao Ziyang. In response, authorities have taken steps over the years to rein in the publication. Last year, the website was shut down. Last month, the publication was required to switch its official affiliation to the Chinese National Academy of Arts, which is under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Culture, from the more independent Yan Huang Culture of China. Read more about Yanhuang Chunqiu, including a translated interview with co-founder Du Daozheng, via CDT.

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Anti-Terror, Smog Measures Ahead of APEC Summit

China Digital Times - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 15:04

As Beijing prepares to host a series of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, state media reports that municipal police have been engaged in “security inspections and preparatory work” for the past eight weeks, and that officials yesterday urged “tight security checks to prevent terrorist attacks” during the meetings. Chinese authorities are currently engaged in a nationwide “war on terror” in response to a rise in violent incidents allegedly carried out by extremists from Xinjiang, amid which eight were recently executed for involvement in an attack on Beijing last year. The South China Morning Post’s Keira Lu Huang reports on security drills in the capital city yesterday:

The drills took place simultaneously at the China National Convention Centre in northern Beijing and at Yanqi Lake, with its 65-hectare island featuring a luxury hotel and villas on the outskirts of the capital, according to the China News Agency.

State media said the operations were designed to test the police response to riots and terrorist attacks.

[...] Officers descended on the sites as the operation unfolded and SWAT teams and armed police took up their positions. Helicopters patrolled the skies and sent live pictures back to the command centre during the 35-minute exercise that was overseen by the chief of the Beijing public safety department.

Meanwhile, security was stepped up around Tiananmen Square, in the heart of the city. [...] [Source]

As enhanced security efforts are being made ahead of the APEC summit, authorities are also taking great lengths to control another threat for which Beijing is infamous: air pollution. With heavy pollution season having already exposed Beijing residents to hazardous levels of pollution for a good part of October, Wayne Ma reports on Beijing’s goal to reduce pollution by up to 40% during the APEC gathering. From the Wall Street Journal:

The official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday that Chinese authorities plan to reduce air pollution in and around Beijing by as much as 40% during next month’s meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. That includes alternate-driving days for cars with even- and odd-numbered license plates, Xinhua said, citing Chai Fahe, vice president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

This isn’t the first time Beijing has taken measures to improve the air during official visits. In August, the Beijing News reported that the city would heavily reduce the use of government vehicles for two weeks while hosting a meeting of senior officials from the APEC forum.

However, restricting car drivers to every other day is an unusual step for Beijing. It was last used to help improve air quality during the 2008 Olympics. The government hasn’t used the measure since, though officials said last year they would implement it for official use during emergencies. (Beijing still requires many drivers to take their cars off the streets one day a week based on the final digit of their license plate.) [...] [Source]

Another tactic being used to meet this goal: shut down the city, and create incentives for residents to leave town. From Bloomberg:

The municipal government announced a week-long break for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum Nov. 7-12, shutting schools, limiting cars on the roads and encouraging travel agencies to offer discount vacation packages. That comes after the week-long National Day holiday in early October.

China’s preparations for the APEC meetings go beyond cut-rate travel. Measures such as factory shutdowns are so sweeping that nationwide industrial production growth may be shaved by as much as half a percentage point in October and November, while steel output in nearby Hebei province may fall 10 percent in November.

[...] The measures are aimed at preventing smog from enveloping the city during the event, which will be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladamir Putin. On Oct. 19, pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization limits by 16 times prompted many runners to drop out of the Beijing marathon and drew new attention to China’s difficulty in cleaning its air despite promises to do so. [Source]

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Fresh Cucumbers and Soft Tofu: New Survey Chronicles Chinese Sex Habits

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 14:45
For anyone in China who has ever wondered what the their neighbors get up to between the sheets, a survey by the China Sexology Association may help clarify things.
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Afghan President Vows to Help China Fight Extremists

China Digital Times - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 12:31

Newly elected Afghan president Ashraf Ghani arrived in Beijing today, where he was welcomed by Xi Jinping as an “old friend of the Chinese people.” The meeting between Xi and Ghani comes as the U.S. and NATO begin to wind down their military presence in the war-torn country; while China has said it will not send troops into Afghanistan, Xi did pledge US$245 million in aid to help in rebuilding efforts. As Afghanistan faces a rebounding threat of Taliban insurgency, Chinese authorities have been keen to present violent unrest in China’s Xinjiang region as part of the global jihad movement. A report from Reuters cites a Chinese official’s claim that Ghani has pledged to aid China in its fight against extremism in Xinjiang, and also offered his support for disputed Chinese territorial claims:

“In the area of security, President Ghani expressed the readiness and staunch support from the Afghan side in China’s fight against East Turkistan Islamic Movement terrorist forces,” Kong Xuanyou, Director General of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department, told journalists after Ghani and Xi met.

[...] Xi has repeatedly urged Central Asian countries to step up the fight against religious militants, which the Chinese government says were behind a spate of attacks in Xinjiang and across China that have left hundreds dead in the past two years.

Experts, however, dispute the influence of foreign militant groups within China, and argue that economic marginalization of Muslim Uighurs, who call Xinjiang home, is one of the main causes of ethnic violence there.

[...] Speaking to Xi at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Ghani pressed China to open the Wakhan Pass connecting the two countries, a long-held request from Kabul which hopes to see an influx of Chinese development. China has resisted, fearing unrest will spill over into Xinjiang.

Ghani also offered unconditional support on China’s own territorial problems, citing “Taiwan, Tibet, and other issues”. [Source]

A report from Deutsche Welle notes that Beijing as been slowly increasing engagement with Afghanistan over the past two years, and quotes Afghan officials on the mutual benefits of future economic and security partnerships between the countries:

Beijing has gradually increased its engagement in Afghanistan since 2012. China’s former head of internal security, Zhou Yongkang, traveled to Kabul, with both governments agreeing, among other things, to the training of 300 Afghan police officers in China.

[...] From Kabul’s perspective, the expansion of economic relations with China and cooperation in the fight against terrorism are just two sides of the same coin. “China can play an important role to achieve peace and security in Afghanistan,” Ghani’s spokesman Fayeq Wahedi told DW.

“We see China both as a neighbor and regional power which can support Afghanistan in all areas, including the economy, trade and security.” Terrorism is now a common threat to both the countries, so it is important that the two cooperate to that end,” the spokesman added. [Source]

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China military figure admits taking bribes

FT China Feed - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 09:21
Xu Caihou is former vice-chairman of Central Military Commission
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Minitrue: Chow Yun-fat Banned from Mainland

China Digital Times - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 08:37

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

All websites must find and delete the article “Chow Yun-fat Responds to Potential Ban from Mainland: I’ll Just Make Less, Then.” (October 27, 2014)

全网查删《周润发回应或被内地封杀:那就赚少一点啰》一文。 [Chinese]

Several different articles carry the same headline on both Chinese news sites (available in Google’s cache) and overseas websites. All report that Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat is allegedly blacklisted from the mainland, along with 46 other stars who have supported the ongoing protests for free elections in the special administrative region. Chow took the reported ban in stride, saying, “I’ll just make less, then.”

Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.

 

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Beijing efficiency drive attacks mah-jong

FT China Feed - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 03:29
Officials should instead be brushing up their Communist party ideology and discipline
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30 Days Later: A Month of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests in Photos

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 03:17
It’s been a month since Hong Kong police first fired dozens of rounds of tear gas at protesters, igniting public anger and helping bring tens of thousands of people into the streets of the financial capital. As pro-democracy protests enter their second month, with major roads still barricaded and as tensions with police simmer, here’s a day-by-day visual snapshot of that month.
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Leung ‘regrets’ HK voting comments

FT China Feed - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 03:01
Territory’s top official says he was ‘misunderstood’ over his views on low-income voters
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