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Activists Worry as Landmark Gay ‘Conversion’ Case Stalls

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 17:42

Gay rights activists in China are becoming increasingly worried after a lawsuit filed against gay “conversion” clinic in Beijing has passed the deadline for a decision without further ruling from the court. Josh Chin at China Realtime reports:

The lawsuit, filed with Beijing’s Haidian District Court in May, accuses a psychiatric counseling clinic in the southwestern city of Chongqing of exceeding the bounds of its license in offering to “cure” homosexuality. Search engine Baidu, which published ads promoting the clinic, is also named in the suit as a co-defendant.

The willingness of the court to hear the case took many by surprise in a country where authorities and families alike have tended to take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to issues around homosexuality. But last week, the court exceeded the six-month window allotted for issuing judgments in civil cases in China, sparking concern that clinics might continue to promote gay conversion services without challenge.

“The delay in the ruling has a major impact on the gay community,” said the plaintiff in the lawsuit, a 30-year-old Beijing resident who goes by the pseudonym Xiao Zhen. “The clinic in the suit is still offering to cure gay people, and it’s not just them. There are lots of clinics and mental hospitals offering this kind of therapy all across the country.”

Wang Chenghong, the judge in charge of the lawsuit, said by phone that a decision would be released soon, but did not provide specifics. “When it comes out, you’ll know,” she said. Asked why the court had missed the deadline, she said the case hadn’t been delayed, then hung up. [Source]

Read more about sexuality change therapy and gay rights in China, via CDT.

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8,000 Chinese Teachers Strike for Higher Pay

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 17:26

Despite a lack of organized unions in China, 8,000 teachers in Zhaodong, Heilongjiang organized a three-day strike this week in response to unfulfilled government promises to increase wages and benefits. Christina Larson at Bloomberg Businessweek reports:

For three days in November, 8,000 schoolteachers in China’s northern Heilongjiang province refused to enter a classroom. They were on strike, demanding that the city government honor a pledge made in January to raise their salaries and benefits.

What’s remarkable about this demonstration is that there is no equivalent of the American Federation of Teachers in China; independent unions in any industry sector remain illegal. And yet, from factory workers to teachers, Chinese citizens are increasingly using the toolkit of collective action to push for fair labor practices.

[…] After delivering their open letter to City Hall, 8,000 teachers joined a strike that lasted from Nov. 17 to 19. On Nov. 20 the teachers returned to their classrooms after the local government promised to meet some of their demands, although the final wage settlement has not yet been made public. [Source]

At The Wall Street Journal, Olivia Geng and William Kazer discuss the strike’s connection with broader public sector retirement reforms:

Work stoppages are common in China’s manufacturing sector, but such labor actions are rare among teachers or other governmental workers.

Government officials could not be reached for comment. China has been trying to shift its retirement system to one that is more like the system for state and private companies where workers make larger contributions for their pension, medical care and financial support for housing purchases.

A report in the official Heilongjiang Daily reported that about 750 teachers had gathered peacefully in front of the Zhaodong government offices on Tuesday, adding that there were about 6,800 teachers in the city, which has a population of about 930,000. The newspaper said the teachers had complained of low wages and insufficient benefits but there was a “misunderstanding” over the calculation of some benefits. [Source]

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Photo: Xi’an City Wall, by yeowatzup

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 16:58

Xi’an City Wall

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China to End Millennia-old Monopoly on Salt

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 16:49

This week, China announced a decision to begin liberalizing a millennia-old state monopoly on the sale of table salt. At Quartz, Gwynn Guildford reports on the history and current state of China’s salt industry:

At the moment, China National Salt Industry Corporation is the only entity allowed to sell table salt in China. And it’s a big business. China produces more of it than any other country, and, if you count the demand from the chemical industry, uses a quarter of all the salt consumed on the planet, reports the China Daily.

[…] Government control over salt began in the independent state of Qi—in what’s now Shandong—during the Spring and Autumn period (722 and 479 BC), roughly around the same time that Confucius lived. In 119 BC, the Han emperor instituted it nationally. The fortunes of Chinese empires have sometimes depended on the control of salt supplies. While often a critical source of government revenue, salt was so valuable that it enabled the rise of two smugglers who eventually overthrew the Tang and the Yuan dynasties (link in Chinese). [Source]

At the New York Times, Austin Ramzy reports that efforts to reform the industry have long faced opposition from the state-owned China National Salt Industry Corporation and from consumers with food safety concerns:

[…] China’s economic planners have tried for years to eliminate the monopoly, but faced opposition from the China National Salt Industry Corporation, the state-owned agency that controls salt distribution, and from consumers concerned about prices and food safety.

[…] Consumers have long complained about efforts to end the salt monopoly. When a proposal was put forward to eliminate the system in 2009, the central government backed down in the face of online opinion surveys that showed a majority of respondents wanted the government controls to remain in place, the China scholar James Reilly wrote in his 2011 book “Strong Society, Smart State.” Those concerns have revived again, as online comments have raised concerns about the inclusion of toxic industrial salts being mixed with edible salt, the magazine Foreign Policy has noted.

Some scholars have argued that the state monopoly system actually contributed to the phenomenon of tainted salt, and that overhauling the system while enforcing food quality laws should help improve safety. In a 2010 paper, Sun Jin, Fan Zhou and Qin Li of Wuhan University noted that the monopoly meant that the price consumers paid for salt was three to four times higher than the price the China National Salt Industry Corporation paid for salt from authorized producers. [Source]

At Foreign Policy, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian rounds up netizen comments reflecting lingering food safety concerns following the announcement:

[…] “There will soon be frequent cases of industrial salt” — far cheaper than table salt — “being mixed with edible salt,” went one popular comment on Weibo, China’s huge, Twitter-like microblogging platform. Another user wrote, “Soon the media will be putting out articles called ‘How to tell industrial salt from table salt.'” The topic seemed to resonate; “salt monopoly abolished” became a top-trending hashtag on Weibo, and one related post on CCTV’s official Weibo account quickly garnered over 1,300 comments. One user commented cynically, “I’ve eaten all kinds of fake products; now I will finally have the opportunity to eat fake salt!” [Source]

Read more about China’s economic reform via CDT.

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Death Sentences Examined in Retrials—One Posthumous

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 16:29

Xinhua reports the retrial in Inner Mongolia of a man executed nearly twenty years ago:

The presiding judge with Inner Mongolia Higher People’s Court, Bobatu, issued a retrial notice to the parents of Huugjilt, found guilty of the rape and murder of a woman in a public toilet in the regional capital Hohhot on April 9, 1996.

Huugjilt, 18 at the time, was sentenced to death by Hohhot Intermediate People’s Court in May 1996. His appeal was rejected, the death penalty was approved by the region’s higher court and Huugjilt was executed on June 10,1996.

After his execution, another alleged serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the murder when he was arrested in 2005. Zhao allegedly raped and killed 10 women and girls between 1996 and 2005. He stood trial in late 2006 and no verdict has yet been issued.

President of the higher court, Hu Yifeng, said earlier this month that should there be any errors in the previous ruling, they must be addressed. [Source]

Huugjilt reportedly confessed to police, but later maintained his innocence, suggesting that his initial statement may have been coerced. The problem of forced confessions was recently addressed by China’s top prosecutor following a string of high-profile acquittals, and exclusion of illegally obtained evidence is one focus of the mandatory death sentence reviews conducted since 2007 by the Supreme People’s Court. The Dui Hua Foundation described the review process in detail this week:

Sometimes, review of the case files uncovers very basic errors that could have an impact either on conviction or sentencing. In many instances, additional details or investigation will be required, and sometimes the SPC judge handling the case will have to go personally to the provinces to conduct investigations. According to one SPC official, additional investigation was required in 39 percent of the cases sent to the SPC for review in 2013.

[…] As they review death penalty cases, judges pay particular attention to issues of evidence and penal policy. In recent years, the SPC has introduced and refined measures for excluding evidence that has been obtained illegally, and the court’s stricter line on evidence is one of the reasons why China’s highest court rejects roughly 10 percent of death penalty cases each year.

The impact of penal policy is much more fluid and hard to predict. Over time, the court has settled on a number of general principles designed to reduce use of the death penalty. For example, in cases involving the death of a single victim the death penalty is typically waived if the defendant surrenders or if the case involves a dispute among family members or neighbors. But putting these more lenient policies into effect often requires overcoming resistance from a victim’s family members. […]

[…] As the Supreme People’s Court Monitor blog recently pointed out, one potentially groundbreaking reform being considered would ensure that all defendants in death penalty cases are represented by a lawyer during the death penalty review process. […] Ensuring that all defendants in cases involving capital punishment have legal representation throughout the criminal process, regardless of economic means, would be another important step toward strengthening rights protections in the criminal process in China. [Source]

Regarding the issue of victims’ families, Dui Hua cites the case of Li Yan, who killed her abusive husband Tan Yong in 2010. Amnesty International reported last year that “Tan inflicted frequent beatings on his wife. He cut off one of her fingers, stubbed cigarettes out on her face and during the freezing Sichuan winters locked her outside on the balcony of their apartment for several hours with little clothing.” The Supreme People’s Court later overturned Li’s death sentence and ordered a retrial, which took place in Sichuan this week. From Didi Kirsten Tatlow at The New York Times:

The Tans — a large family from nearby Anyue County where Ms. Li, a former silk factory worker, and Mr. Tan, a former driver, ran a noodle stall — wanted Ms. Li dead. “A life for a life” read the banners held by the relatives and supporters of the family outside the courtroom.

[…] Periodically, the Tans howled insults at Ms. Li’s two female defense lawyers: “You should be raped 500 times!” No one was thrown out for contempt of court. Ms. Li’s relatives sat quietly in a far corner at the back.

Everyone in China wants a better legal system, and the government has promised to provide it. But after decades of corruption, abuse of due process and politically motivated trials, respect for the law — for all authority, in fact — runs low. Pressure from a mob can swing decisions, with the authorities fearing social stability “incidents” that will reflect badly on them with their superiors.

The next day, in Chengdu, Wan Miaoyan, one of Ms. Li’s lawyers, said, smiling wryly: “You see from this the difficulties that China faces.” [Source]

A new verdict and sentence will be announced “at an unspecified time.” China recently announced likely reductions in the scope of the death penalty, but it seems set to remain in place for corruption and violent crimes. The country remains by far the world’s most prolific practitioner of capital punishment despite an estimated 80% drop in executions since 2002.

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Urumqi Court Rejects Ilham Tohti Appeal

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 15:50

On Friday, an Urumqi court upheld the separatism conviction for Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti. Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment in September. AP reports:

The Xinjiang high court […] rejected the scholar’s appeal against the conviction, and the verdict was delivered on Friday at a hearing held inside the Urumqi detention centre, in violation of normal judicial procedure, his two lawyers said. The hearing was set at short notice on a date in which both lawyers were unable to attend, Liu Xiayuan and Li Fangping said.

[…] Ilham Tohti has long been a critic of what he calls the systematic exclusion of Uighurs from the economic benefits brought to Xinjiang by migrants from China’s Han majority, and has sought to prevent the Turkic Uighur language and culture from being marginalised.

His sentence was the most severe in a decade handed down in China for illegal political speech and reflects the ruling Communist party’s unwillingness to tolerate free speech and criticism. The verdict drew condemnation from the US and the European Union. [Source]

This comes as Chinese authorities are engaged in an “unprecedented war on terror” in Xinjiang, where an escalation of violence has been blamed on separatists and religious extremists. Widely regarded as a moderate advocate for Uyghurs, Ilham Tohti has long opposed Xinjiang independence. Writer Wang Lixiong had earlier predicted that authorities may be aimed at clearing out the ideological middle ground: “The only conclusion is dark: it’s that they don’t want moderate Uighurs. Because if you have moderate Uighurs, then why aren’t you talking to them? So they wanted to get rid of him and then you can say to the West that there are no moderates and we’re fighting terrorists.” Following the verdict’s announcement in September, Wang commented on Twitter that China had created a Uyghur Nelson Mandela.

Yesterday, it was reported that jailed rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, already facing trial for “causing a disturbance” and “illegally obtaining personal information,” may be looking at the harsher charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “separatism” for a microblog post he made criticizing China’s Xinjiang policy.

For more on Ilham Tohti, see prior CDT coverage.

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On Trial for Leaking State Secrets, Gao Yu Affirms Innocence

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 14:59

Detained in April on accusations of leaking state secrets, veteran journalist Gao Yu stood trial in Beijing on Friday. Her charges are believed to stem from allegations that she leaked “Document No. 9,” an internal Party communique aimed at reinforcing ideological orthodoxy, to overseas Chinese-language magazine Mirror Monthly. The 70-year-old journalist earlier this week proclaimed her innocence, announcing that a confession aired by CCTV [Chinese] in May was extracted under duress and should be dismissed as evidence against her. The New York Times’ Didi Kirsten Tatlow reports on the four-hour closed-door trial, noting issues with allegations that Gao was responsible for exposing Document No. 9:

“She said she was innocent,” [rights lawyer] Mr. Mo [Shaoping] said in a telephone interview shortly after the trial ended. “And I said that her guilt could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.” He added that Ms. Gao had called on the judicial authorities to implement the spirit of legal reform that has been promised by China’s leaders and judge her fairly.

[…] “We can’t be sure if Document No. 9 is an excuse or a reason for her arrest,” Chang Ping, a Chinese journalist who lives in Germany, said in a telephone interview about Ms. Gao’s trial.

“But the articles she wrote all touched on the internal politics of the Communist Party,” and lately, “on Xi Jinping,” he said. Ms. Gao was published widely on Deutsche Welle, the German international state broadcaster, among other media outlets.

[…] By the time she was detained, the contents of the document had already been circulating on the Internet in Chinese for months, Mr. Chang said, with versions appearing since June 2013.

[…] Ms. Gao had nothing to do with the Mirror Monthly story, said Ho Pin, chief executive of the Mirror Media Group, which owns the magazine. He said he provided a declaration to her lawyer last month to that effect. The magazine often publishes internal material from China. […] [Source]

No verdict has yet been delivered. The maximum sentencing for leaking state secrets in China is life imprisonment. Coverage from the BBC notes that Gao’s conviction is “all but certain,” outlines her previous jail sentence for similar charges, and puts this case in the context of a greater government crackdown on dissent:

Ms Gao is used to fighting with the Chinese authorities. She served more than five years in jail in the 1990s on similar charges of stealing state secrets.

She had been convicted of sending Party documents, including a speech by then-President Jiang Zemin, to a Hong Kong newspaper.

[…] “Her trial epitomises the broader deteriorating rights environment, and it brings together several strands in the current crackdown on human rights in China,” explains Maya Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong.

“Gao is being tried for leaking state secrets abroad at a time when the government is increasingly worried about foreign interferences in the form of colour revolutions, and when it is increasing control over already limited freedom of expression.” [Source]

As part of the broad crackdown on dissent, Beijing has been aggressively targeting human rights activists and civil society organizations, while simultaneously bolstering the means to control online speech and encouraging ideological orthodoxy in both the Party and society at large. Yesterday it was reported that rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who had been arrested in June on charges of “causing a disturbance” and “illegally obtaining personal information,” may be facing the additional charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “separatism” for a microblog post criticizing Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang. As Gao was standing trial on Friday, moderate Uyghur advocate Ilham Tohti’s life sentence was being upheld by an Urumqi court.

Also see a Global Times op-ed castigating foreign media and rights groups for “hyping Gao’s case.”

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Minitrue: Harmonious Horoscopes for First Couple

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 13:27

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 portals, please take note to check your horoscope channels and self-media accounts, and to rewrite or delete content about “the incompatibility of Gemini and Scorpio.” There cannot be any negative fortunes for Scorpios born on the week of November 20. (November 20, 2014)

各门户注意,请自查旗下星座频道及自媒体账号,将“双子和天蝎不搭”类内容一律改写或删除。11月20日出生的天蝎本周不得有负面运势。 [Chinese]

Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, was born on November 20, 1962. She is a Scorpio, while Xi’s June 15 birthday makes him a Gemini.

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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Minitrue: Murder at Beidaihe Sanitorium

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 12:16

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.

Do not hype the murder case at a Beidaihe military region sanatorium. Do not put the story in the top news section of the homepage. Take note to guide related commentary. (November 20, 2014)

北戴河部队疗养院凶杀案不要炒作,不上首页头条区,注意对相关评论的导向。 [Chinese]

Six nurses and an administrator were stabbed at a medical facility in Beidaihe, the seaside resort town where top officials summer. A seventh nurse was seriously injured. The Beijing News reports that Li Xiaolong, a 27-year-old man who works at the facility, has been identified as a suspect. Li says he has a history of mental illness.

There have been a spate of attacks on medical staff in China by frustrated patients. Hundreds protested at a Zhejiang hospital in October 2013 after a patient stabbed three doctors.

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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Photo: Mt. He Huan Panorama, by Jimmy Kao

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 03:11

Mt. He Huan Panorama

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Why “Taiwan’s Mid-terms” are Worth Watching

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 03:02

At the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Blog, Michael Thim offers three reasons to follow Taiwan’s “mid-term” elections on November 29th:

Firstly, it is for the first time that altogether 9 different elections will be combined on single voting day. Over 11,000 seats are up for election, [from 6 mayors of Special Municipalities like Taipei to 7,851 borough and village wardens.]

[…] Secondly, the marquee campaign for Taipei City mayor is extraordinarily interesting. The KMT does not have an incumbent candidate, but Sean Lien, son of KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan, should have been enough strong enough to win this traditional KMT stronghold. But this time round the KMT candidate is not running against the usual opponent from the DPP but a well-known National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je standing as an independent. An unusual “anyone but the KMT” alliance of the DPP, Taiwan Solidarity Union and People First Party (the latter traditionally part of KMT-dominated blue camp) have expressed support for Ko, who has managed to preserve his image as independent candidate.

[…] Thirdly, the 9-in-1 elections are the first ballots following the turbulent events of the Sunflower Movement [CDT coverage] (and similar student protests in Hong Kong [CDT coverage]). They give voters their first opportunity to express their opinion other than to responding to pollsters’ questions. Like elsewhere, mid-term elections present an opportunity to express displeasure with the government by giving the ruling party a hard time, even if it is at the local level. Will the immensely unpopular administration of President Ma Ying-jeou sink the KMT’s election prospects? [Source]

Also at the CPI Blog, Wen-Ti Sung took a closer look at the Lien-Ko race:

Campaign messages in Taiwan seem to follow a consistent three-act sequence: brand building, negative campaigning, and finally positive reinforcement. […]

[…] Once the personal branding is done, in the later phases of the campaign negative tactics begin to emerge as a way to influence electoral turnout for the other camp. For example, Lien and his pundits criticized Ko’s character and ideology. Specifically, they questioned Ko’s integrity and his hospital unit’s financial records, as well as hinting that Ko is either a closet independence ideologue himself or a puppet of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In any case, Ko’s election would allegedly spell a certain doom for the Republic of China (ROC) polity.

[…] After the televised debate between Lien and Ko, this week the campaign finally entered Act 3, the “get-out-the-vote positive reinforcement ads” phase. Lien posted his presumably final campaign ad. Titled “One World” (同一種世界), it is a 2 minute-long music video featuring young breakdancers busting their moves to an upbeat tune. Towards the end a caption appears to defend Lien’s privileged upbringing: “Dancing is about technique and focus — one’s ‘background’ has nothing to do with it!” [Source]

With so many seats contested at local levels, Chris Fuchs reported at Tea Leaf Nation, Chinese authorities have set out to court local and township officials in the hope of winning over voters and deepening long-term cross-strait ties:

Beijing appears to have already taken steps to cozy up to Taiwan’s locally elected officials. As early as April 2012, China had already begun making plans to arrange for “contact people” from Taiwan’s various city and county governments to visit China to attend workshops for which they received mainland government subsidies, according to a July 4 column in theApple Daily, a popular newspaper critical of China that is published in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Citing unnamed intelligence sources, the article asserted that Ye Kedong, the deputy director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), remarked in 2012 that while “in the past, exchanges between Taiwan and the mainland occurred between big cities or high-ranking political and business leaders, now, exchanges with local village and township officials have become the important trend.” At least 75 villages and townships in Taiwan, the article said, have received direct or indirect subsidies from Beijing.

[…] Such a strategy may pay dividends for China. By gaining its footing on the first rung of Taiwan’s political ladder, Beijing can make China “seem friendlier and less scary to lower-level officials” while “helping to undercut the ‘fear of China’ narrative,” deLisle explained. He added that early cultivation of relationships with future leaders, many of them KMT party members who are more sympathetic to Beijing’s interests, could benefit rapprochement between China and Taiwan. [Source]

The Economist reported on the elections’ more immediate implications:

With presidential elections due in January 2016, the polls will be closely watched. A bad showing for the KMT would be a good presidential omen for the island’s main opposition group, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which lost the presidency to Mr Ma six years ago. By then Mr Ma will have served two terms in office, so he will be constitutionally obliged to step down.

[…] Being local elections, this month’s votes are more about housing and city infrastructure than relations with China. But they still hold implications for cross-strait relations. Although the DPP is more accommodating towards China than it was before Mr Ma took office, if it gains a boost, China will look askance at it. [Source]

On Twitter, CPI Blog editor Jonathan Sullivan gave some reading recommendations ahead of the elections:

Which book is the best quick study in Taiwanese politics? This one: http://t.co/emdMiCdDoY

— Jonathan Sullivan (@jonlsullivan) November 18, 2014

Taiwan 9-in-1 elections Nov 29. Tweeps to follow in run-up: @austinramzy @JMichaelCole1 @michaelturton @TimMaddog @TaiwanCorner @ehundman

— Jonathan Sullivan (@jonlsullivan) November 18, 2014

More Taiwan tweeps with elections coming up: @GDRaber @JinDefang @RichardBushIII @DrWinnieKing @HelloKetty1998 @timothysrich @McNeilScott

— Jonathan Sullivan (@jonlsullivan) November 18, 2014

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Ha Jin’s “A Map of Betrayal”

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 22:59

Ha Jin’s new novel, “A Map of Betrayal”, tells the story of a Chinese spy living in America. Ron Charles reviews it for The Washington Post:

Ha Jin’s new novel, “A Map of Betrayal,” looks toward China. The action, as might be expected from this famously modulated writer, is more Walter Mitty than Walter Raleigh. Jin’s anti-hero is Gary Shang, “the biggest Chinese spy ever caught in North America.” If that superlative conjures up an underwear model flying a helicopter through the Lincoln Tunnel and dispatching enemies with toxic lip balm, you need to calm down right now. “A Map of Betrayal” is the perfect thriller for the reader with a heart condition. Gary is a torpid man who works as a translator for the CIA in the Washington area. He’s neither shaken nor stirred.

This tale of betrayals and disappointments is a natural one for Ha Jin to publish. As a teenager, he served in the People’s Liberation Army and survived the Cultural Revolution. But he watched the Tiananmen Square massacre from Brandeis University, where he was finishing a dissertation on American literature. Disillusioned by his country, he never returned. “To preserve the integrity of my work,” he said several years ago, “I had no choice but to write in English.” That has proved a spectacularly successful choice. He’s since won a National Book Award and two PEN/Faulkner awards.

See also reviews from The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and NPR.

In 2009, Sarah Fay at Paris Review published a lengthy interview with Ha Jin, who says his writing career began with the June 4th, 1989 military crackdown on protesters in Beijing. Jin discusses his early years in America, launching his career as a writer, and his complicated relationship with his home country:

INTERVIEWER

How long was it before you returned?

JIN

I haven’t returned.

INTERVIEWER

Never?

JIN

Never to mainland China. I’ve only been to Taiwan and Hong Kong. In the beginning, I was very eager to go back to see friends and family. I tried so hard. But for seven years I couldn’t get my passport renewed. I couldn’t travel outside of the States. Then I became a citizen, and I got jaded. Imagine your books are banned—you can go back but your books are not allowed. I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting those terms.

INTERVIEWER

Why are your books banned?

JIN

I write about taboo subjects: Tibet, the Korean War, the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square incident. After the Tiananmen massacre I became very outspoken. The Crazed, A Free Life, War Trash—these books offend the authorities in China. I’ve never intended my writing to be political, but my characters exist in the fabric of politics. That is to say, it is impossible to avoid politics, especially in China. And of course, the Chinese authorities are afraid of truthful stories told from an individual’s point of view.

It’s also because I am a misfit. I’m too outspoken. I write in English, which is viewed as a betrayal of my mother tongue. I came to America. I don’t serve the party’s cause. To them, I’m a very negative example.

Ha Jin’s other books include “A Free Life,” “Waiting,” and “War Trash.” Read more about Ha Jin via CDT.

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Attorney Says Pu Zhiqiang Could Face Harsher Charges

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 15:54

Human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, detained in May after attending a gathering to mark the 25th anniversary of the June 4th 1989 crackdown and formally arrested in June on suspicion of causing disturbance and illegally obtaining personal information, may be facing additional charges that could yield up to a ten year prison sentence. Reuters’ Megha Rajagopalan and Sui-lee Wee report:

Prosecutors are considering adding charges of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination and separatism, a more serious crime, said Pu’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping. He said he was less certain of the more serious separatism charge.

“That charge (of separatism) is extremely unusual,” Mo said.

Mo said the charge of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination stem from a blog post Pu wrote about a violent attack in the southwestern city of Kunming that killed 29 people in March. China blamed the attack on Islamist militants, sometimes referred to as East Turkestan separatists, who it says seek to split the country by seeking an independent state in the country’s far west region of Xinjiang.

“You (the party) just give me one line – extremely heavy casualties with too brutal consequences – but to say you bear no responsibility for Xinjiang separatists’ cruelty, I am not satisfied with that,” Pu wrote in his March 2 microblog post.

Inciting ethnic hatred or discrimination carries a prison sentence of up to three to ten years in serious cases.

Authorities have transferred Pu’s case to prosecutors who now have to decide how to proceed. […] [Source]

Rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang could be imprisoned 10 years for writing these 4 lines criticizing govt policy in Xinjiang pic.twitter.com/aS4b8SQBAK

— Megha Rajagopalan (@meghara) November 20, 2014

As part of a broad crackdown on civil society, Beijing has been aggressively targeting human rights lawyers and activists. Several prominent international human rights groups penned a joint letter to Barack Obama ahead of his recent trip to China, urging him to publicly press China on its human rights record.

In response to a rise in violence in Xinjiang and greater China carried out by members of the Uighur ethnic minority, a “people’s war against terrorism” is being carried out in the region. Some point to increasingly oppressive policies in the region as a major source of unrest.

Read more on Pu Zhiqiang’s case, via CDT.

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Badiucao (巴丢草): World Internet Conference

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 13:26

China plays host to the World Internet Conference this week in Wuzhen; while offering unfettered Internet access to conference participants, authorities have also imposed further limits on what foreign websites the rest of the population can access. For his latest contribution to CDT, Badiucao imagines a poster for the conference, in which the Internet is represented by the Twitter bird. On the sidelines, a row of slingshots emblazoned with the Communist Party flag are aimed at taking it down.

World Internet Conference, by Badiucao for CDT:

Read also a CDT Q&A with Badiucao in which he discusses his artistic and personal influences. All Badiucao cartoons for CDT are available here. See also exclusive CDT t-shirts with a Badiucao design, for sale on our Zazzle store.

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Feng Zhenghu: The Narita Airport Diary (4)

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 13:19

After being denied re-entry to China eight times, Feng Zhenghu lived in Tokyo’s Narita Airport for 92 days in 2009-2010. Now Feng is telling the story of his airport odyssey on his blog, and CDT is translating his account. This is the fourth installment. Read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

November 6

In three days, I had only eaten three onigiri, and now they were all gone. My younger sister, who lives in Japan, tried to send food, but it was refused at customs.

In the morning, I went to the person in charge of the Narita Airport immigration bureau, Mr. Suzuki. Appealing to his humanity, I asked to have an immigration staff member take me to buy a few onigiri. He refused. He went on that I need only enter Japan and I could buy whatever I liked in the terminal. His reasoning was imperious: there were no regulations allowing them to take me across the border to buy food. Japan is a country where the lower always obeys the higher. If high-level officials prohibited me from being taken to buy food, then no one would show me pity.

It was clear to me that the Japanese bureaucrats were not at all sympathetic. They were not just indifferent, but even a bit cruel. Perhaps being a friendly country was merely Prime Minister Hatoyama’s ideal. If you bureaucrats have a bit of a sense of sympathy and friendship, then please don’t hurt me any more when I’m in these dire straits. I would pay myself. Surely it isn’t against Japanese law for an immigration staff member to take me to buy a bite to eat? The Japanese government shouldn’t speak emptily of friendship. It ought to have at least a little bit of sympathy.

If these things happened in China, no one would treat a foreigner like this. While Chinese people tear each other apart, they are always polite to foreigners. At the very least they wouldn’t play these kinds of games with a foreigner in difficult circumstances. A discordant country that deceives foreigners—this is China’s destiny.

China is ever stronger, and the government has money and power. Officials use their power to bully people, but the people don’t have freedom or human rights. Even the right to go home can be suddenly taken away. Who would dare to offend such a country if it is heavy-fisted, and who would respect such a country if it is weak? Japan can’t defend a Chinese person’s human right to offend the Chinese government, and the newly elected Democratic administration, heeding the signal of the United States, needed China’s strength. Perhaps the humane act of a functionary taking me to buy food would displease Chinese officials.

Japan is a democratic country with the rule of law, and respects the universal value of human rights. The Chinese police ignored my wishes and savagely kidnapped me to Japan’s doorstep, while the Japanese police wouldn’t dare to drag me into their country without legal grounds. So it goes without saying that the Japanese government could only starve me into “voluntarily” crossing the border into Japan. Japanese officials look down on us Chinese. So many Chinese people are illegally detained or steal over the border to Japan. So many dissidents China has barred from returning home merely say a few words in protest, then obediently become political refugees in the democratic nations of the Europe or the U.S. Who would be unwilling to stay in a democratic country, and instead fight to return home and be tormented? Perhaps, they had concluded, I was just another annoying Chinese putting on a show.

“If you enter Japan, they have all kinds of food that you can buy for yourself.” This one gentle sentence from the Japanese official had in fact humiliated me: just go through the doggy door, and the outside world is all yours. In the airport in Japan, I wasn’t only protesting the Chinese government’s infringement on my human rights. I was a Chinese person, representing China’s image. I would give my life for my country. I would uphold the dignity of the Chinese people. I would let the world see a staunch, optimistic Chinese person defy brutal oppression.

Today I didn’t eat anything. I drank some cold water, moved little, and sat quietly with my eyes closed to save my energy. I had been in prison and refused food before. I would make my body endure a little bit longer. [Chinese]

Translation by Anne Henochowicz.

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Minitrue: Don’t Make HK Umbrellas, Yellow Ribbons

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:03

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.

Mainland manufacturers must not produce Hong Kong umbrellas, yellow ribbons, or items related to Lion Rock—including postcards, T-shirts, rain gear, and all other related patterns or goods. (November 14, 2014)

内地厂商不许制作任何与香港雨伞、黄丝带、狮子山等有关的东西,包括明信片、T恤、雨具等一切相关图案和产品。[Chinese]

In September, protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas, garnering Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement the nickname “Umbrella Movement.” Umbrellas have become the primary icon of the ongoing protests. Many of the protesters and those offering solidarity across the globe have also been wearing yellow ribbons over the duration of the pro-demcracy protests. Another lasting symbol of the movement has been the large “I want real universal suffrage” banner that protesters hung from Lion Rock late last month.

Hours after bailiffs cleared camps at the Admiralty protest site earlier this week, a small group of protesters, frustrated with the lack of results civil disobedience has so far won their cause, attacked the Legislative Council office buildings.

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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Minitrue: Reporting on the Xu Caihou Case

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:03

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.

Without exception, adopt a unified approach with authoritative media in reporting on the case of former [Central] Military Commission [General] Xu Caihou. All websites in all locales must strictly inspect coverage of this case. If problems arise, responsibility will be traced. (November 19, 2014)

原军委徐才厚案,一律以权威媒体统一口径报道。各地各网站需严格检查有关此案的相关报道,如出现问题将会严肃追责。 [Chinese]

Days after military prosecutors announced that Xu Caihou had confessed to bribery, Hong Kong’s Phoenix Weekly reports that one ton of cash was discovered in the basement of Xu’s Beijing home. From Reuters:

In March, prosecutors searched Xu’s luxury home in Beijing and discovered stashed in the basement “more than a tonne” of US dollars, euros and Chinese yuan, reported Phoenix Weekly.

Xu had also stored countless precious gems and hundreds of kilograms of expensive jade, as well as rare antiques, the magazine said, citing a person with knowledge of the matter who is close to high levels of the military.

“Case handlers had no option but to call more than 10 military trucks before all the confiscated property piled up like mountains from this former Central Military Commission vice chairman’s house could be taken away,” the magazine said.

The report, which was carried by several mainland China news outlets, added that Xu was forced to “bow his head and admit defeat” when confronted with a list of the items. [Source]

The revelations are being deleted from Chinese news sites, as broken links from a Baidu search [Chinese] show.

Xu Caihou become the subject of a graft investigation in June, and has been expelled from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and stripped of his former titles.

Last week, RMB 120 million ($19.6 million) in cash and 82 pounds of gold were found in the home of a Hebei cadre.

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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CCTV Losing Ground Amid Changing Media Landscape

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 18:15

The Wall Street Journal reports that state television broadcaster CCTV, which has long dominated audience share in China, is losing advertisers, talent, and viewers to new media outlets and local satellite broadcasters as China’s media landscape changes. Lilian Lin and Laurie Burkitt report:

CCTV representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment. It has cited efforts to branch out online, including offering its own apps and online video. It is also increasingly cooperating with China’s regional satellite broadcasters, which are also government-controlled but have been more adventurous in their programming.

At stake is the broadcaster’s decadeslong status as China’s top information source. Experts say CCTV must ramp up innovation and overhaul its programming to keep up with both online and regional rivals to follow the country’s rapidly changing media landscape.

[…] CCTV doesn’t disclose national ratings figures. But CCTV’s ratings for this year’s Spring Festival Gala fell to below 10% of the viewing public for the first time, according to local media reports. A person involved in its production said the figure was credible.

Its channels attracted 9.1% of television ad spending last year, down from 9.7% in 2011, according to research firm CSM, while the share that went to provincial satellite channels rose to 26% from 21%. […] [Source]

Reuters reports that another unimpressive CCTV ad auction—and the broadcaster’s decision to again withhold many of the results—could be indicative of both its declining popularity and the overall economic slowdown in China:

China’s bellwether TV ad auction was hit by the country’s slowing economy and rising competition from online entertainment, but showed modest recovery from last year – at least for its cornerstone evening news program.

[…] CCTV’s annual ad auction, which sells advertising slots for the upcoming year, is considered a barometer for China’s economy.

[…] Comparisons with earlier years are difficult, since CCTV hasn’t publicly disclosed many of this year’s results, including who secured the exclusive online naming rights for the network’s Spring Festival Gala. Tuesday’s auction clocked in at 6 hours, about half the length of previous years.

CCTV is battling shrinking income as its viewers and advertisers migrate to online and mobile platforms. The state broadcaster’s advertising revenue dropped 10 percent in the first nine months of this year, compared with 2013, according to CTR Market Research. [Source]

CCTV is also feeling heat from the Xi administration’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. In July it was reported that eight CCTV financial news staff members—including celebrity anchor Rui Chenggang, station director Guo Zhenxi, and vice director Li Yong—had been detained over corruption allegations.

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24,000 Suspects Detained in Nationwide Drug Crackdown

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 15:13

For The Telegraph, Malcolm Moore reports that 24,000 suspects—some of them high-profile celebrities—have been detained and over 100,000 more investigated in the past 50 days as part of a nationwide anti-drug campaign:

The son of Jackie Chan, the kung fu actor, was one of the detainees as police made examples of several actors and models. The authorities also raided one bar in Beijing popular among foreigners and deported those who failed urine tests.

Liu Yuejin, the director of the Narcotics Control Bureau, said the flow of methamphetamine was proving particularly hard to control. He suggested there could be 13 million Chinese addicts, more than four times the official tally.

[…] Last year nearly 170,000 suspects were detained for drug-related offences. This year’s campaign also shows a marked rise in confiscations from previous anti-drug efforts. A 50-day campaign in 2004 only netted around five tons of drugs, compared the 12 tons seized by authorities this year. [Source]

The South China Morning Post’s James Griffiths has more from senior narcotics control officials on the threat that synthetic drugs—particularly methamphetamine—pose on Chinese society:

Liu Yuejin, director of the Narcotics Control Bureau under the ministry, said: “China is facing a grim task in curbing synthetic drugs”, particularly methamphetamine.

[…] Liu claimed that the annual economic loss caused by drug abuse could be as much as 500 billion yuan (HK$631 billion).

[…] “Compared with traditional drugs, such as heroin and opium, methamphetamine can easily lead to mental problems. Addicts will be prone to extreme and violent behaviour, including murder and kidnapping” [said Liu].

[…] Another top drug official, Song Zengliang, blamed the influx of methamphetamine from Southeast Asian countries on a rise in violent crime. [Source]

A separate report from the South China Morning Post notes that the southern port province of Guangdong is the main target of the ongoing drug crackdown. Hu Huifeng and Mimi Lau report:

The southern province is the mainland’s biggest market for illicit drugs and has developed a clan-based industry for the manufacture of synthetic narcotics, especially Ice, or methamphetamine, some experts say.

It also has the biggest population of addicts, with about 457,000 people on a register of suspected users, according to the provincial public security department.

The total has been growing by about 40,000 people a year since 2009, the China News Service reported.

[…] Peng Peng , a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said that unlike traditional drugs such as heroin and opium, most of which were imported, production of Ice had developed into a local industry.

He said the industry was protected by local officials and drugs made in Guangdong were sold across the province and country.

“One or two campaigns will not be able to eliminate an industry in which so many local people make a living,” Peng said. [Source]

For more on illegal drugs in China, see prior CDT coverage.

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Temporary Crack Opens in the Great Firewall

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 14:57

The World Internet Conference (WIC) is taking place this week in Wuzhen, a small canal town in eastern China. Participants, who include world Internet giants such as Apple and Facebook, have been treated to free and open Internet access at the conference location. Edmond Lococo reports on this temporary and limited loosening of the grip on the Great Firewall for Bloomberg:

[…] This temporary opening of the gates doesn’t mean China is having second thoughts about Web censorship. Not in the least. China often lifts its controls on the Web for attendees of high-profile international forums, as it did for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing earlier this month. The Internet service in the media center at APEC allowed access to nationally banned sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

[…] China is hosting the summit in Wuzhen to “give a panoramic view for the first time of the concept of the development of China’s Internet and its achievements,” according to Lu Wei, the minister of the country’s new Cyberspace Administration, the regulator that’s staging the event. [Source]

The WIC in Wuzhen was controversial before it started. Unsurprisingly, openness was left out of the official rhetoric, which focused instead on China’s unique management of the Internet. As James T. Areddy reports for the Wall Street Journal:

[…] In a sign of its confidence in the Great Firewall, when China celebrated its 20th year online in April, Xinhua News Agency declared that “behind China’s Internet boom is Beijing’s unique way of management.”

China has positioned the conference as a showcase to celebrate that management of the Internet, with a setting that reflects Zhejiang province’s Web success stories as much as the Ming and Qing architecture that inspired writer Mao Dun. The most notable business success is located down the road in Hangzhou—Alibaba Group, which in September raised $25 billion in an initial public offering that illustrated the value in China’s Internet user base of more than 630 million.

[…] Internet security is high on the agenda for the gathering, which has attracted top officers of Chinese powerhouses like Tencent Holdings, Baidu and Qihoo 360 Technology . Others in attendance include policymakers like Fang Binxing, the man credited with creating the controls behind the Great Firewall, and a small number of foreign Internet companies. [Source]

Read more about Internet censorship in China via CDT.

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