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Updated: 36 min 14 sec ago

Hukou Reforms Aim to Smooth Urbanization

4 hours 42 min ago

Chris Buckley at The New York Times reports the announcement of new changes to China’s hukou registration system, as promised in the reform blueprint published after the Party’s Third Plenum in November.

The Chinese government issued proposals on Wednesday to break down barriers that a nationwide household registration system has long imposed between rural and urban residents and among regions, reinforcing inequality, breeding discontent and hampering economic growth.

Yet even as officials promoted easier urbanization and the goal of permanently settling an additional 100 million rural people in towns and cities by 2020, they said changes to the system — which links many government entitlements to a person’s official residence, even if that person has long since moved away — must be gradual and must protect big cities like Beijing.

[…] The government also said, as it had before, that it would try to ease barriers that deny places in schools, health care, and family-planning and other public services to residents who do not have local household registration papers. Many city governments have resisted such changes, and urban residents fear the erosion of their privileges. [Source]

Translation of the ‘State Council Opinion On Hukou Reform’ is underway at China Law Translate. New rules will offer complete freedom to settle in small towns and cities, with progressively tighter restrictions for larger ones and a points-based qualification system for megacities like Beijing and Shanghai.

The need for reform is widely recognized, but some feel that tweaking the hukou will fail to address related inequalities at their root, South China Morning Post’s Mandy Zuo reports:

Xu Xiaoqing, director of the rural economy research department at the State Council’s Development Research Centre, said the move was just a start.

“The removal of the distinction in the hukou only makes a difference on paper. The real difference will be made when the gap in terms of social benefits is filled,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go before there is an equalised social security net among different regions. The fundamental solution is to unify social security [nationwide].”

[…] Professor Kam Wing Chan of the University of Washington said the wide variations in the quality of locally administered social welfare and social services had made “the elimination of the rural and urban hukou classifications insignificant”. [Source]

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What’s Wrong With this Chinese Town?

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:40

At Foreign Policy, Alexa Olesen reports on a fresh scandal in the Jiangsu town from which seven petitioners traveled to Beijing to attempt public suicide this month.

They worked under cover of night in early June, dumping truckloads of dirt on the new highway and planting fast-growing soybean seeds in the thin soil. Then they erected a sign alerting passersby to the freshly sown crop. This wasn’t some ecological initiative like urban roof gardens or solar street lamps; it was an attempt literally to cover up a sprawling highway construction project. Officials in Sihong, a county of about one million people in China’s wealthy, coastal Jiangsu province, had built the network of blacktop without a needed green light from provincial land management authorities. (China has strict quotas on how much arable land can be converted for construction projects due to concerns about food security and grain self-sufficiency.) Over the last week, their bumbling efforts to cover their tracks, with a field of beans, have made them the laughing-stock of Chinese state media and the country’s Internet.

[…] But as the story percolated, many realized that Sihong was not only the birthplace of the amusing bean fiasco, but also the hometown of a group of seven petitioners who on the morning of July 16 had gathered outside the offices of the China Youth Daily, a state-run paper, in Beijing and swallowed pesticide. The mass suicide attempt was intended as a protest against land seizures by officials back home. The group had tried bringing their grievances to government officers earlier, but to no avail. Here was a story smack at the intersection of awful and the absurd. [Source]

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Photo: Golden Light Above The Sky, by Achilles Shan

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:15

Golden Light Above The Sky

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Xinjiang Attack Disputed; Uyghur Scholar Charged

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:52

Xinhua yesterday reported that a “premeditated and carefully planned” violent terrorist attack [Chinese] in Shache County, western Xinijang had killed dozens of civilians and destroyed over 30 police vehicles early on Monday morning. Security forces in turn shot dead dozens of the armed assailants “in accordance with the law.” Xinhua’s report came more than a day after unverified rumors of an attack and subsequent crackdown were being deleted from social media, and was accompanied by a government propaganda directive forbidding independent coverage. In the Wall Street Journal, Josh Chin reports that an overseas advocacy group is disputing the state media account of Monday’s violence:

The Uyghur American Association, an exile group, disputed that characterization in a statement Wednesday. Citing unidentified local people, it said more than 20 Uighurs were killed and more than 70 were arrested following protests Monday over heavy-handed police treatment during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“That state media could label the killing of dozens of people as in line with the law reflects the poor regard the state has for its own laws and judicial process,” the association’s president, Alim Seytoff, said in the statement.

The association said several Uighurs had fled to Elixhu from a nearby township earlier this month following protests over the alleged police killing of a Uighur family, and it called for an investigation into Monday’s deaths.

Reached by phone Wednesday, police in Elixhu and Yarkand declined to comment on the association’s statement or offer further information about the clash. Internet access has been cut off in Yarkand since late Monday, a police officer reached in Elixhu earlier told The Wall Street Journal. [Source]

TIME reports that Radio Free Asia’s account also clashes with Xinhua’s, and points to the difficulty of gathering facts about an area as sensitive as Xinjiang:

The dueling narratives point to the challenge of figuring out what, exactly, is happening in China’s vast and restless northwest. The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the incident took place, is contested space. It is both claimed as the homeland of the mostly Muslim, Turkic Uighur people, and also as Chinese territory. In recent years, the area has seethed with unrest attributed, depending on whom you ask, to Islamic terrorism, separatism or heavy-handed repression by the state. For years now, a small minority has fought against the government, usually by targeting symbols of state power, including police stations and transport hubs.

[...After numerous recent attacks throughout China blamed by the government on Uyghur extremists,] Beijing has [...] doubled down on already aggressive security measures and their campaign of forced cultural integration. Across the region, town squares are now patrolled by armed security personnel in riot gear, and villages are sealed off by police checkpoints. Ethnic Uighurs are stopped and searched. Meanwhile, the government has stepped up limits on religious practice by, for instance, putting age restrictions on mosque visits and banning students and government workers from fasting during Ramadan.

In the context of this division and distrust, it makes sense that there are competing claims. The trouble is, China prevents outsiders from gathering information on their own. The foreign press corps is, by virtue of China’s rules, based far from Xinjiang, primarily in the Han-majority cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Travel to Xinjiang, while not officially forbidden, is effectively restricted. When I visited Urumqi and Hotan in late May, security personnel harassed my Chinese colleague, questioned me, followed our movements and stopped us from traveling to the city of Kashgar. [Source]

More on competing narratives about Xinjiang and the difficulty of covering the region from Andrew Jacobs at the New York Times:

The recent escalation in violence is often subject to different narratives. The government describes the violence as terrorism, often blaming religious fundamentalists seeking independence for the region, while exile groups and human rights advocates attribute many of the deaths to excessive force they say is used to crush peaceful protests.

Government restrictions make independent reporting in the region difficult, and Uighurs who share details of such incidents with foreign news media can face severe punishment. [....] [Source]

Amid conflicting reports on violence in far western Xinjiang, The Guardian reports that jailed Uyghur scholar and activist Ilham Tohti has been formally charged with separatism. The prominent economist was detained from his Beijing home and accused of separatism in January, and formally arrested in February.

China has indicted the outspoken Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti on charges of separatism, prosecutors have announced.

Tohti, who has been detained since January, was not informed of the latest move directly, according to his lawyer, who accused authorities of”shocking” handling of the case and ignoring Tohti’s rights to a defence.

[...] Prosecutors in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, where Tohti is held, announced his indictment in a statement posted online. Once charged, conviction is all but certain, particularly in such a high-profile case. Separatism charges in theory carry the death penalty, though they usually result in imprisonment.

Tohti’s daughter Jewher Ilham, who is studying in the US, said: “I am angry about this, they have not followed the legal path. My father was only trying to foster a dialogue. What they have charged him with is untrue.” [Source]

In a background report on Ilham Tohti’s detention and separatism charges, Human Rights Watch has condemned the charge as “baseless”:

The decision to indict on such a serious charge a man like Ilham Tohti, who is known for trying to bridge divides, shows how far China’s human rights have deteriorated in the past months,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “It sends precisely the wrong signal to Uighurs when tensions are at an all-time high.”

Tohti’s lawyers said the charge is based on articles published on Uighur Online, a website Tohti founded that focused on Uighur issues. The authorities alleged that the articles, some of which Tohti wrote and some of which were posted by his students and volunteers, have “subversive intent.” The charge is also based on Tohti’s interviews with foreign media. None of these articles or interviews incited violence or terrorism, according to his lawyers. The authorities have also cited as evidence Tohti’s lectures at Beijing Minzu University of China, where he taught. The authorities have refused to hand over videotape copies of the lectures to his lawyers, nor have the lawyers received a copy of the indictment.

There is no publicly available evidence that Tohti engaged in any form of speech or behavior that could be construed by any objective standard as inciting violence or unlawful action. [...] [Source]

The jailed Uyghur scholar’s first name has joined many keywords related to the violence and communications crackdown in Shache on the list of currently forbidden Weibo search terms (h/t @Edourdoo).

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How to Catch a Tiger: the Fall of Zhou Yongkang

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:50

On Tuesday, Chinese authorities made the long-anticipated announcement of an investigation into former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. The pursuit of a former member of the ultra-elite Politburo Standing Committee breaks the “unwritten rules” said to have governed the Party’s internal politics since the Cultural Revolution. At Reuters, however, Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard report that current Party head Xi Jinping was able to secure his predecessors’ approval before bringing Zhou down, and may give its upper echelons an unprecedented say in his fate.

Xi’s predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had approved the formal investigation into Zhou, the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949, two sources with ties to the leadership said.

[…] “Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping reached a consensus to deal with Zhou Yongkang for violating party discipline,” one of the sources said.

Former top leaders in China usually wield a lot of influence behind the scenes in a political system that prizes consensus decision-making. Both Jiang and Hu, as former presidents and heads of the party, also still have allies installed in office.

[…] Another source with leadership ties said Xi was considering a proposal to let the Central Committee decide whether to press criminal charges against Zhou after anti-corruption investigators detailed their case, as opposed to having the matter dealt with internally by the party. [Source]

The agreement does not rule out unease and antagonism within China’s ruling elite, they write: rather, it signals that the investigation should not open an immediate rift in the Party. At Bloomberg News, Ting Shi, Shai Oster and Aibing Guo describe the gradual process by which Zhou was politically isolated and made vulnerable:

Zhou, 71, was a tiger as big as they come, with power stretching across government, industry and security forces. He was a onetime member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee that rules China and a former supremo of the oil industry. His roles gave him influence comparable to being Dick Cheney, who shares a background in oil, J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI and Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller all rolled into one.

[…] How Zhou was slowly encircled reveals the care that Xi took to overcome opposition, keep the party united and prepare the public for a scandal that might damage the party’s legitimacy. It’s also a cautionary tale for a Communist elite that has accumulated wealth for decades while governing without public accountability.

[…] Like peeling the layers of an onion, the Zhou project has worked through layers of associates. First his old comrades from when he led Sichuan province were rounded up. Next, investigators ran through his colleagues in the energy business. They picked up in-laws of his, and his son. After that, they took down his associates in the Ministry of Public Security. They left the toughest for last – his inner circle of senior advisers and personal secretaries.

[…] “You work from the bottom up,” [Boston University’s Joseph] Fewsmith said. “You have to accumulate evidence to build a case and to persuade politically powerful people that it is necessary to take the extra step.” [Source]

Aspects of the investigation ranging from the motives behind it to its likely outcome are still disputed. Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford and Jeanne Kim briefly listed six competing theories on the former. One of Reuters’ sources suggested that Zhou would likely face internal discipline, as the alternative would be “probably too dangerous for the party”; but Caixin’s Chen Baocheng argued that, while there is no precedent at Zhou’s rank, members of the wider Politburo accused of serious disciplinary violations have invariably faced trial. Views on the implications for Xi’s broader anti-corruption crackdown are similarly divided: a Washington Post Q&A with several prominent observers included arguments that the campaign has gained unstoppable momentum, and that it has reached a dead end.

“No matter what the leadership’s intention was with the anti-corruption campaign, the movement has gathered its own momentum and might be difficult for anyone to control where it goes. The decision [to bring down Zhou] will only get Xi more support than opposition. But it would be dangerous for Xi to stop here, because people will be discontent, and it would look like a political maneuver rather than genuine effort to weed out corruption.”—Bao Tong, former secretary of the late premier Zhao Ziyang

“Anti-corruption is a dead-end. Because the soil is bad. The system is bad. It’s not the officials who are corrupted, it’s the system. Sure, you can get rid of some corrupted officials, but more corrupted ones will come up. And it’s impossible that the authorities would change the system, because it would mean giving more power to the people to oversee those in power. We’ve reached the end of the anti-corruption campaign, bringing down a [former] standing committee member. The public is not stupid.”—Li Datong, Chinese political commentator [Source]

See more from CDT on the story including a fuller round-up of reports and reactions, leaked instructions for Chinese media coverage, and an explanation of Zhou’s censor-ducking nickname, “Instant Noodles.”

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Minitrue: Flight Cancellations and Military Exercises

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 13:58

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.

News websites pay strict attention to commentary on flight delays and cancellations at all locations. Do not call military exercises into question. (July 30, 2014)

新闻网站对各地延误、停降航班一事要严格注意评论审核 不得质疑军演影响。

Following earlier reports that PLA military exercises will require many domestic airports to delay flights through mid-August, the Wall Street Journal reports that aviation authorities ordered substantial air traffic reduction at Shanghai’s two major international airports and several smaller airports elsewhere in China:

Chinese aviation authorities asked airlines to reduce flight traffic by as much as 75% at two of the country’s busiest airports Tuesday, the latest air-travel disruption because of military exercises along China’s southeastern coast.

[...] China’s Air Traffic Management Bureau, a unit of the nation’s aviation regulator, issued the restriction on two Shanghai airports—Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, which mostly handles domestic traffic, and Shanghai Pudong International Airport—for flights between 2 and 6 p.m. Tuesday, said two airline officials based in Shanghai. More than a dozen smaller airports in eastern and southern China also halted flight arrivals and departures during the period, the air-traffic bureau said.

China’s Ministry of National Defense coordinated the exercises, which it said were routine and designed to test the military’s combat capability, according to a statement on the ministry’s website. The ministry gave no details about the precise location or schedule of the drills.

The reduction is part of a three-week curb on flights through mid-August because of the drills. So far the restrictions have resulted in capacity reduction of as much as 25% at a dozen Chinese airports, including the two in Shanghai, airline officials said. [...] [Source]

The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore notes that last weekend over 800 flights saw delays or cancellations in Beijing and Shanghai alone, and has more details on the military drills that are slowing down air traffic in China:

Military insiders said this year’s exercises are the largest ever and are intended to simulate how the PLA would respond to an attack on China by a foreign enemy.

[...] Part of the drills involved a simulated electromagnetic attack designed to knock out communications and radar systems. The PLA Daily, the official army newspaper, noted there had been “heavy airstrikes”, as well as “electronic disturbance teams” and even “chemical weapons drills”.

[...] “The naval drill beginning this week involves the East fleet, the North fleet and the South fleet, which is unprecedented for the navy,” said Colonel Chen Hong, a former professor at the PLA Air Force College.

“Every airborne unit and ground missile unit has been deployed in the PLA Air Force, which is also a first,” he added.

[...] In addition, all seven of China’s military regions have sent soldiers to Beijing to take part for the first time in a set of drills designed to test soldiers against an elite force modelled on the US army. [Source]

Military drills began in May, and are expected to last until mid-August. Prior to Tuesday’s live-fire drill, state media quoted the Ministry of National Defense saying that the exercises would have “limited impact” on civil aviation.

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.

WAR IS PEACE • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

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Minitrue: Work Reports on Zhou Yongkang Coverage

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 13:26

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.

Urgent Notice from the Propaganda Department of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to Internet discussion staff at every level of all departments on the primary websites of People’s Daily, Xinhua, Phoenix, Sina, Tencent, Sohu, NetEase, etc.: with regard to the investigation into Zhou Yongkang, all news, Internet comments, front page commentary, and background articles should closely follow the view of the People’s Daily’s “Steadily and Strictly Governing the Party” [Chinese].  At the same time, all disciplinary inspection websites and government weibo accounts must forward positive commentary. Prior to 3:00PM today, submit a first-round report on your overall progress including the following figures: number of participants, name of websites posted to, total number of posts, number of weibo forwards along with a brief sample post; number of original web comments published (including a sample headline and the website or forum), and one excellent sample article. We will select an exemplary report.

On the request of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s Propaganda Department, these tasks are to be carried out until further notice. Attach great importance to these tasks, and see to it that they are done well. (July 30, 2014)

紧急通知:接中纪委宣传部通知,请各级各部门组织网评人员在人民网,新华网和凤凰网,新浪网,腾讯网,搜狐网,网易等主要商业网站关于周永康立案审查相关新闻后跟贴留言,并组织正面网评文章,进行正面引导,口径以以人民日报《从严治党坚定不移》此文观点为主。同时,各地纪检网站和政务微博进行转发和正面评论。请于今日下午3:00前,报送第一轮跟贴引导情况,简要说明总体情况,需要以下几个数字:参与人数(人次),跟贴网站(哪几家),共多少条,微博转发了多少条,后面可以简要摘取一些跟贴,刊发原创网评多少篇(附标题和帖发网站评论坛)并精选1篇优秀网评文章,我们将择优上报。

按中纪委宣传部要求,这项任务将延续一段时间,请各地高度重视,安排部署好工作。

After months of wait and speculation, a corruption investigation into retired domestic security chief and once China’s 9th most powerful man was officially announced yesterday. CDT’s earlier roundup of initial coverage shows state media closely following the above propaganda instructions. China Real Time’s Te-Ping Chen surveyed newspapers’ handling of the news in Wednesday morning’s editions:

[…] Most carried simple, near-identical front-page headlines announcing the fact that Mr. Zhou was being investigated due to “discipline violations,” along with a brief sentence from the state-run Xinhua news agency, the Chinese government’s propaganda arm of choice when it chooses to disclose such events in written form. While some chose to display the news in prominent type, many more of the country’s major papers led with other items, such as news about the country’s planned Fourth Plenum, placing news of Mr. Zhou below the fold.

[…] In addition to the brief headlines, other papers carried front-page commentaries penned by Communist Party’s flagship newspaper the People’s Daily, in which the paper declared stressed that “there are no special members within the party.”

“The party is the key to managing China’s affairs well,” the commentary ran, adding that all party members must take discipline seriously, “hate evil like it’s their enemy” and in so doing, make the party “increasingly mature, increasingly powerful and have more and more fighting capacity.” [Source]

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.

WAR IS PEACE • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

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Man of the Week: Master Kang

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 05:20

康师傅 (Kāng Shīfu) Master Kang

Nickname for Zhou Yongkang, former public security chief and close ally of fallen Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai. Reports that Zhou is the subject of a massive government corruption probe emerged in August 2013, but the investigation was not officially announced until July 29, 2014. Netizens refer to the retired Politburo Standing Committee member as “Master Kang” in the midst of censorship directives forbidding such discussion.

Master Kong (above) and Master Kang.


The name “Master Kang” is simultaneously a historical, political, and pop cultural reference. Kang Shifu (康师傅 Kāng Shīfu) is the brand name used by packaged food company Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding Corporation, the largest instant noodle producer operating in mainland China. When “Master Kang” is blocked from Weibo search results, netizens resort to calling Zhou “instant noodles” (方便面 fāngbiànmiàn). Tingyi markets their products under the English name Master Kong.

Master Kang also alludes to Kang Sheng (康生), Zhou’s early predecessor as security chief. A first generation official and close ally to Mao Zedong, Kang was posthumously disgraced and expelled from the Party for his role in the Cultural Revolution and his early criticism of Deng Xiaoping.

The Word of the Week comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

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Duplitecture: China’s White Houses

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 20:22

At 99% Invisible, Roman Mars, Avery Trufelman and Bianca Bosker look at the phenomenon of “duplitecture”—China’s copycat architecture.

[… O]ne of the most copied buildings in China is the very seat of western power itself: the White House.  Serving as hotels, restaurants, courthouses and homes, White Houses are all over China, morphed and varied in different permutations. Still, they all have those signature columns and square portico.

Though some might argue that the Chinese have taken duplitecture to a whole new level, architects have been copying each other forever, and the U.S. is no exception.  The architect who built the White House based his design on The Leinster House in Dublin, which is now the seat of the Irish parliament. […] [Source]

Hear more from 99% Invisible on Taiwanese spy broadcasts over China and Hong Kong’s legendary Kowloon Walled City, and read more on copycat architecture, via CDT.

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Hackers Hit HK Media, Democracy Movement

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:00

As advocacy groups note Beijing’s increasing influence over the media in Hong Kong, and after recent violent attacks against Hong Kong journalists, the Hong Kong Journalists Association declared the past year the “darkest for press freedom” in several decades. Meanwhile, with tension flaring in the semiautonomous region between pan-democratic and pro-Beijing camps, media organizations supporting the former are facing increased financial pressure. Over the weekend, pro-democracy website House News shut down, and the founder noted his “terror” amid the “ongoing political struggle.” House News’ closure had to do with a lack of advertising revenue—according to founders, advertisers weren’t buying space on the popular website due to their criticism of Beijing. Last month, Apple Daily/Next Media owner and founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying said that HSBC and Standard Chartered had pulled millions of advertising dollars from the popular HK newspaper known for overt criticism of Beijing; while the banks denied any political motive, the media company said their coverage of recent Hong Kong protests was the likely cause. Last week, the South China Morning Post reported on leaked files showing that Jimmy Lai had donated over HK$10 million to pan-democratic parties and politicians over the last year:

Hundreds of records detailing millions of dollars in donations to pan-democrats by the Apple Daily’s founder have been leaked to the media, a move the camp slammed as a “smear campaign”.

[...] Reports in pro-government media claimed that Lai – who is known for his critical stance against Beijing – had manipulated pan-democrats and was “colluding with foreign countries to provoke unrest in Hong Kong”.

[...] “It’s always been clear … that I support the pan-democrats. Saying I have stirred up trouble in Hong Kong? I don’t think so … I am only supporting [the groups] which would help the city,” Lai said on Apple’s online talk-show Hammer Out yesterday. [Source]

At the Asia Sentinel, editor John Berthelsen situates Lai’s situation into a greater crackdown on Hong Kong media:

It has long been known that big business in Hong Kong, obviously worried about Big Brother over the border, has boycotted Apple Daily, the territory’s most popular newspaper, because of the rocky relationship of its owner, media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, with Beijing.

But just how much Lai has been hammered turned up this week in 900-odd files apparently hacked from his personal computer and leaked to several pro-Beijing publications. What has happened to Lai is increasingly emblematic of the pressure that a wide range of Hong Kong’s independent press is under. That pressure stems from both local and Chinese governments, oligarchic owners and thugs employed by unknown sources to beat them up.

In February, Asia Sentinel reported that the press faces slow but relentless erosion of what has long been regarded as not only the freest and most diversified press in Asia outside Japan but what has traditionally been the most important listening post on China itself. That is critical today with the Chinese government cracking down on the New York Times and Bloomberg for reporting critically on the vast riches amassed by members of the families of China’s top leadership. And, as pressure increases on the Hong Kong and international press, the need for a free press is growing. [...] [Source]

The 900 leaked documents were obtained by cyberattacks on Lai’s personal communications. Another article from the Sentinel describes this as just the most recent hacking assault in a campaign Against Hong Kong’s press and pro-democracy movement, about which the Hong Kong government has so far remained silent:

The Hong Kong government is maintaining a sullen silence in the face of military-grade cyber-terrorism unleashed over recent weeks against pro-democracy activists and the press. There has been no official protest over violations of Hong Kong’s Internet infrastructure or invasion of privacy of its citizens.

[...] Media baron Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the publisher of the hugely popular Apple Daily and Next magazine, which champion “true democracy,” had his computers hacked and phone conversations wiretapped, probably by unknown figures in China, although that can’t be proven. About 900 documents detailing his donations to democracy groups were leaked to pro-Beijing publications, with comrades baying for investigation into Lai’s contributions – which are not illegal under any law in Hong Kong.

[...] The Lai hacking follows barely a month after a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in June to derail the servers and networks of the mock public referendum organized by the citizens’ movement Occupy Central on methods to elect the 2017 chief executive. The PopVote project was designed jointly by the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong and the Social Policy Research Centre of the HK Polytechnic University.

Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, which volunteered cyber security for PopVote, was astounded by the “stunning amount of traffic,” which reached 300 gigabits of data/sec at peak, making it the second highest DDoS attack ever recorded in internet history. The largest reached 400 gigabits/sec. Apparently about 40 percent of the assault had been re-directed to local Hong Kong systems using the “.hk” domain name, causing overall downgrading of network performance beyond the specific targets of the hacker army.

These two high-profile violations unhinge the territory’s reputation for data security and right to privacy for individuals, groups and corporations. Almost overnight, all assumptions of a “safe zone” for data integrity have been shredded. The scale and brazenness of the targeted cyber-assaults have stunned the usually vigorous and hyper-alert legal community and journalists. No one knows what to make of the silence from the government of this international financial center on such fundamental rights. [...] [Source]

Read more on Hong Kong’s democracy movement or media via CDT.

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China Monitors the Internet and the Public Pays the Bill

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:25

Global Voices has translated an article from Hong Kong’s InMedia (獨立媒體) [Chinese] on the scope, work, rapid growth, and public cost of China’s government-ordered Internet surveillance industry, which employs around 2 million “public opinion analysts” nationwide and grows by approximately 50% each year:

Different from the “Fifty-Cent Party” who are responsible for channelling public opinions by writing online comments and deleting posts, Internet public opinion analysts use computer software to monitor all the social networking sites, collect netizen opinions and attitudes, compile reports and submit the reports to decision-makers.

[...T]he trend also levies a heavy tax burden on the public, as the market for these analysts is created by the government’s need for “stability maintenance”. Government agencies today spend huge amounts of public money on opinion monitoring. Very often, they subcontract the work to party-affiliated private companies, an expense that ultimately hits taxpayers.

He Qinglian, an economics and sociology scholar, called it a “stability maintenance industry”, designed to help the government tighten its grip over public opinions on the Internet. Indeed, it is plain to see that “stability maintenance” work has turned into an economy of its own, with a government-created market need, business model for private sectors to serve the government, and a new professional status, which is granted by party-affiliated agents, like the Public Opinion Monitoring Unit. [...] [Source]

In effort to gain control over online public opinion, the Xi administration’s has been steadily intensifying a crackdown on social media over the past year.

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Photo: A Secret Love for Instant Noodles, by kulucphr

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 14:44

A Secret Love for Instant Noodles

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Investigation of Former Security Chief Zhou Yongkang Announced [Updated]

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 13:57

Xinhua announces the long-anticipated investigation of China’s former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang:

The investigation of Zhou, a former Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, for suspected “serious disciplinary violations” will be conducted by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

Top leaders are resolved to target both high-ranking “tigers” and low-ranking “flies” in their anti-corruption effort. After taking the helm at the CPC in November 2012, Xi Jinping has led efforts in fighting corruption, calling on the whole Party to stay on full alert, and describing corruption as a threat to the Party’s very survival. Xi vowed that there would be “no exceptions”: No leniency will be meted out no matter who is involved.

The downfall of a “big tiger” like Zhou could have a deterrent effect on Party members and corrupt officials who believe they are immune.According to the CCDI website, around 40 officials of provincial and ministerial level or higher have been investigated for corruption or other serious disciplinary violations since November 2012. [Source]

The announcement follows the months-long dismantling of Zhou’s network of allies, associates and family members, including his son—arrested on Tuesday after being detained since December—and sister-in-law. The targeting of this group is widely seen as a matter of factional infighting, though the precise balance of factors behind it is disputed.

The Princeling, The General and now Top Cop Zhou: the 3 pillars of Jiang's edifice obliterated. Greatest political phenomenon since Mao.

— John Garnaut (@jgarnaut) July 29, 2014

Happy #GlobalTigerDay! pic.twitter.com/4WeSwHYodw

— World Wildlife Fund (@World_Wildlife) July 29, 2014

Reuters’ Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard gave more details on the charges and likely course ahead:

[A source with ties to the leadership] said Zhou had been accused of corruption involving family members and accepting bribes to promote officials.

“Not all charges against Zhou would be made public,” added the source, who requested anonymity to avoid repercussions for speaking to a foreign reporter without authorisation.

[…] It was unclear if Zhou would eventually be indicted.

“If that happens, there won’t be a high-profile trial like Bo Xilai’s,” the source with ties to the leadership said, referring to the purged party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, whose trial the government provided regularly updated – though likely censored – transcripts for.

Any trial could also be some way off. Zhou would first have to be expelled from the party and then have formal criminal charges filed against him, which could take several months or longer. [Source]

Even the formal announcement of the probe is a colossal event in China’s politics. From Felicia Sonmez at AFP:

Zhou is the most senior member of the Communist Party to be investigated since the infamous Gang of Four – a faction that included the widow of founding leader Mao Zedong – were put on trial in 1980.

[…] The decision will have been preceded by extensive negotiations within the factionalised ruling party, but is still likely to send shockwaves through the political establishment.

[…] “There is an unwritten rule that they will not go after former members of the Politburo Standing Committee,” said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“The party elders like Jiang Zemin and Li Peng and so forth were opposed to incriminating Zhou Yongkang,” he said, referring to China’s former president and premier.

“It shows that Xi Jinping is powerful enough or resourceful enough to convince the party elders,” he added. [Source]

On the other hand, political analyst Zhang Lifan told The Telegraph, “it has taken such a long time, so you can see how strong the forces opposing Mr Xi are.”

Lam told The Financial Times that the unwritten rule had “provided a mutual protection clause for top leaders and allowed for orderly transitions of power [….] Now this rule has been broken Xi has given himself a powerful card he can use against political enemies. But it also means that everyone is fair game.” Zhou was reportedly targeted for attempting to subvert the succession conventions by prolonging his own power, but their outright violation may make such maneuvering more likely in future:

Post-89 leadership transition was based on retirement "rules". It works only if stepping down fm politburo is safe. It's not anymore.

— Nicholas Bequelin 林伟 (@Bequelin) July 29, 2014

As seismic an event as Zhou’s fall is, he may not be the biggest tiger in Xi’s sights. Already, there has been speculation that with Zhou’s clique down, that of Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao could be next. The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore notes suggestions that former Premier Wen Jiabao will be targeted following the uncovering of his family’s wealth by The New York Times:

Several commentators suggested, despite his high rank, Mr Zhou may not be the ultimate target of Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.

“His case is big, but Wen Jiabao’s case is bigger,” said one observer, who cannot be named because of reprisals from the Communist party. “But it is hard to tell whether they will go after Wen because his case implicates so many others,” he added, referring to China’s former prime minister.

“Wen’s case is hanging over the Party ever since the New York Times exposed his family wealth,” said another commentator, referring to an investigation which claimed Mr Wen’s family had amassed £1.5 billion in assets. [Source]

Meanwhile, William Farris notes that while a block on Sina Weibo searches for “Zhou Yongkang” has been lifted (unless in conjunction with “Xi Jinping”), another has taken its place:

Sina Weibo stops censoring "Zhou Yongkang," and starts censoring "Jiang Zemin" pic.twitter.com/SLqDiqjgLn

— William Farris (@wafarris) July 29, 2014

Updated at 22:09 PDT:

A front-page in Kunming today pic.twitter.com/T3HJo4YfrQ

— Patrick Boehler (@mrbaopanrui) July 29, 2014

The headline reads “Investigation into Zhou Yongkang filed by central authorities.”

The news has released a pent-up torrent of profiles, timelines and other infographics providing background on Zhou’s career, downfall and alliances. At China Real Time, Chuin-Wei Yap surveyed online reactions:

The Chinese-language hashtag “ZhouYongKangPutUnderInvestigation” rapidly rose to the top of microblogging service Weibo’s top trending items, scoring 4.3 million views barely two hours after the news broke. State broadcaster China Central Television’s post on the probe was reposted more than 14,000 times within an hour of the news.

[…] While most of the exuberance was limited to taking casual note of Mr. Zhou’s fate, some bloggers went cautiously farther in summing up the public mood of anticipation. “This is just lifting up one corner of the pot,” Ren Zhiqiang, a well-known property developer with a wide Weibo following, said on his verified blog. [Source]

At South China Morning Post, Cary Huang wrote that Zhou may be the last of his rank to fall:

Although the case sends a message the party will not hold anyone above the law, other past and current members of the [Politburo Standing] committee were unlikely to become a focus of Xi’s anti-graft campaign, analysts said.

The president remains limited by the principle of collective leadership, which arose under Deng Xiaoping as a way to end the political chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

[… The University of Nottingham’s Professor Steve] Tsang said although Xi had built up immense political capital, he “very much doubted Xi is also targeting other leaders like Wen and Jiang at the moment”.

“If there is any real indication of that as a possibility, Wen would have worked closely with Jiang to block the detention of Zhou,” Tsang said. “I do not expect other retired PSC members to be put in the same situation as Zhou.” [Source]

But at The Financial Times, Minxin Pei argued that the Party would now be more fearful and fractured than ever:

[…] Because practices such as giving cash gifts to gain official appointments and promotions and helping private businessmen secure contracts are widespread inside the party, a very large number of Chinese officials dread being hauled in for investigation or worse. The Chinese media has already noted a recent rise in the number of officials who have committed suicide.

[…] Mr Xi’s campaign has engendered an unprecedented degree of fear among Chinese officials. In politics, fear is a unifying force. If many of Mr Xi’s colleagues and rivals believe that they could be the next tigers to fall, their survival instinct might motivate them to challenge Mr Xi’s authority. The unity of leadership that has held the party together since Tiananmen could evaporate. [Source]

Fear, though not factionalism, was also a theme in a series of state media articles and commentaries on the announcement, which cast it as proof that no one is above the law. From China Daily, for example:

Until late on Tuesday, many doubted Xi and his colleagues’ readiness to take such a politically risky step.

One of the foremost reasons for such doubts was the suspicion that revealing abuse at the very top risks undermining public confidence in the CPC and the system. That Xi and his colleagues have finally chosen not to exempt Zhou from disciplinary scrutiny speaks volumes about the present leaders’ loyalty to their pledge of leaving no safe haven for abusers of power.

Besides convincing the doubters, Zhou’s fate will send shudders down the spines of other abusers who may be entertaining the illusion that their high positions and retirement will protect them. [Source]

Other examples can be found at Global Times (which noted that Zhou has been ominously stripped of “comrade” status) and Xinhua.

To hammer the point home, authorities announced (as anticipated) that rule of law will be the central theme of October’s Fourth Plenum. From Xinhua:

The Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee will discuss “governing the country according to law” on every front, it was announced after the Tuesday meeting, presided over by the CPC Central Committee’s general secretary, Xi Jinping.

It was agreed that the rule of law is a must if the country will attain economic growth, clean government, culture prosperity, social justice and sound environment, and realize the strategic objective of peaceful development.

A statement after the meeting said that the rule of law is an intrinsic requirement of socialism with Chinese characteristics and crucial to modern governance. Governing according to law holds the key to the CPC’s leadership, the people’s well-being, deepening reform and long-term stability. The statement emphasized, that governing according to law has become more significant in the entire agenda of the Party and the nation, due to new circumstances. [Source]

Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson interpreted the news of Zhou’s investigation differently, however:

[… L]ike the 2013 prosecution of Bo Xilai, a top Community Party leader felled by a scandal involving bribery, embezzlement, and abuses of power, the investigation and expected prosecution of Zhou should not be confused with justice or the rule of law. Like Bo, Zhou has been detained for months outside of any formal legal process. Like Bo, the initial investigation of Zhou will be carried out by the Party, not the judicial authorities. And, like Bo, if Zhou’s case is actually transferred into the formal court system, it is equally unlikely that any of the basic legal protections that exist on paper – access to evidence, right to counsel of choice, and freedom from coerced confession – will apply.

There will almost certainly be another level of injustice in Zhou’s prosecution: that the victims of his abuses are unlikely to be able to bring cases against him or those who carried out his orders. The leadership’s imperative, as past cases have shown, will be to prosecute Zhou in way that serves their political aims, which means creating an impression of combating corruption. Will those people disappeared by police, beaten by urban para-police, imprisoned in black jails, or – irony of ironies – charged with “disturbing public order” for calling independently for corruption investigations during Zhou’s tenure have their day in court? [Source]

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Sensitive Words: Shache Incident, Guo Boxiong, More

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:19

As of July 28, the following search terms were blocked on Sina Weibo (not including the “search for user” function).

Terror in Shache County, Xinjiang

More than 24 hours after a group of knife-wielding assailants reportedly attacked launched an attack in Shache County, Kashgar Prefecture, Xinjiang early Monday morning, Xinhua reported [Chinese] that dozens of civilian bystanders had been killed, as had dozens of the perpetrators. Unverified reports of an attack in Shache had earlier been shared—and quickly deleted—online. Radio Free Asia reported that the Internet has been completely blacked out in the area since Monday morning.

  • 莎车+爆炸: Shache + explosion
  • 喀什+爆炸:  Kashgar + explosion
  • 新疆+爆炸: Xinjiang + explosion
  • 莎车+出大事: Shache + major event
  • 喀什+出大事: Kashgar + major event
  • 新疆+出大事 : Xinjiang + major event
  • 莎车+通信管制: Shache + communication control
  • 喀什+通信管制: Kashgar + communication control
  • 新疆+通信管制: Xinjiang + communication control

Guo Boxiong

Amid Xi Jinping’s ongoing crackdown on corruption, former Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman Guo Boxiong is rumored to be under investigation. Netizen speculation tied recent delays at both Shanghai international airports to a rumors that Guo, dressed in drag, had attempted to flee the country.

  • G将军+出逃: General G + flee
  • 郭将军+出逃: General Guo + flee
  • 郭+男扮女装: Guo + dress in drag
  • 郭正刚: Guo Zhenggang—Guo Boxiong’s son, also rumored to be under investigation.

More

  • 克拉娃: Carat Baby—reference to a Soviet singer/spy with whom Jiang Zemin allegedly had an affair during his time in Russia. After search engine Baidu recently briefly lifted a ban on the term, search results were mostly pictures of the retired Party leader, and netizens “surrounded and watched.”
  • 习王: Xi [Jinping] Wang [Qishan]—the two men at the helm of the ongoing crackdown on Party corruption
  • zheng变: coup d’état  (alternate “spelling” of 政变)

All Chinese-language words are tested using simplified characters. The same terms in traditional characters occasionally return different results.

CDT Chinese runs a project that crowd-sources filtered keywords on Sina Weibo search. CDT independently tests the keywords before posting them, but some searches later become accessible again. We welcome readers to contribute to this project so that we can include the most up-to-date information.

Have a sensitive word tip? Submit it to CDT through this form:

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Minitrue: Violent Terror Incident in Shache, Xinjiang

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 09:39

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, all media must refrain from reporting on the violent terror incident in Shache County, Xinjiang. (July 29, 2014)

媒体对新疆莎车县发生的暴恐事件一律不报道。

On July 29 at 22:00, Xinhua reported that a “serious violent terrorist attack” occurred in Shache County, western Xinjiang [Chinese] early on the morning of July 28. Xinhua said a group of knife-wielding “thugs” attacked a government building and police station in Ailixihu town, before part of the group fled, leaving dozens of Han and Uyghur civilian casualties and 31 destroyed police vehicles on their way. The report called the attack “premeditated and carefully planned,” and noted that police fire killed dozens of the attackers.

This attack is the latest in a series of recent violent attacks in Xinjiang blamed by the government on Uyghur separatists, and Beijing has been tightly managing information about violence amid a yearlong terror crackdown in the region and in greater China. Xinhua’s report came over 24 hours after rumors of an attack and crackdown in Shache began circulating (and being deleted) on Weibo. A report from Radio Free Asia quotes local Shache residents saying that the Internet has been completely blacked out in the area since Monday morning, when unconfirmed news of the attack began circulating online.

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.

WAR IS PEACE • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

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Dead and Alive: Metaphors for (Dis)Obeying the Law

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 01:15

As the OSI food safety scandal rolls on, with some McDonald’s restaurants reportedly selling only drinks and French fries, Victor Mair explores a meat plant worker’s comment that “rules are dead, and people are alive.” From Language Log (via Donald Clarke)

A colleague from the PRC explained it this way:

This is an old and common expression. It’s been in use for as long as I can remember.  It conveys a fairly typical Chinese attitude towards any rules/laws/regulations: they are made to break, bend and be compromised. View it positively, this indicates a way of problem solving. There is another expression “大活人还能让尿憋死,” which is less known, more crude and more regional, but expresses a similar meaning.

[…] As one Chinese friend summed up the dilemma, it all boils down to the division between fǎzhì 法治 (“the rule of law”) and rénzhì 人治 (“the rule of man”).  In China, the latter generally takes precedence over the former, hence the flagrant disregard for rules and regulations, of which the worker’s statement concerning the SOP regarding bad meat with which we began this post is a typical instance. [Source]

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China Targets Microsoft in Possible Monopoly Probe

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 00:51

Microsoft appears to have attracted the attention of Chinese business regulators, soon after the announcement of an antitrust investigation into U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm. The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley report:

China is still one of the largest and most promising markets for United States tech companies, as well as home to the factories that make devices as varied as iPhones and Xboxes. But tensions between the United States and China have escalated over spying concerns by both sides. And in recent months Chinese authorities have increased their scrutiny of foreign tech companies.

At the same time, they appear to be stepping up their use of laws to help bolster the fortunes of native technology companies.

[…] The officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce visited Microsoft offices in four cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu — Joanna Li, a public relations officer for the company, confirmed in a phone interview, answering questions about earlier reports in the Chinese news media.

“There was a visit from government officials to our offices,” she said. “Given the sensitivity of the issue, I can’t say anymore.” [Source]

Last month, China banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, driving Microsoft to defend itself on Weibo against charges of harvesting data for the U.S. government. Apple has also faced claims by state broadcaster CCTV that iPhone location tracking poses a threat to national security, and similarly denied this in a bilingual statement on its Chinese website. Xinhua reports that CCTV’s claims have gained little public traction, though a proposal to ban officials from using iPhones garnered more approval according to Global Times.

Meanwhile, access to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service was disrupted earlier this month, while Chinese gamers have been incensed by recurring rumors that its XBox One console will cost far more in China than in the U.S.. All these headaches follow criticism in February over alleged political censorship of search results on the China version of its Bing search engine.

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Human Rights Dialogue and Limits of Quiet Diplomacy

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 21:37

With China increasingly resistant to foreign pressure on human rights and the system of rights diplomacy that emerged post-Tiananmen “effectively defunct,” Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson reviews a book that charts the failure of European engagement on the issue between 1995 and 2010:

Katrin Kinzelbach’s excellent new book, The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits, provides ample evidence that an approach of primarily “quiet diplomacy” has done little to positively influence the human rights environment in China, and her analysis could well be extended to a number of other governments. In Kinzelbach’s view, not only has the EU approach failed to produce the intended results, it has also managed to produce precisely the wrong effect: “Over the years, [Chinese officials] had become human rights dialogue professionals… . [T]he regular confidential talks behind closed doors had served as intensive training for a small number of Chinese officials on how to engage with—and effectively counter—human rights related inquiries, criticism and recommendations.”

[…] Kinzelbach notes the EU’s chronic tendency to underestimate the bad faith in which the Chinese government engaged in the dialogues, and to overestimate the possibilities for progress. For example, she describes a period in 2007 in which EU officials internally justified their approach by citing Chinese government claims that the number of executions had decreased significantly, suggesting that an EU focus on this topic in dialogues had helped. Yet no one bothered to question whether the claims had merit, or examine whether there really was a relationship between the decrease and the dialogues. Similarly, EU officials continued to agree to progressively greater restrictions imposed by their Chinese counterparts on the dialogues, including visiting arbitrary detention facilities they already knew to be Potemkin villages, and allowing Chinese officials to dictate which individuals the EU could invite to participate in its seminars attached to the dialogues. [Source]

The Economist reported last year that the number of executions did decline sharply between 2002 and 2012, and that international pressure may indeed have been a factor.

In December, The Financial Times’ Jamil Anderlini noted that some European diplomats blame the U.K. for undermining unity, adding that Beijing “is adept at exploiting rifts and rivalries within the EU.” As Li Keqiang visited London last month, for example, the Chinese ambassador warned that Britain had squandered its perceived importance to China in Europe by “pointing fingers” over human rights. China had already canceled dialogues with the U.K. in April because of “irresponsible comments” and “rude slander” in a British rights report. Human Rights Watch’s Nicholas Bequelin told The Guardian at the time that:

“China is responding to a critique of its shortcomings on human rights by cutting back further on human rights engagement. I don’t think that indicates that China is genuinely committed to the outcomes of this dialogue … China is trying to intimidate its international partners by walking away from the table.”

[…] “We are also concerned that the existence of the dialogue allows ministers to say that human rights issues are being dealt with there, as opposed to being raised in meetings between foreign ministers or heads of state.” [Source]

Days before, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had told a press conference in Beijing that “these human rights matters are matters for the human rights dialogue. They are not normally matters for discussion between Prime Ministers and Premiers or between Prime Ministers and Presidents.”

The U.S. has defended its own rights dialogues with China. The question of human rights in U.S.-China relations, particularly given America’s compromised standing on issues such as torture and surveillance, was the subject of a ChinaFile discussion last summer.

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“Chinese” Hackers Hit Firms Behind Israel’s Iron Dome

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 18:38

Brian Krebs describes the discovery of security breaches at three Israeli defense contractors, apparently targeting the country’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile shield. The attacks reportedly “bore all of the hallmarks” of a group believed to be linked to the PLA’s Unit 61398. From Krebs on Security:

According to Columbia, Md.-based threat intelligence firm Cyber Engineering Services Inc. (CyberESI), between Oct. 10, 2011 and August 13, 2012, attackers thought to be operating out of China hacked into the corporate networks of three top Israeli defense technology companies, including Elisra Group, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

By tapping into the secret communications infrastructure set up by the hackers, CyberESI determined that the attackers exfiltrated large amounts of data from the three companies. Most of the information was intellectual property pertaining to Arrow III missiles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), ballistic rockets, and other technical documents in the same fields of study.

Joseph Drissel, CyberESI’s founder and chief executive, said the nature of the exfiltrated data and the industry that these companies are involved in suggests that the Chinese hackers were looking for information related to Israel’s all-weather air defense system called Iron Dome. [Source]

Unit 61398 has previously been accused of conducting a two-year campaign to steal U.S. drone technology. The value to China of information on Iron Dome is perhaps less clear. Business Insider’s Armin Rosen commented that “Iron Dome is of limited applicability outside of an Israeli context. It was made to pick off relatively unsophisticated short and mid-range missiles of a kind that threaten almost no other developed country or military.” Even within this niche, a number of critics have challenged Israeli claims of the system’s effectiveness.

See more on international hacking disputes via CDT.

Updated at 10:02 PDT on July 29th: Israel Aerospace Industries claims in an emailed statement that there was no loss of sensitive information:

The information reported regarding the leakage of sensitive information is incorrect.

The publications refer to an attempt to penetrate the Company’s civilian non-classified Internet network which allegedly occurred several years ago.

IAI’s cyber security systems operate in accordance with the most rigorous requirements and also in this case they were proven to be effective.

A spokesman for Rafael Advanced Defense Systems told The Guardian that the company “does not recall such an incident.”

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Chen Guangcheng Goes to Washington

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 17:54

NYU law professor Jerome Cohen looks ahead to Chen Guangcheng’s move to Washington after two sometimes controversy-plagued years in New York. The Chinese legal activist will take up a primary post at the Witherspoon Institute, with additional roles elsewhere. From The Diplomat:

Negotiating Washington’s corridors of power will not be easy for Chen, who grew up in a poor village of 500 farmers and whose disability prevented him from starting school until he was 18. Yet he managed well during his two years in New York, apart from the widely-publicized and unfortunate spat that occurred when his comfortable fellowship at New York University came to its long-scheduled end. That incident cost him a significant amount of the overwhelming public support that had greeted him in New York. It has also made some other universities more skittish than ever about hosting other deserving dissidents at a time when American campuses and scholars are struggling to decide to what extent and under what conditions they should cooperate with Chinese educators and officials at home and in China.

Yet, contrary to the distorted image portrayed in “House of Cards,” Washington is made of sturdier stuff, and Chen will have the benefit of favorable ties that he has already forged in both the Republican and Democratic parties on Capitol Hill and in the NGO human rights community, where some earlier dynamic refugees from Chinese Communist oppression have attained substantial influence. [Source]

Cohen also looks back to the tangled aftermath of Chen’s shocking escape from siege-like house arrest in 2012. Comparing various accounts, Cohen writes that the story “would be a worthy sequel to the classic post-World War II Japanese film Rashomon.”

One version he describes is from Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her time as U.S. Secretary of State, which includes sharp criticism of Chen. At The Wall Street Journal, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution suggests that her focus on these events threatens to overwhelm the rest of the book’s China-related content:

[…] Mrs. Clinton’s commitment to human rights is an important component of her thinking about China—and part of what makes her so good on China policy matters–but the long account about Mr. Chen also could distract from her larger observations about how to handle Beijing.

[…] There is a firmness in Hillary Clinton’s thinking about China that provides a good guide to policy and that is less well articulated by the current Obama team. She makes issues easy to understand. The clarity of her thinking, respect for China and awareness of how assertive it can be—and the stakes for the U.S.–bode well for how she would handle Beijing as president. [Source]

See (much) more on Chen Guangcheng via CDT.

© Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), 2014. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
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