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Kindness of Strangers: Feng Zhenghu’s Airport Diary

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 10:21

After he was 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 previous installments here:

November 10, 2009

This evening, a middle-aged man who worked at the Japanese immigration checkpoint left another bag of food at my encampment when no was looking. Also in the bag was a note letting me know that he would return on November 14. (At the designated time, he once again snuck a bag of food to my camp. The bag contained sandwiches, bread, and other fresh food. He later told me that he learned about my situation on the Internet.)

I already considered this man a trusted friend. We first met on the evening of November 8. I was sitting on the ground typing on my computer when he quickly walked past me and tossed me a roll of chlorophyll gum, saying “ganbatte” (keep fighting) before walking away. I immediately thanked him.

I’m so grateful to this Japanese man, previously a complete stranger to me. He gave me more than just food. His kindness sustained my good feelings toward Japan. Like my younger sister’s husband, he is a kind-hearted person with a sense of justice. The friendship spoken about by the Hatoyama government is nothing but empty words. But the friendship of these everyday Japanese people is real. The governments of China and Japan will continue to fight, but the peoples of these nations will not be fooled–we will remain friends.

It just so happens that a Chinese student from Tsinghua University was interning at All Nippon Airways. She saw my situation and heard that I hadn’t eaten in many days, only having water to drink. She felt bad, so on this day, she broke company regulations and snuck a bag of sandwiches to my encampment. I thank this college student. Like the many high school and college students who had been sending me text messages, she is someone who has ideals, love, and a sense of responsibility. These young people are the hope of China. [Chinese]

Translation by Little Bluegill.

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Photo: Working Crew, by DaiLuo

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 23:05

Working Crew

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Sichuan Village Votes to Expel HIV-positive Boy

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 20:50

At the Telegraph, Robert Foyle Hunwick reports that a village in Sichuan Province has unanimously signed a petition to expel an 8-year-old boy after he was diagnosed HIV-positive:

In a case that has drawn an outpouring of sympathy, all 203 members of Shufangya village in south west China’s Sichuan province, pressed their thumbs in red ink onto the petition to banish the boy, nicknamed Kun Kun by the Chinese state media.

Kun Kun, who was at the meeting, could only look on as his grandfather, with whom he lives, also signed.

“The villagers sympathise with him, he is innocent, and only a small child. But his AIDS is too scary for us,” said Wang Yishu, party chief of Shufangya village, to the People’s Daily website.

Kun Kun’s sad talehighlights a raft of social problems facing China’s rural communities, as well as efforts by the government to reverse some of the damage done by decades of failed HIV/AIDS policies. […] [Source]

Kun Kun is one of more than 60 million “left-behind children,” his biological parents having left him in the Sichuan village to earn money in the city. The Telegraph report notes that after learning of Kun Kun’s diagnosis, his stepfather—whose adopted parents are now watching the child—disowned the boy and stopped sending money. AIDS discrimination continues in China despite anti-discrimination laws. In recent years efforts to combat stigma surrounding the virus have been made by activists, NGOs, and theatrical film productions. Late last year, Li Keqiang’s efforts to urge AIDS empathy and activism was met with some skepticism; the premier has been accused of playing a major role in covering up the blood for cash scandal that left tens of thousands in rural Henan infected with the virus while he was provincial Party chief.

Coverage from the BBC notes a mixed response to the Shufangya petition on social media, and a local official’s stated plan to “conduct ideological education” in the village:

Kun Kun’s case sparked intense discussion on weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogs, where the reaction was a mix of scepticism, sympathy for the villagers, and pity for Kun Kun.

Some of the most popular comments questioned Kun Kun’s predicament. “Such a young child! How could he have contracted Aids?” said one user.

Others pointed out Kun Kun’s unruly behaviour and said he presented a “safety risk” to the villagers.

But many also expressed sympathy for Kun Kun and condemned the villagers’ behaviour.

“This has to do with many people lacking knowledge, and the crux of the matter is there needs to be more education to avoid more such situations,” said one user.

A local official told the paper that they planned to “conduct ideological education” for the villagers, and also look for an organisation to take in Kun Kun as his grandparents, who are his guardians, are elderly. [Source]

Read more about HIV/AIDS and AIDS discrimination in China, via CDT.

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China’s 2014 Internet Memes

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 18:13

At Quartz, Lily Kuo and Zheping Huang compile a list of this year’s most symbolic Chinese Internet memes that capture “the country’s hopes and fears.”

Daddy Xi

A nickname for Chinese president Xi Jinping, Xi dada “习大大,” or literally “Xi Big Big” first originated on China’s Weibo microblog last year. The moniker, which can also be taken to mean Uncle Xi in northern Chinese dialect, eventually broke through to the mainstream, becoming a common term used by Chinese state media and regular citizens.

The term gives Xi an air of accessibility—something he’s been going for since the beginning of his tenure as head of the Chinese communist party—but also a kind of paternalistic authority. ‘‘‘Uncle’ or ‘Daddy’ Xi,’’ after all, portrays him as something of a patriarch of the Chinese people, just as the emperor in imperial times was regarded as ‘father and mother of the people,’’Daniel Gardner, a history professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, told the New York Timesblog Sinosphere.

[…] APEC blue

When China pulled out all the stops to ensure that leaders attending the the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit last month in Beijing would enjoy clear skies, Beijing residents criticized the effort, seeing it as evidence that Chinese officials have the capability to clean up the city’s noxious air pollution, but lack the will except when world leaders come to town. APEC has a new meaning among Chinese netizens: “Air Pollution Eventually Controlled.”

Now APEC蓝” or “APEC blue” is used to symbolize the government’s unwillingness to do things for its own people, with a secondary meaning as anything that is beautiful but ephemeral. One Weibo user explained the term this way: “He’s not really that into you. It’s just an APEC blue.” Beijing smog, on the other hand, refers to something unattractive but long-lasting. “He is so into you. It’s like a Beijing smog on a Saturday in December,” the blogger wrote. [Source]

Read definitions of more Internet memes in CDT’s Grassmud Horse Lexicon.

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China’s Ebola Vaccine Enters Clinical Trials

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 18:09

Xinhua reports that a China-made Ebola vaccine has been approved for human testing.

An Ebola vaccine developed by a military-tied research institute has been approved to enter the human test stage, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) General Logistics Department announced Thursday.

The restructured vaccine, developed by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMC), is based on the 2014 mutant gene type and especially targets the strain plaguing west Africa. [Source]

The Chinese vaccine is the third Ebola vaccine in the world to enter clinical trials following those developed in the U.S. and Canada. Adam Jourdan at Reuters reports:

The news agency did not say when the trials would start, but other media said it would be this month.

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC is one of the front runners in developing an Ebola vaccine along with a vaccine being developed by Merck and NewLink. Both are in clinical trials, while other experimental vaccines are expected to start clinical trials next year.

[…] Chinese biotechnology firm Tianjin CanSino Biotechnology Inc is also involved in developing the vaccine, Xinhua said. [Source]

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China’s Internet Propaganda Machine Revealed

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 13:56

Blogger “Xiaolan” recently leaked a large archive of email correspondence from the Internet Information Office of Zhanggong District, Ganzhou City, Jiangxi from 2013 and 2014. Described as “evidence of the work of the Fifty Cent Party,” the more than 2,700 emails reveal one small part of the massive Internet propaganda apparatus used by the Communist Party to “guide public opinion” in the digital age. At Quartz, Nikhil Sonnad examines Zhanggong’s “surprisingly large, yet comically unsophisticated” propaganda department, corresponding with Xiaolan on how he managed to obtain Zhanggong documents, and examining emails tied to an online Q&A with Ganzhou Party Secretary and “propaganda innovator” Shi Wenqing:

Xiaolan—he only goes by that name—communicated with Quartz through encrypted chat messages. He said he was able to hack into Zhanggong’s propaganda department’s email account the easy way: by guessing the password.

“Generally, the passwords for government departments are the name of the department followed by ‘123456’ or something like that,” Xiaolan said. In this case, the mailbox password was “xcb123456,” with “xcb” representing the first letter of the romanization of each character in 宣传部—”propaganda department.”

[…] The internet exchange Quartz examined took place on January 16, 2014, with the online discussion hosted by Ganzhou Net, a local news portal managed by the propaganda department. (The full video of the interview is available online, in Chinese.) In its email announcing the Q&A to wangpingyuan, the department told each of them to post in the forum at least once, suggesting seven “discussion points” to focus on in their comments. Here’s one:

It’s almost Chinese New Year, but it seems like taxis are far more orderly than in past years. Also, taxi drivers are using their meters more reliably and the service is just generally better. Let’s keep it up!

Paid commenters tend to paste these suggestions word-for-word to meet their quotas and move on, and that’s what many of them appear to have done in this case.

[…] “These commenters just write their work report, send it, and are finished,” said Xiao [Qiang], the CDT editor. “Their tasks are totally mechanical.”

Not all paid comments are copy-and-paste jobs, however […] [Source]

Click through for more insight into China’s Internet propaganda machine. Also see CDT’s explanation of the Zhanggong leaks, a translated work report from the archive parroting frequent English-language defender of the CCP Eric X. Li, or Xiaolan’s original blogpost and instructions for downloading the entire archive (via CDT Chinese).

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100 Vietnamese Brides Disappear from Hebei Village

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 13:44

China currently has a gender ratio of 117 men to 100 women, leading men in rural areas of China to find brides from Vietnam and other countries in southeast Asia. This in turn has generated a market for human trafficking as women are bought and sold by alleged “matchmakers.” Recently in villages near Handan, Hebei Province, more than 100 Vietnamese women have disappeared from their homes. BBC reports:

The bachelors had paid tens of thousands of yuan each to the Vietnamese matchmaker, named by local media as Wu Meiyu, who had been living in Hebei for more than 20 years.

Earlier this year she had gone around rural areas in Hebei looking for customers, promising them a Vietnamese bride for a 115,000 yuan ($18,600; £11,800) fee, the reports said.

On 20 November, the wives reportedly told their husbands that they were having a meal with other Vietnamese brides. They subsequently became uncontactable.

When the husbands went to Ms Wu’s home to confront her, they found out that she had left a few days earlier. [Source]

Bree Feng at the New York Times has more on the investigation into the disappearances:

The police in Quzhou County have reportedly detained three people in connection with the investigation and are searching for Ms. Wu and another suspect, who has the surname Li. Although news reports have put the number of missing women at more than 100, the police said that only 28 villagers had reported such fraud, China Daily reported last week.

Those who filed police reports were all from villages under the jurisdiction of Handan, which is best known as the birthplace of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

Stories of Vietnamese brides have become common in rural China, where many bachelors say they are squeezed out of the marriage market because they lack the funds to satisfy the demands of Chinese families. Unfortunately for these men, runaway foreign brides are also common — though 100 in one area is a larger number than usual.

Although the police suspect that the Hebei case involves marriage fraud, Chinese government officials and international rights organizations have expressed concern that some international marriages involve human trafficking. [Source]

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China Gets Even Colder for Reporters

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 23:29

The Chinese government’s control over domestic journalists has only intensified since Xi Jinping became president in 2012, and the country is now the world’s leading jailor of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. While foreign reporters working in China generally operate with more freedom than their Chinese counterparts, authorities are tightening their reins as well through a variety of intimidation tactics, according to a report by Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times:

Many foreign correspondents say it is increasingly difficult to carry out their work here. Tibet remains off limits, and the volatile western region of Xinjiang has effectively become a no-go zone, with police harassment making it nearly impossible to investigate the bloody clashes between ethnic Uighurs and Chinese security forces that claimed hundreds of lives in 2014.

Earlier this week, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China published a harrowing catalog of recent incidents that suggest a creeping intolerance for photographers, reporters and video crews working in places that are officially open to foreign journalists.

In recent months, more than a dozen correspondents have been roughed up, detained or shadowed by plainclothes police officers as they tried to work in far-flung provinces as well as the heart of the nation’s capital. In October, one wire service reporter said he was manhandled, chained to a metal chair and held for more than 14 hours after he attempted to conduct interviews at the main petition office in Beijing. The reporter refused to strip down for a physical exam but was forced to submit to a drug test and then falsely accused of injuring one of his interrogators. As retribution, the Foreign Ministry issued him a six-month press card, not the one-year card that is usually pro forma.

[…] In many ways, the growing intolerance of foreign journalists mirrors the hostility experienced by civil society groups, liberal academics and rights defenders under the two-year-old administration of President Xi Jinping. In internal speeches and editorials published in the state-owned news media, the Communist Party has characterized Western reporters as ‘‘hostile foreign forces’’ seeking to subvert single-party rule. [Source]

A number of foreign reporters who tackled politically sensitive subjects have seen their China visa renewals denied. In November, during a press conference with President Obama, President Xi implied that foreign journalists who had not been granted visas to work from China were themselves to blame.

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Photo: Hangzhou – West Lake, by Michael Tyler

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:36

Hangzhou – West Lake

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Amber Scorah on Leaving the Witness in Shanghai

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 15:25

Missionary work is illegal in China, and the government has recently toughened its response to proselytizing both clandestine and perceived. A Canadian couple living near the North Korean border were detained this August on suspicion of “espionage and stealing state secrets.” Although the accusations may not be linked to religious activity, the couple are actively practicing Christians. A broader crackdown on missionary work soon followed the couple’s detention.

Amber Scorah, of ChinesePod’s “Dear Amber” fame, first went to Shanghai as a Jehovah’s Witness missionary. Her goal: to save as many people from dying in Armageddon as possible. Back home in Vancouver, she dutifully avoided interactions with “worldly people” (non-Witnesses). In China, however, she had to hide her missionary work and develop relationships outside the faith in order to convert. In the process, she began to question the teachings of the church.

Scorah recently spoke to KCRW’s “The Organist” about learning Chinese, living abroad, and her spiritual transformation. Scorah also wrote about her Shanghai journey in the February 2013 edition of The Believer:

Sipping our coffee drinks, we looked like the other expats one sees around Shanghai. But we weren’t. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses. We had, each of us, arrived with bags full of Watchtower publications wrapped in gift paper or hidden inside socks, to be used for converting Chinese people to our faith. We knew lots of stories of Witnesses who had been followed, watched, bugged, deported by Chinese officials. All three of us were criminals in the eyes of the Chinese government. But only one of us was a criminal in the eyes of the church elders, and this meeting in the Starbucks would result in a different kind of deportation. It would result in the swift kick out of the life I had lived for thirty years, and into an intimidating, complicated world I had known only from the periphery. [Source]

Learn more about missionaries in China from CDT.


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Dalai Lama Concedes He May Be the Last

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 14:12

After suggesting in September that the institutional role of Tibetan spiritual leader may end with his death, the 14th Dalai Lama has reiterated in a BBC interview that he could be the last incarnation of a figure that has been the highest spiritual and temporal authority in Tibetan Buddhism since the 17th century. In 2011, the Dalai Lama ceded his political power over the exiled Central Tibetan Authority to the democratically elected Sikyong (equivalent of prime minister) Lobsang Sangay, but has continued to be the highest spiritual leader in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and the de facto world ambassador of Buddhism and Tibetan autonomy. In September, Tibet scholar Robert Barnett said the Dalai Lama’s announcement of a possible end to the institution was likely intended to depoliticize the historical role of the high tulku ahead of Beijing’s probable attempt to discover a friendly successor, as has happened with other traditionally empowered reincarnates. The BBC reports:

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising in Tibet.

Beijing views the Nobel Peace Prize-winner as a “splittist”, though he now advocates a “middle way” with China, seeking autonomy but not independence for Tibet.

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, during a visit to Rome for the 14th World Summit of Nobel Laureates, the 79-year-old spiritual leader conceded that he may not have a successor.

Whether another Dalai Lama came after him would depend on the circumstances after his death and was “up to the Tibetan people”, he said.

[…] The move was seen by many as a way the Dalai Lama could ensure the Tibetan community would have an elected leader in place outside the control of China.

China has said repeatedly that it will choose the next Dalai Lama.

“The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease,” the Dalai Lama told the BBC. [Source]

In the BBC Newsnight interview, the Dalai Lama also spoke about the international community’s need to encourage democracy in China, saying that due to financial reasons, the UK government had been soft on China over the recently quashed Hong Kong pro-democracy protest movement. Malcolm Moore reports for the Telegraph:

The British government did not confront China over the situation in Hong Kong because it needs Chinese money, the Dalai Lama has said.

“My English friend said they say the British government’s pocket is more or less empty, so it is very important to them to have close links with China for money reasons. That is also realistic,” said the Dalai Lama, in an interview with Newsnight in Rome.

[…] “China, economically, very much wants to join the mainstream of the world economy. They are most welcome,” the Dalai Lama said.

[…] “At the same time the free world has a moral responsibility to bring China into the mainstream of democracy. China’s own people also want that … so therefore I think the whole world’s future has to be freedom and democracy. I think the free world has certain responsibilities to stand firm over democracy and the rule of law and the freedom of the press.” [Source]

The Dalai Lama also spoke about the Pope’s recent declination of a meeting, which the Catholic leader said “could cause inconveniences.” The Pope has made recent efforts to reach out to China, a country with tense relations to the Vatican.

In past months, the Dalai Lama has hinted that relations with Beijing may be thawing: he spoke about an informal dialogue between his representatives and Beijing over a pilgrimage to Wutai Shan—after which China quickly announced the impossibility of his return, and he praised President Xi Jinping as “more open-minded” than his predecessors. In a recent interview with France24, the Dalai Lama said that he believed Party conservatives to be holding Xi back from reforming government policy on Tibet:

In the interview aired on Wednesday, the exiled spiritual leader suggested hardliners in Beijing were holding President Xi Jinping back from granting genuine autonomy to the Himalayan region.

The Dalai Lama said he had been encouraged by Xi’s recent comments on the importance of Buddhism in Chinese culture. “This is something very unusual,” he said. “A communist, usually, we consider atheist.”

Asked if the remarks led him to believe Xi was ready to discuss calls for genuine autonomy, the spiritual leader said he thought there were “some indications”.

“But at the same time, among the establishment, there is a lot of hardliner thinking still there. So he himself sometimes finds it’s a difficult situation,” the Dalai Lama said. [Source]

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Word of the Week: (Death by) Hide-and-Seek

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 14:05

Word of the Week comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and 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.

躲猫猫(死)(duǒ māomāo (sǐ)): (death by) hide-and-seek

Prison hide-and-seek competition. (Kuang Biao)

Death in police custody under suspicious circumstances.

In 2009, farmer Li Qiaoming died while in detention for illegal logging. The prison authorities claimed that Li died of a head injury sustained while playing hide-and-seek with other inmates. Netizens balked, saying they suspected Li had instead been beaten to death by the police.

To assuage online anger, the provincial authorities asked for volunteers for an inspection of the prison. Fifteen inspectors were “randomly selected” from a pool of about 1,000. But the inspection backfired when the public learned that the “volunteers” were former employees of state-run media.

The “hide-and-seek incident” (躲猫猫事件 duǒ māomāo shìjiàn) now symbolizes cover-ups of police brutality.

Sample Usage:

媒体人任东杰: Hunan: Suspect Dies at Public Security Bureau, Police Say He “Died in His Sleep”

湖南:嫌犯公安局身亡 警方称系“睡死的”

李庄: Died in his sleep? After death by face washing, death by hide-and-seek, death by meal, and death by drinking water, a new way of dying. (October 16, 2014)

睡觉死?继洗脸死、躲猫猫死、吃饭死、喝水死后的新死法。 [Chinese]

See also death by drinking boiled water, hang oneself, death by nightmare, and “suffocation by quilt.”

Want to learn more subversive netizen slang? Check out Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang. Available for $2.99 in the Kindle, Google Play, and iTunes stores. All proceeds from the sale of this eBook support China Digital Times.

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CPJ: China Is World’s Top Jailor of Journalists

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 13:30

President Xi Jinping’s tenure so far has seen a crackdown on free expression which has included the detention of several journalists as well as renewed efforts to guide and control media coverage. In their annual census of journalists in prison around the world, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has put China at the top of the list with 44 journalists currently in jail. Half of those imprisoned are either ethnic Uyghur or Tibetan. CPJ’s Bob Dietz breaks down the list:

Here is the breakdown of the numbers of jailed journalists for this year, with comparisons to 2013. Of the 44 in jail for their work in China, 17 were Uighurs, largely from Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Last year’s number of seven imprisoned Uighurs was swelled in part this year with the sentencing of six of the seven students who worked with prominent Uighur academic and blogger Ilham Tohti, the founder and editor of the Uighurbiz website. A seventh student sentenced for his association with the website was a member of the Yi ethnic group.

The number of jailed Tibetan journalists is four this year, down from nine in 2013. One of the Tibetan prisoners released this year was filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, a CPJ 2012 International Press Freedom Awardee who was freed in July. [Source]

While half of those imprisoned are ethnic minorities, the number of Han Chinese journalists and those working for mainstream media also increased this year. From James T. Areddy at the Wall Street Journal:

A significance in the figures is that 22 of those imprisoned are from mainstream publications or are journalists where ethnicity isn’t an issue, such as affairs in the fraught provinces of Tibetan and Xinjiang.

The group called the number a record since 1990, when it began keeping track. “A number of cases seem to reflect the increasingly repressive media and general political atmosphere that has evolved since President Xi Jinping came to power in March 2013,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program director.

China rejected the findings. “This organization you mentioned has always been biased against China,” Qian Gang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said when asked about the CPJ report at a regular press briefing on Wednesday. “Its report is also biased and unprofessional, as it has always been.”

Among the Chinese journalists newly jailed this year is 70-year-old Gao Yu, an outspoken reporter who has been accused of leaking state secrets. Ms. Gao faced a secret trial in November. Months before her trial, state television aired police footage of her dressed in prison garb and confessing to the crime, in what decried as a violation of due process. [Source]

For Al Jazeera, D. Parvaz discusses the reasons that China has more journalists in prison than in the past:

Gao Wenqian, a policy adviser with Human Rights in China, said there are two principal reasons for the new round of crackdowns: The increased outspokenness of journalists “in response to promises made by President Xi Jinping during his early days in office.”

“The escalated crackdown on journalists over the past year has been an effort by the authorities to control the media as they realized that things would get quickly out of their control if people really practiced what Xi Jinping said,” said Gao, adding that these fears are “compounded by the economic slowdown in recent years,” which he said has “sharpened social conflict.”

Also worth noting, said Gao, is that more than half the detained journalists are Tibetan or Uighur. “The persecution of ethnic minorities is part of the overall human rights situation,” he said. “The fear is that separatist dissent could produce a chain reaction in Taiwan and Hong Kong.” [Source]

Among those on the list are Gao Yu, a veteran reporter who has been tried but not yet sentenced for allegedly “leaking state secrets,” and Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison on “separatism” charges, partly for running a website that covered Uyghur affairs. Seven of his students who were sentenced to between three and eights years in prison for their work on the website are included on the list as well.

Read about each of the 44 journalists jailed in China, via CPJ. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also named China as the top jailor of journalists in their annual report on press conditions around the world.

Read more about media conditions and press freedom in China, via CDT.

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Amy Chang on the Internet with Chinese Characteristics

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 17:12

China is becoming increasingly assertive in controlling its Internet borders. At the World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen, Zhejiang after the APEC summit last month, a manifesto on the central government’s right to “sovereignty over the Internet in China” was slipped under the hotel room doors of attendees. The conference was an opportunity for China to defend the Great Firewall, not break it down.

Digital insularity may be paying off. The Great Firewall creates a vacuum for homegrown Internet companies to fill. Once Twitter, Google, and Facebook were out of the picture, Weibo, Baidu, and Renren filled the space. Domestic web platforms, while not yet household names abroad, are now gaining foreign investment, as evinced by the Alibaba IPO this summer. Facebook is now looking for a way back into China. It has opened a field office in Beijing to help Chinese companies advertise on the site. When cyber czar Lu Wei visited Facebook headquarters earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a copy of Xi Jinping’s The Governance of China on his desk, and explained that he had given copies to colleagues to help them understand “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

“Internet sovereignty”—the maintenance of national cyber borders—is a key element of Chinese Internet control, argues Amy Chang, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security, in her recent report Warring State: China’s Cybersecurity Strategy. At the Huffington Post, Chang warns that “China is openly undermining the United States’ vision of a free and open Internet”:

China’s list of prohibited content online includes any information that: endangers state security, damages state honor and interests, spreads rumors, and disrupts social order and stability. These draconian regulations are further reinforced by Chinese literature on cybersecurity strategy. Chinese cyber scholars, for example, have noted instances where loss of control over the Internet toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Nothing frightens the ruling CCP more than the prospect of an uncontrolled Internet having a similar outcome in China.

China has engaged the international community on this front, wishing to signal to other countries that it is a responsible and cooperative actor on technology issues. Understanding that international norms and law have yet to codify Internet governance and cyber activity, China has invested significant effort to set the course for international norms in Internet governance.

China’s push for Internet sovereignty gained momentum abroad after Edward Snowden released information about U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs. Capitalizing on the anti-U.S. sentiment in other authoritarian countries like Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, China wooed developing countries with growing online populations to consider the benefits of control of the Internet. [Source]

In the executive summary of her report, Chang writes that “China’s foreign policy behavior, including its cyber activity, is driven primarily by the domestic political imperative to protect the longevity of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).” Zuckerberg’s courting of Lu only supports Chinese protectionism, Chang says at SFGate:

Why was Zuckerberg’s gesture toward Lu especially concerning? Because China is actively promoting a counter-narrative to the traditional Western notion of an open, free, networked society. China, and in particular Lu, have been proposing the concept of sovereignty in cyberspace, implying China’s ability to control its own Internet, censor information that may threaten the regime, and administer Web traffic within its own borders. China has employed this language in state-sponsored media, in government white papers, in U.N. meetings, and in literature distributed at Internet governance conferences.

The message conveyed in these efforts is the antithesis of what Silicon Valley stands for. In the past several years, companies have stood up for its principles of free access to information and freedom from censorship and monitoring. In early 2010, Google said it would stop censoring Internet search results in China and subsequently ceased search services in the country.

[…] While Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected, the company should have had the foresight to understand how Lu’s visit to Silicon Valley — and Zuckerberg’s gesture in particular — would provide fodder for promoting China’s model of Internet governance. [Source]

China may never export Internet governance to the U.S., but it is increasingly spreading its message—and its digital reach—to other countries. Baidu launched Busca, a Portuguese-language search engine, in Brazil this July. Busca does not block sensitive keywords like “Falun Gong,” but results may be filtered. Naspers, a media and Internet giant with a “near-monopoly on satellite TV” in its home country of South Africa, owns a 34% stake in Tencent, leading to concerns that Chinese censorship practices could affect media consumers in the country.

Rebecca MacKinnon addresses the problem of a Balkanized Internet in her 2012 book Consent of the Networked.

Read more about Internet censorship from CDT.

Update (12/17 10:50 a.m. EST): William Farris’ findings on Busca filtering search results, cited in the Internet Monitor article linked to above, has been discredited.

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After Slamming U.S., China Admits it Also Tortures

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:54

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary detailing torture methods used in the CIA’s secret interrogation program during the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” prompted criticism from China’s state media and Foreign Ministry. Official media devoted special attention to the revelations and U.S. “double standards,” while the Foreign Ministry called on Washington to “correct its ways” and stated China’s consistent opposition to torture. Days later, following the posthumous retrial that exonerated Huugjilt, a man executed in Inner Mongolia in 1996 for rape and murder, Chinese state media admitted that the use of torture to force prisoner confessions “has not been rare.” The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer reports, and translates netizen commentary:

“It has not been rare for higher authorities to exert pressure on local public security departments and judiciary to crack serious murder cases,” the state-run China Daily said in an editorial. “Nor has it been rare for the police to extort confessions through torture. And suspects have been sentenced without solid evidence except for extorted confessions.”

[…] In an editorial released after last week’s report into interrogation by the CIA, Xinhua accused the United States of “sheer hypocrisy” in casting itself as a defender of human rights. The news agency asked whether the report would accelerate the United States’ fall “from the altar of morality and justice.”

Some bloggers and other Netizens here appeared to share their government’s outrage. But most reacted with irony to that report last week, suggesting U.S. interrogators might have learned a trick or two from China. One posted an imaginary conversation between the CIA and a suspect: “CIA: If you don’t confess, I’ll send you to China. Criminal: I confess!” […]

“I see that China Central Television is talking about torture in the United States every day. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and that’s torture. These are the most lightweight in China!” posted another. [Source]

According to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the two architects of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” had been paid $81 million for “work [that] consisted of “reverse-engineering” survival techniques taught to US military personnel to withstand Chinese and North Korean torture techniques if captured during the Korean War,” (via The Guardian).

Beijing and Washington engage in an annual critique of each others’ human rights records.

Earlier this year, a survey from Amnesty International found that 74% of the Chinese public supported the proposition “torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public,” compared to 36% worldwide.

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Photo: Frozen Lake, by Ding Zhou

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:10

Frozen Lake

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Jonathan Mirsky: Pope Francis’ China Problem

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:57

Pope Francis recently declined an opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama, apparently after deciding that the meeting could “cause inconveniences” with Chinese authorities. While the Chinese government routinely pressures foreign governments from meeting with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader has regularly met with previous popes, though this would have been his first meeting with Pope Francis. In the New York Review of Books, Jonathan Mirsky writes that Pope Francis’ decision differs from that of heads of state who decline to meet the Dalai Lama:

What happened in Rome is wholly different. Unlike the US, Britain, Norway, and South Africa, among other countries, the Vatican has no economic ties with Beijing, nor does it hold security discussions with the Chinese. It is also usual for the Pope to meet the leaders of other world faiths on purely religious grounds.

What is plain is Francis’s anguish over the fate of the estimated twelve million Chinese who are Catholic and the more than three thousand Catholic priests active in China. About half of China’s Catholics are connected to one of the churches under the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which means their bishops are appointed by employees of CPCA, which was created by the Religious Affairs Bureau of the People’s Republic; the other half are unofficial “House Christians,” who recognize the pope as their leader. Along with China’s Protestants, both groups have at best uneasy relations with the Communist leadership. Earlier this year, Catholic and Protestant churches in some regions of China were designated as “illegal structures” and demolished; in other cases in recent months, Christian religious symbols, such as crosses, have sometimes been forcibly removed.

Evidently, the Vatican understood what could happen if the Pope met “the criminal, splittist Dalai,” as he is routinely condemned by Beijing. There is always the possibility of detentions of prominent Catholics and their priests, and more punishments for Tibetan Buddhists, well-tried forms of Communist persecution. There also could be more at stake now that Beijing has signaled that it might consider improving relations with Rome. The signal seems arcane but it was understood in the Vatican. During the Pope’s visit to South Korea, for the first time a plane carrying a pope was permitted to fly through Chinese air space. In response, as he passed over China, the Pope sent a message to President Xi Jinping: “I extend the best wishes to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke the divine blessings of peace and well-being upon the nation.” [Source]

Read more about China’s relations with the Vatican, Pope Francis, and the Dalai Lama, via CDT.

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Chinese Artists Go “Back to the Land”

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:24

A new video by Leah Thompson and Sun Yunfan of ChinaFile looks at a group of young Chinese who are moving from cities to the countryside in order to preserve local heritage, help develop rural areas, and escape the urban grind. Thompson writes:

We see [artist] Ou [Ning]’s effort as connected to a global “back-to-the-land” tradition that often follows the growth of cities and related urban problems. But within China, experiments like the Bishan Project—as Ou and his collaborator, Zuo Jing, have dubbed their efforts—are collectively described as part of the “new rural reconstruction movement (NRRM).” To call their efforts “rural reconstruction” ties them to a historical movement, led mostly by Chinese intellectuals who became enamored of Progressivism while studying in the U.S. in the early decades of the 20th century and returned to China fueled by a quest to uplift and modernize their nation’s countryside.

But while today’s rural reformers view themselves as heirs to this earlier movement, they are more interested in reviving rural traditions than replacing them. In response to what they see as the damaging impacts of globalization on rural areas, they focus their efforts on “sustainable development,” reviving local culture and bridging the gulf between rural and urban life. In 2013, Zuo published a map in his Bishan Magazine, which we have translated here. It identifies 50 current projects that Zuo classifies as part of this movement.

ChinaFile has translated and posted Zuo’s map.

While some young Chinese are choosing to move to rural areas and escape the country’s rapid urbanization, the official media regulator the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television is also sending some journalists into the countryside to learn from their rural compatriots, in a move reminiscent of Mao Zedong’s campaign to send intellectuals to labor in rural areas.

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Feng Zhenghu: The Narita Airport Diary (7)

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:09

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 previous installments here:

November 9

I’d been living in the immigration hall at Terminal 1 of Japan’s Narita International Airport for six days. By night I slept on a bench, and by day I sustained myself primarily on tap water. The immigration bureau officials stipulated that no employees could buy food for me, and they refused to let my friends in Japan send food. So I had no choice but continue my forced hunger strike. I would choose death over dishonor.

The Democratic Party of Japan had won the recent elections, and since it was its first time in power, it needed the support of the Chinese government. The Hatoyama administration’s foreign policy was to “get closer to China and move further away from the U.S.” It wasn’t about to insult the Chinese government for the sake of the human rights of an ordinary Chinese citizen. Instead, it supported, or at least tacitly consented, to the Chinese officials’ violation of human rights. But Japan is a democratic country with the rule of law. The Japanese police wouldn’t be so crude as their Chinese counterparts–they wouldn’t drag me into Japan against my will. All the Japanese government could do was starve me into crossing the border. But this trick doesn’t work on an idealistic person who has survived the purgatory of Chinese prison.

When one door shuts another one opens. The day before, a stranger arriving from China brought me a package of crackers, a bag of little cakes, some chocolate, and three drinks. He had been entrusted by the Shanghai lawyer Yang Shaogang to buy some food for me at the departure hall of the Shanghai airport. To be in dire straights far away from home and have the first food I receive come from my own country, from a close friend and mentor for whom I have the utmost of respect and admiration—it really moved me.

I had food, delicious and filling. Not having eaten in over three days, however, my stomach had shriveled up, and I couldn’t eat normally. Instead I had to eat bit by bit, slowly returning my appetite to normal. With a few packs of crackers, I was able to break the food blockade, and could continue my protest at the airport for the long haul.

Chinese people couldn’t imagine—most Japanese people couldn’t imagine—that I’d go hungry on Japan’s doorstep. If they knew the truth, they would give me a package of crackers on their way through immigration, helping me to get through this difficult time. So I went online and posted a request for help under the pen name Shu Wen, titled “Give Feng Zhenghu a Pack of Crackers.”

The letter ended like this: “Dear readers, if you or your friends will be taking United Airlines, Air China, All Nippon Airlines, or EVA Air to Narita International Airport, when arriving at the south wing of Terminal 1 pay attention to the area for filling out declaration cards in the immigration inspection hall. You may see Feng Zhenghu. Give him a package of crackers or some other food—you will be giving support and sympathy to an individual who is struggling through adversity to uphold the human rights of the Chinese people.

“Feng Zhenghu’s Japanese cell phone number is 080-3445-7210.” [Chinese]

Translation by Nick.

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Global Times Says 300 “Chinese Extremists” Fighting Alongside ISIS

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 18:50

In effort to shore up global support for the controversial crackdown on terrorism in Xinjiang, official media has released English-language material attempting to tie some of the recent violent attacks that prompted the crackdown to the global jihad movement. On Monday, the Global Times released an English report simultaneously alleging that about 300 “Chinese extremists” are fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and reiterating recent criticism of Turkey:

According to a senior security official from the Kurdish region of Iraq, terrorists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a terrorist organization that is also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), have travelled to Syria via southeastern Turkey’s Sanliurfa Province to join the Islamic State jihadist group.

[…] “The fact that these extremists can easily enter Turkey and later travel to Syria and Iraq to join IS is a direct consequence of the Turkish government’s ambiguous policies,” a source familiar with China’s anti-terrorism operations, told the Global Times.

[…] “The illegal issuance of passports and visas and customs loopholes in some Southeast Asian countries have allowed extremists to travel to Turkey and then go on to join the jihadists,” the source told the Global Times.

“If there weren’t so many illegal passports and visas available, there would not be so many members of ETIM in Syria and Iraq,” the source noted.

According to information from various sources, including security officers from Iraq’s Kurdish region, Syria and Lebanon, around 300 Chinese extremists are fighting with IS in Iraq and Syria. [Source]

Last month China castigated Turkey for expressing a willingness to shelter Uyghur refugees who were rescued from a human trafficking camp in Thailand. While the Global Times criticizes Turkey’s “ambiguous policies,” a seemingly calculated dose of ambiguity can also be found in the Global Times report. Lack of clarity on said “Southeast Asian countries” could suggest that many of the “Chinese extremists” alleged to be fighting with ISIS were the same Uyghur refugees rescued in Thailand. The Global Times report also notes that the Turkish embassy has denied issuing passports to Xinjiang residents, and cites another unnamed source saying that East Turkestan Islamic Party (ETIM) militants fighting in the Levant have added IS to their name.

In September, the New York Times reported that Iraqi defense officials posted photos of a captured Chinese national fighting on behalf of ISIS. This man, Bo Wang, was ethnic Han, not Uyghur, and the Times called the pictures “the first visual evidence of a Chinese citizen fighting with ISIS.” The man’s name in conjunction with “Syria” and “jihad” became sensitive search terms on Weibo.

Despite China’s efforts to tie Xinjiang violence to the global jihad movement, Beijing has so far stayed true to its commitment to non-interventionism by criticizing recent U.S. plans to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. At Al Jazeera, Massoud Hayoun reports that there may be talk in Beijing of launching military action against the Islamic State:

Reports suggest Beijing has been in talks of conducting airstrikes in support of Iraqi efforts against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIL) for month, with the foreign ministry in Baghdad appearing to confirm the development to the Financial Times on Friday.

The apparent promise of military intervention comes, analysts say, at a time when Beijing hopes to globalize support for a clampdown on China describes as Uighur terrorism.

Chinese officials say around 300 Chinese nationals are currently fighting with ISIL — three times the estimate of less than six months ago.

And while details of the fighters’ identities had reportedly been unverifiable, officials have now reportedly concluded that China’s ISIL fighters are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) — a group that since 9/11 has been deemed a Uighur “terrorist” organization by Beijing. Analysts have questioned the group’s existence, noting that nearly all information on the organization is funneled through Chinese officials and state media. […] [Source]

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