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Winning, and Watching, Hearts and Minds in Xinjiang

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 23:35

With tensions continuing to rise between local Uyghur residents of Xinjiang and Han authorities, a series of recent violent incidents have killed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people. Meanwhile, authorities continue to employ harsh tactics to crack down on what they deem “separatist” behavior. Now a new program promises a softer approach to “win the hearts and minds” of Uyghurs by sending hundreds of thousands of Party officials to rural regions to interact with the local population. But as Tom Phillips reports for the Telegraph, the plan also includes a more sinister purpose:

“The basic idea is to visit families, build unity and bring them benefits,” said one of the 12 officials in Bayandai village. “It is a project to win people’s hearts and to improve the local economy and people’s lives.”

But there is also a second, largely unspoken task for the team, and for the rest of the officials who are fanning out across 8,000 villages in Xinjiang: to gather intelligence on the lives of the villagers and create a vast community surveillance network in this huge and troubled region.

“Nominally they are there to listen to the people,” said Dr James Leibold, a specialist on China’s ethnic policy from La Trobe University in Australia. “But one of the things they have also been tasked with is surveillance.”

The teams have been told to interview each household in their village and compile detailed reports on their employment status as well as on their observance of Islam, noting down, for example, whether the women wear veils and the men have beards. [Source]

According to the Telegraph report, the plan would, “help thwart terrorist activities and extremist thought.” China has blamed the recent violence on the rise of religious extremism from abroad, but other observers believe it is an extreme response to systematic government repression of the Muslim minority group.

While evidence of sustained links between global jihadist groups and Uyghurs in Xinjiang remains sketchy, some jihadist groups have condemned the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs. A publication affiliated with Al Qaeda recently called Xinjiang “occupied Muslim land”, calling for it to be “recovered [into] the shade of the Islamic Caliphate.” James Griffiths reports for the South China Morning Post:

Produced by the jihadist organisation’s As-Sahab media wing, the 117-page debut issue of Resurgence includes a feature titled “Did You Know? 10 Facts About East Turkistan,” referring to the name for Xinjiang used by those who advocate independence from China.

While much of the article is inaccurate – it claims, for example, that teaching the Quran is illegal in China (Islam is one of the country’s five recognised official religions) – it shows how China’s actions in the region, such as encouraging the migration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang and restricting religious dress, are being used by jihadist organisations to confirm their belief that Muslims are under threat.

[...] “In recent years [jihadist organisations] have expressed an interest in the alleged oppression of Xinjiang Uygurs by the Han Chinese,” Ahmed Hashim, a terrorism expert and associate international studies professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told the South China Morning Post. “China is being seen as an oppressive power as it grows in strength.” [Source]

In July, the leader of the Islamic State gave a speech in Iraq in which he vowed to get revenge on a number of countries, including China, which had “seized Muslim rights.”

Read more about Xinjiang, Uyghurs, and violence in the region, via CDT.

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Expensive Cameras the Latest Corruption Tell-tale

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 23:28

Global Times reports that high-end photography gear has become a sign of officials’ illicit income, in a similar vein to the luxury wristwatches which have betrayed many of their owners:

The Xinhua News Agency carried an article on September 23 about officials accepting bribes and using public funds to pay for their hobby.

For instance, an unidentified “senior official” used a police helicopter during a trip in Henan in order to take overhead photos of swans in the Yellow River, Xinhua reported.

His plan was fruitless, as the loud noise of helicopter scared the swans away.

Xinhua reported that [recently dismissed Henan official Qin Yuhai] claimed that his all of his equipment was gifts from a local businessman. Qin allegedly got rid of his most pricey lenses and accessories before authorities launched an official probe that yielded millions of yuan in equipment.

[…] For corrupt officials, photography also provides a convenient way to transmit bribes. Because art appraisal can be subjective, amateur works can be sold legitimately for astonishingly high prices. [Source]

Reuters’ Ben Blanchard reports that the gift loophole may soon be closed:

Currently, officials can defend themselves from accusations of receiving bribes by saying money or other goods received, like luxury watches or bags, were just a present from a friend, the official China Daily reported.

It is only considered a crime if a link can be made to some sort of abuse of power, it said.

[…] The gift rules will probably be changed at a regular meeting of the National People’s Congress opening on Oct. 27, the newspaper said.

“The draft is likely to deem that accepting gifts or money of a considerable amount would be punishable for all government officials,” it added. [Source]

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Party “May Never” Open All Files on Painful Past

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:17

Reuters’ Ben Blanchard reports comments from a senior Party scholar on the dim prospects for public release of sensitive historical documents:

Xie Chuntao, Director of the Party History Teaching and Research Department of the Party School, which trains rising officials, said the party had reflected deeply on its mistakes.

[…] “Everyone has reached a consensus that the mistakes of the past will certainly not be repeated today or in the future.”

Only a “small number” of the party’s historical files were still sealed, he said.

“Some involve the state’s core interests, and some are not convenient to be released,” Xie added.

“From a historical research it is to be hoped that it would be best if they are all opened. But I fear this cannot happen, and may never happen.” [Source]

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China Accused of Infiltrating Apple’s iCloud

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:44

Apple’s aggressive promotion of encryption for its devices’ internal storage has won praise from privacy advocates and criticism from U.S. law enforcement, met in turn with vigorous counterargument and talk of a reopening of the “Crypto wars” of the 1990s. As Apple itself has argued, however, data stored in the cloud remains relatively vulnerable. Censorship monitor highlighted this risk on Monday, revealing an apparent attempt to intercept Apple users’ iCloud data across China:

This is clearly a malicious attack on Apple in an effort to gain access to usernames and passwords and consequently all data stored on iCloud such as iMessages, photos, contacts, etc. Unlike the recent attack on Google, this attack is nationwide and coincides with the launch today in China of the newest iPhone. While the attacks on Google and Yahoo enabled the authorities to snoop on what information Chinese were accessing on those two platforms, the Apple attack is different. If users ignored the security warning and clicked through to the Apple site and entered their username and password, this information has now been compromised by the Chinese authorities. Many Apple customers use iCloud to store their personal information, including iMessages, photos and contacts. This may also somehow be related again to images and videos of the Hong Kong protests being shared on the mainland.

[…] This attack will come as a surprise to Apple. In the past, the company has had a bromance with the authorities and have blindly acquiesced when asked to remove apps from the China app store. With such a close, cozy and snuggly relationship, it is hard to imagine that the executives at Apple felt that they would get this kind of treatment in China. Tim Cook is looking in his mirror now and crying “What did I do wrong?”.

This episode should provide a clear warning signal to foreign companies that work with the Chinese authorities on their censorship agenda. […] [Source]

The post includes evidence of the attack and advice on how to avoid it.

One recent development in the Cupertino-Beijing “bromance” was Apple’s decision to host Chinese users’ information on servers within the country, leased from China Telecom. The company claimed that encryption would prevent unauthorized access, but questions remain over its vulnerability to legal requests from authorities.

Meanwhile, Apple’s new Yosemite desktop operating system has been found to transmit search and location data, though this can easily be disabled.

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Photo: Beijing, by ilya

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:58
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Minitrue: Violent Incident in Kashgar

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:45

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.

Temporarily do not report on the violent incident that occurred Sunday [October 12] in Maralbeshi, Kashgar, Xinjiang. (October 19, 2014)


On Saturday, October 18, U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported on a violent incident in Kashgar prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the previous Sunday, October 12. The New York Times cites RFA in their coverage of the October 12 incident:

An attack on a farmers market in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang has reportedly left at least 22 people dead and dozens injured, Radio Free Asia, the news service financed by the American government, has reported.

Radio Free Asia said on Saturday that the rampage, which took place Oct. 12 in Kashgar Prefecture, was carried out by four men armed with knives and explosives who attacked police officers and merchants before being shot dead by the police. Most of the victims were ethnic Han Chinese and the assailants were ethnic Uighur, the news service said, citing local police officials.

One officer, Hashim Eli, said the assailants were local men who arrived on motorcycles at 10:30 a.m. “Two of them attacked police officers patrolling the street while the other two attacked the Han Chinese stall owners who were just entering the market to open their stores,” Radio Free Asia quoted him as saying.

A man who answered the phone at the police station in Bachu County, where the attack took place, declined to comment, saying he was not authorized to speak to reporters. [Source]

This is the latest of many recent violent attacks in Xinjiang, and comes as authorities continue a massive security crackdown in the region.

Beijing exercises strict control of the media narrative in Xinjiang, effectively barring journalists access from scenes of unrest. In continuing to limit media coverage, Beijing allows a monopoly on reported information to activists and advocacy groups; other media organizations, such as the Financial Times and The Times of India, have also cited RFA’s report in covering the attack in Xinjiang.

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

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C.Y. Leung Takes Tough Stance Ahead of Talks with Protesters

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:36

Following a weekend of violent clashes between protesters and police in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, and ahead of planned talks with government representatives, some students are vowing to continue their sit-in. Donny Kwok and John Ruwitch report for Reuters:

The talks between student representatives and senior city government officials, scheduled for Tuesday evening, may yield small confidence-building measures and an agreement to continue the dialogue, but are unlikely to bridge the chasm between the two sides or end the demonstrations.

“I don’t expect much from tomorrow’s meeting, but I still hold some hope for the talks,” said protester Woody Wong, a 21-year-old student who camped overnight on Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare in the densely populated Mong Kok district.

“I will keep doing this until the government listens.”

[...] “So far we’ve seen no hope that they will reach some agreement in the coming week because both sides have different expectations of the dialogue,” said James Sung, a political analyst at City University of Hong Kong. [Source]

Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has further flamed protesters’ anger by claiming that the protests are being orchestrated by “foreign forces,” an assertion frequently put forward by China’s state media since the protests began. From Frederik Balfour, Chong Pooi Koon and Alex Davis of Bloomberg News:

“There is obviously participation by people, organizations from outside of Hong Kong,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in an interview Sunday on Asia Television Ltd. “And this is not the only time they do it. And this is not an exception, either.”

This marks the first time Leung has invoked rhetoric common in China’s state-owned media that foreigners are to blame for interfering in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs.

“My concern is it excuses the government from resolving the problems by blaming it on the outside,” David Zweig, a political science professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said in an interview. “The foreign intervention issue is that it allows China to say there are no domestic issues and then they don’t have to pay attention to social problems, some of which are caused by the political structure.”

Student leader Joshua Wong responded to Leung’s remarks in a humorous posting on his Twitter account, debunking the notion that foreign forces were running the show.

“The only overseas relationship I have, is my Korean cell phone, my U.S. computer and my Japanese gundam. Of course, all of them are made in China,” he wrote in Cantonese. [Source]

梁振英認為佔領行動外來勢力介入,唔知佢係咪覺得我個人有外來勢力介入啦,總之我個人唯一同外國有關系既就係: 韓國手機 美國電腦 日本高達 當然所有都係Made in China :o)

— 黃之鋒 (@joshuawong1013) October 19, 2014

Other protesters also denied Leung’s claims.

Leung further stoked controversy by claiming that universal suffrage, one of the key demands of protesters, would result in giving poor Hong Kong residents a dominant role in choosing his successor. Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley report for the New York Times:

Mr. Leung gave the warning in a broad-ranging defense of his government’s handling of pro-democracy protests that have wracked the city for more than three weeks. He acknowledged that many protesters were angered by the city’s lack of social mobility and affordable housing but argued that containing populist pressures was an important reason for resisting protesters’ demands.

Instead, he offered a firm defense of Beijing’s position that candidates to succeed him must be screened by a “broadly representative” nominating committee, which would insulate Hong Kong’s next chief executive from popular pressure to create a welfare state and allow the government to implement more business-friendly policies to address economic inequality.

Mr. Leung’s blunt remarks — which seemed to reflect a commonly held view among the Hong Kong elite that the general public cannot be trusted to govern the city well — appeared likely to draw fresh criticism from the democratic opposition and to inflame the street struggle over Hong Kong’s political future, which has been has been fueled in part by economic discontent, especially among younger residents. [Source]

In #HongKong's #MongKok area. A relatively quiet evening for #HongKongProtests #OccupyCentral Talks to start tomorrow

— Michiel Willems (@michielwil) October 20, 2014

Pano of Nathan and Argyle at 1:30am. #OccupyCentral #mongkok

— ajlibunao (@ajlibunao) October 20, 2014

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Photo: Welder, Ganzhou, Jiangxi, by Mark Hobbs

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 17:39

Welder, Ganzhou, Jiangxi

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Minitrue: Delete News on Xi Yuanping and Zhang Lanlan

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 13:20

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.

Minitrue: All websites (including official media) find and delete the articles “Beauty in the Shrubbery,” [Chinese]  and “Xi Yuanping Article Remembers Father; Photo With Wife Zhang Lanlan Revealed” [Chinese].  In addition to related content on news websites, also clean up related information on interactive platforms. (October 18, 2014)

全网查删(包括中央媒体)《习远平:梢林美丽》,《习远平撰文忆父亲 与妻子张澜澜合影曝光》。除新闻网站的相关内容外,重点对互动环节中的相关信息进行清理。并将前一天的清理情况上报网信办。[Chinese]

Last week, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily published an essay by Xi Jinping’s brother Xi Yuanping titled “Beauty in the Shrubbery” (《梢林美丽》, now deleted but cached by Google). The essay, written to celebrate what would be the 110th birthday of father and late revolutionary leader Xi Zhongxun, revealed that the Xi Yuanping has been married to Zhang Lanlan since 2008. Zhang, a PLA singer and once frequent television gala host, had been out of the public view since that same year. The Telegraph describes a follow-up media report citing Xi’s essay:

In a rare glimpse into the life of the Xi family, a newspaper in the southern city of Shenzhen quoted the Communist leader’s younger brother Xi Yuanping describing his marriage to singer Zhang Lanlan.

The report, which was quickly deleted from Chinese websites, quoted Xi Yuanping, 58, as saying that he had married the 34-year-old Zhang – nicknamed the “military’s top beautiful woman” – the same year.

[...] Xi Jinping similarly married military singer Peng Liyuan, who was herself for many years a mainstay of the new year gala – the most watched television show in the world.

China’s leaders are highly secretive and tightly restrict any reports about their private lives in local media. [Source]

Earlier this year, online rumors suggested Zhang had been a joint mistress to recently fallen Central Military Commission General Xu Caihou and his son.

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

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Police and Protesters Clash in Hong Kong

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 23:13

Violence that erupted after police tried to clear protesters’ encampments in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, has continued through the weekend, with fresh skirmishes reported Sunday morning. James Pomfret and Elzio Barreto report for Reuters:

In the densely populated Mong Kok district, police managed to earlier repel protesters from a major intersection but have faced a significant pushback.

In the early hours of Sunday, demonstrators launched a fresh midnight assault, suddenly putting on helmets and goggles to ready themselves, before surging forward to grab a line of metal barricades hemming them into a section of road.

Amid screams and cursing, hundreds of officers began whacking the protesters who raised a wall of umbrellas. Pepper spray was used intermittently amid violent scuffles. The police then surged forward with riot shields, forcing protesters back.

“Black Police! Black Police!” the crowds shouted amid the fray. One protester in a white T-shirt and goggles was beaten by a flurry of batons leaving him bleeding from a gash in the head. Several protesters were taken away. Fire trucks with water cannons were stationed further down the street but weren’t used. [Source]

Al Jazeera reports that 20 people were injured in the recent clashes:

Dozens of police with shields and helmets pushed into a crowd of protesters gathered at barricades in the shopping district of Mong Kok early on Sunday, striking at them repeatedly with batons.

Some demonstrators had to be carried away on stretchers and others were treated for head wounds, fractures and bruising, according to AFP reporters and medics at the scene.

Police said in a statement that they had used “minimum force” as protesters “suddenly attempted to charge” their cordon lines.

The city’s government information service said 20 people involved in protest activities had been injured between 10pm and 6am, but would not specify how many were demonstrators or police, the extent of the injuries, or if they all took place in the Mong Kok area. [Source]

By midday Sunday, calm had been restored in the area, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Footage from the conflicts in Mong Kok on Friday night were posted on Vimeo:

On Saturday, the Hong Kong government confirmed a plan to meet with students and said talks would take place Tuesday. From AFP:

[Carrie] Lam said the talks would be focused on constitutional reform, with both sides allowed to bring five members to the meeting that will last around two hours and will be broadcast live.

But hopes of any breakthrough are slim, with the government unlikely to cede to protesters’ core demands — Leung’s resignation and free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city in 2017.

Beijing insists that candidates for the vote must be vetted by a committee expected to be loyal to China — and Leung has warned that the country’s communist authorities have no intention of backing down.

“I’m not sure anything will come out of it because the government does not seem to listen to public opinions,” 15-year-old student protester Crystal Yip told AFP. [Source]

A 23-year-old man has been arrested in Hong Kong for allegedly calling on his readers to attend the protest marches and “to charge at police.” From RTHK:

The suspect was arrested in Tin Shui Wai on Saturday night. A spokesman said the man is alleged to have posted messages online over the past few days.

He’s also alleged to have taken part in an illegal assembly in Mongkok on Friday. [Source]

Meanwhile, Paula Bronstein, an American photojournalist was detained and the Foreign Correspondents Club has reported that police have interfered with the work of other journalists covering the protests.

For up-to-the-minute updates, read the live blog from the South China Morning Post.

Occupy al fresco. Digs in Mong Kok not nearly as comfy now as in the Admiralty Tent City.

— Mike Forsythe 傅才德 (@PekingMike) October 18, 2014

Unclear in Mongkok if protesters much involved in scuffles, just instigators all around up for a fight (democracy not really an issue atm)

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 19, 2014

Aggressive atmosphere in Mongkok as older crowd has emerged to yell at protesters (police a few feet away look on)

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 19, 2014

Seems like such a game: was in Mongkok last night before clashes, am here again in morning- police gained no ground

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 19, 2014

Worrying reports of multiple protester head injuries in Mongkok overnight & testimony cops are aiming for head with baton strikes

— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) October 19, 2014

Crowd in #mongkok astonishingly organized/tactical under pressure. Now reinforcing barricades.

— Jon Kaiman (@JRKaiman) October 18, 2014

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Journalist Jailed for Defaming State Firm Zoomlion

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 23:51

Reuters reports that a court in Changsha has jailed New Express journalist Chen Yongzhou for allegedly fabricating reports about the financial history of state-owned company Zoomlion. From South China Morning Post:

A court in Changsha, capital of central Hunan province, has found Chen Yongzhou guilty of “fabricating and spreading falsehoods to damage the business reputation of others”, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Last year, Chen published stories in New Express, a state-backed tabloid based in the southern city of Guangzhou, alleging that Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology had engaged in sales fraud, exaggerated its profits and used public relations to defame its competitors.

[...] The court in Changsha said Chen was guilty of accepting bribes of 30,000 yuan (HK$37,900) but did not say who he accepted the bribes from. He was sentenced to one year and 10 months in prison and fined 20,000 yuan.

Zhuo Zhiqiang, who co-authored some Zoomlion stories with Chen, was sentenced to 10 months in jail and fined 10,000 yuan. [Source]

Following his arrest last year, Chen appeared on state television to confess that he had accepted bribes for fabricating stories on the company. A management reshuffle was ordered at New Express following its public pleas for Chen’s release. Chen’s case subsequently sparked debates in China about media ethics and corruption. At China Media Project, David Bandurski examines Guangming Daily to ascertain whether Chinese authorities are serious in their efforts to stem corruption within the news industry:

[...] Can we really assume the authorities are serious about media corruption? Do the recent purges and televised confessions really signal a renewed determination to tackle media corruption?

I have my doubts. Let me show you why.

If you’d begin by opening up Guangming Online, the state-run website operated by Guangming Daily, a newspaper published by China’s Central Propaganda Department. Now, if there’s any media interest that should run a tight ship from the standpoint of news and ideology, it’s the Guangming Daily. You wouldn’t expect a media group run by the Central Propaganda Department, the supreme authority on what content is proper or improper in China, to be crossing any lines.

[...] Now, move past the top three headlines on the news section, probably about Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang and then randomly select a headline. When I visited last, it was this story about the public reappearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. On the right-hand side of the news article — mine a video by China Central Television — you can find all manner of click-bait designed to generate traffic for the site. And you will probably find plenty of images of partially clothed young women under the category “Great and Hot Photos.”

[...] This online news page, with its bawdy juxtaposition of political hardlines and female softlines, sums up the status quo in China’s media perfectly well. [Source]

See more on media corruption from CMP via CDT.

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Hong Kong Police Arrest 26 Amid Street Clashes

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 17:46

Chaos, police charge, swing batons to clear argyle

— Benjamin (@Garvey_B) October 17, 2014

After police cleared out protest camps in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district yesterday with little resistance from the pro-democracy protesters who had been occupying streets in the area for three weeks, demonstrators returned hours later, and violent clashes with police ensued. The BBC reports:

Fresh clashes have broken out between Hong Kong police and pro-democracy protesters, with officers using pepper spray and batons against the crowd.

The scuffles erupted as demonstrators tried to reclaim a protest site in Mong Kok cleared by police early on Friday.

[...] Riot police cleared tents and barricades from a Mong Kok road early on Friday morning, saying it was needed to ease traffic congestion caused by the rallies.

There were no reports of resistance from any of the demonstrators, some of whom regrouped nearby.

However, the crowd of pro-democracy protesters swelled on Friday evening, and some activists attempted to break through police lines to re-occupy the road. [Source]

More details on the heavy force and scattered arrests that met the returning protesters, from Sylvia Hui and Kelvin Chan at the AP:

The government said some 9,000 people gathered at the scene, repeatedly charging police lines in an attempt to retake roads. Authorities said police arrested 26 people.

[...] One protester was seen bleeding from his forehead as he was carried to a police van, moments after he was forced to the ground by officers. In scenes repeated throughout the evening, officers used batons to beat back umbrellas used by the crowd of young protesters to defend themselves from pepper spray.

“The police have lost control. They are beating up protesters like we’re animals. We are angry. The students are our future,” said Tommy Lee, a 45-year-old technology worker who was outraged at seeing police handcuff four protesters who appeared to be high school students

[...] Also detained was Bangkok-based Getty photojournalist Paula Bronstein, who was hauled away by police for standing on the hood of a Mercedes-Benz amid the melee. Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents Club issued a statement demanding her immediate release, saying that police have threatened and intimidated other journalists covering the protests. [Source]

For a collection of Tweeted images and narration from the chaotic streets of Mong Kok, see below.

The crackdown comes after embattled Chief Executive CY Leung, whose resignation has been one of protesters’ primary demands, agreed yesterday to begin talks with student leaders after the government cancelled negotiations last week. Earlier, a report from Fairfax Media showed that Leung had profited in brokering a deal with an Australian firm prior to taking office. Some have speculated that information about Leung’s deal may have come from someone with ties to Beijing, thus providing the central government a reason to dismiss Leung and quell the protests. A report from Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley at the New York Times further indicates the veiled role that Beijing has been playing in regards to Hong Kong:

On many mornings throughout the pro-democracy protests that have convulsed Hong Kong, white Toyota Coaster vans with special black license plates have set out from city government buildings here to a tropical resort across the border in mainland China.

[...] The secretive commute reflects the intimate yet largely hidden role that the Chinese Communist Party leadership has played in the crisis in Hong Kong. According to interviews with six current and former Hong Kong and Chinese government officials, as well as experts in both countries, it is China’s leaders more than Hong Kong’s who have directed the broad outlines of the response here. With China’s needs foremost in mind, they have calibrated a careful balance between a steadfast refusal to give ground on the protesters’ demands for democratic elections and the need to avoid widespread bloodshed that would further destabilize the city, a global financial center.

[...] “Clearly, it’s Beijing that is dominating the decisions about this movement,” said Jin Zhong, the editor of Open, a Hong Kong current affairs magazine that focuses on Communist Party politics. “Of course, they wouldn’t admit that.” [...] [Source]

In a detailed report for Tea Leaf Nation on increasingly heavy-handed crackdowns throughout Hong Kong, Suzanne Sataline describes the current stakes as skirmishes continue in Mong Kok, noting the strong resolve of protesters:

At stake is the city’s political future. Protesters, many of whom are students, have said they will stay on city streets until Beijing agrees to retract an elections plan that would restrict candidates for the city’s next chief executive to those vetted by the mainland’s Communist government. But officials in Beijing say the government will not relent. Hong Kong’s administration, closely managed by Beijing, has sent an increasingly exhausted and irritable police force to try to dislodge protesters. [...]

[...] Losing Mong Kok would mean the students would have “nothing to bargain.”The government, they said, didn’t listen when tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets on July 1, right after Beijing released a paper asserting its authority over Hong Kong. “We never had a response. It shows the government doesn’t listen to us,” Tse said.

[...] Although the Leung administration could likely quell some unrest by offering compromise, it appears increasingly likely that the sit-ins and roadblocks are the start of a long period of unrest and agitation. How long can protesters keep this up? “Until [authorities] give us something solid,” said Mason Ma, 30, a high school teacher, overlooking the new barricades. “Whenever they clear up, we will come again to take our place back.” [Source]

Police in Mong Kok apprehend a press photographer. Tensions grow.

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

Tense in Mong Kok tonight as protestors and police vow not to lose ground #occupyhk

— Celia Hatton (@celiahatton) October 17, 2014

Crowd surges & police beat back protesters under umbrellas #OccupyHK

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

Tense scene – protesters have upper hand were they to push forward again. #OccupyHK

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

Resting before next push, Hong Kong

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 17, 2014

Riot police huddled up listening for instructions. helmets+ shields out. Police camera crew in foreground recording.

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) October 17, 2014

Riot police huddled up listening for instructions. helmets+ shields out. Police camera crew in foreground recording.

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) October 17, 2014

Police escort away a sole pro-Beijing protester. 'Take him to a dark corner instead,' crowd shouts.

— Patrick Boehler (@mrbaopanrui) October 17, 2014

This woman is selling sugar cane juice to #OccupyMongkok protesters as police look on #OnlyinHK

— Natasha Khan (@natashakhanhk) October 17, 2014

Chaos for blocks, police spread very thin, hear screaming in the distance, and on every side street more people

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 17, 2014

A sign I couldn't photograph read 'Remember why you joined the police'

— Patrick Boehler (@mrbaopanrui) October 17, 2014

Plainly many of these police are exhausted.

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

Each skirmish becomes a drama that galvanizes the crowd.

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

Protester giving police some words. #mongkok #hongkong

— Stuart Leavenworth (@sleavenworth) October 17, 2014

Fortune teller whose table is in the middle of all this is still open, has client. No photo – bad karma. #OccupyHK

— Josh Noble (@JoshTANoble) October 17, 2014

Random act of kindness. Police officer here in mongkok handed a bottle water to a tired protester. Applause and cheers from all the students

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) October 17, 2014

Captain America has some trouble with the police in Mong Kok #HongKong #OccupyCentral

— Agnès Bun 黃瑩燕 (@AgnesBun) October 17, 2014

The current protester/police line in Mongkok. Been peaceful, but tense for last half hour.

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) October 17, 2014

Police taking away dozens of #OccupyHK protesters as crowds chant "Open the roads!" #UmbrellaRevolution

— Joanna Chiu (@joannachiu) October 17, 2014

police pushed protesters back to pavement, but other batch sat down again #OccupyHK

— Kris Cheng (@krislc) October 17, 2014

Tying up shoelaces another pretext to block road

— Benjamin (@Garvey_B) October 17, 2014

Protesters and policemen hurling insults at each other in Mongkok.

— Venus Wu (@wu_venus) October 17, 2014

Oriental Daily journalist pepper sprayed

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

Mongkok now

— Venus Wu (@wu_venus) October 17, 2014

Fellow journalists & protesters treating pepper sprayed Oriental Daily reporter

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

This was thrown from a building: Ultimatum to protesters, if you don't leave by 11:14pm I'll throw poo #HKProtests

— Fiona Law (@law_fiona) October 17, 2014

Foreign Correspondents' Club condemns police's detention of photographer Paula Bronstein & intimidation of journalists in Mong Kok. @fcchk

— Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) October 17, 2014

#OccupyHK protester: "For many like me our only purpose is to protect the kids. Police are beating them like animals, funded by our taxes"

— Joanna Chiu (@joannachiu) October 17, 2014

#OccupyHK protester: "After this, Hong Kong will be very different. The young will no longer trust the government and its police." #URHK

— Joanna Chiu (@joannachiu) October 17, 2014

Broken umbrellas on what was once mongkok protest camp. "Under the vast sky" still being sung though across Nathan rd

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) October 17, 2014

Police retreat outside bank centre. Ppl flow down Nathan southbound. Huge applause.

— isabella steger (@stegersaurus) October 17, 2014

Police moved out. Crowd cheering everywhere. Earlier angry shouts against police using batons. #OccupyHK

— Tesa Arcilla (@TesaArcilla) October 17, 2014

Feeling of anticipation on Lung Wo Rd as a couple hundred amass, few police, but w dogs

— Maya Wang 王松莲 (@wang_maya) October 17, 2014

Just thousands streaming down Nathan and pushing police back, carrying metal barricades

— isabella steger (@stegersaurus) October 17, 2014

Police beat back protesters trying to spill on to southbound #OccupyHK

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

Extraordinary reversal, protesters reoccupy Mong Kok, police retreat.

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

A third standoff in the space of 100metres now on Nathan Rd northbound. Southbound, protesters have control.

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

.@Reuters Photo: Getty photog Paula Bronstein detained amid confrontation between police & protesters in Hong Kong

— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 17, 2014

Hong King police have totally lost control of situation. Megaphones, yelling ..

— Ivan Broadhead (@ivanbroadhead) October 17, 2014

Chaos on both sides of Nathan Rd now – pepper spray deployed #OccupyHK

— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) October 17, 2014

A man collapses in agony after being hit with pepper spray by police during clashes in Hong Kong @AFPphoto

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 17, 2014

On my side, the original protest zone this afternoon. Other side, police. Behind them, another layer of protesters.

— Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) October 17, 2014

Barricades going back up on Nathan Road. Also tents. No end game in sight.

— Jon Kaiman (@JRKaiman) October 17, 2014

About 100 police officers in helmets assemble at the Argyle/Nathan junction.

— Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) October 17, 2014

Police retreat from Mong Kok in face of overwhelming crowd. Road belongs to people again. #OccupyHK #OccupyCentral

— ant (@antd) October 17, 2014

Crowd chanting "sit sit sit" to a barking police dog standing (on all fours) on center island of road.

— Mike Forsythe 傅才德 (@PekingMike) October 17, 2014

Police have sealed off Nathan at Argyle Road. A long, tense night ahead.

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

Occupied section of Nathan Road penned in by police at both ends.

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

Protesters have taken back Argyll Road in #Mongkok after spilling through police cordon. Much cheering #hongkong

— Katy Lee 李玥缇 (@kjalee) October 17, 2014

RT @tomgrundy: #OccupyHK official press release just now.

— Philip P. Pan (@panphil) October 17, 2014

Protesters with hands up face off with police tonight in Hong Kong @AFPphoto

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 17, 2014

Police move on protesters in Hong Kong tonight @AFPphoto

— Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle) October 17, 2014

#OccupyHK: suspected bone fracture amid police clearance in #MongKok, according to Apple Daily

— Carmen Ng 吳嘉文 (@Carmen_NgKaMan) October 17, 2014

This poster all over Nathan Road: "Recover Mong Kok."

— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 17, 2014

Scene in Mong Kok now on nathan road near argyle. Ppl chant happy birthday to quell dissenters #umhk #occupyhk

— Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung (@BWaiC) October 17, 2014

Warnings "Police stop charging you have been surrounded" "put down your shield and surrender" #OccupyHK

— Kris Cheng (@krislc) October 17, 2014

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This Week on CDT, October 17, 2014

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:52

As the protest movement in Hong Kong grinds on, police this week dismantled bamboo barricades and allegedly brutalized at least one protestor. Chinese poet Meng Lang posted pictures of handmade signs that dot the crowds in Hong Kong. See the signs, translated by CDT, here.

Netizens following protest developments produced poignant cartoons in an array of artistic styles. A woodblock print shows protestors huddled beneath an umbrella. In one drawing, Jesus and Guan Yu surface in the crowd.

Mao Zedong Thought proves inspirational to Xi Jinping, who this week called on artists and writers to use their vocations to promote party ideology and deliver work that serves the people.

Before Kim Jong Un’s reappearance, the cause of his absence invited wild speculation. Chinese media outlets, however, were barred from volunteering their own conjectures.

The Leader of the Week is of course Kim Jong Un, or Kim Fatty III, Chinese netizens’ moniker for the corpulent leader of the neighboring hermitic state.

Unsanctioned stories about current and former high-ranking officials are typically targeted for censorship. Such was the case when several news outlets reported on Wen Jiabao’s visit to his former high school in Tianjin.

Among the words blocked on Weibo this week, the name of a scholar and reformer living in Beijing and detained this week on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.”


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Photo: Untitled, by Marco N. Pochi

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 15:51
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Tyger! Tyger! A Fearful Symmetry

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 13:35

At The China Story, Geremie Barmé highlights the apparent focus of Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown on officials from humble backgrounds, rather than his own princeling comrades:

It is noteworthy that all forty-eight ‘Tigers’ 老虎, that is high-level corrupt officials, are reportedly from ‘commoner’ 平民 families. Indeed most are from peasant or similarly humble origins; none are easily identified as being members of what is known as the ‘Red Second Generation’ 红二代, that is, the children of the founding Communist Party fathers and mothers of the Yan’an era and early People’s Republic or, indeed, ‘Bureaucrat Second Generation’ 官二代, that is, the children of members of the first generation of representatives/ bureaucrats selected to join the inaugural convocations of the National People’s Congress or the National People’s Political Consultative Committee, both founded in 1954 (in the Mao era a high-level cadre was above Rank Thirteen in the Twenty-four Rank Cadre System 二十四级干部制).

It goes with saying that, in the murky corridors of Communist power, an impressive number of party gentry progeny, or the offspring of the Mao-era nomenclatura, have been implicated in corrupt practices, but word has it that, like the well-connected elites of other climes, they’ve enjoyed a ‘soft landing’: being discretely relocated, shunted into delicate retirement or quietly ‘redeployed’. It’s all very comfy; and it’s all very business as usual.

What has been extraordinary about the Xi-Wang anti-corruption purge is not so much its style or extent, but the fact that after nearly two years, members of the privileged families of the party-state have gone on the record to observe why they are above the grimy business of corruption. […] The following is a small sample of some recent observations on the anti-tiger corruption purge by some of the more outspoken members of China’s Red Gentry. [Source]

At The New York Times, meanwhile, Minxin Pei examines the nature and scale of corruption in China—organized into “pernicious” local webs spun around infrastructure development and privatization—and the strategy and risks of Xi’s campaign against it. Rather than a stratified side-effect of poor pedigree, Pei sees a pervasive form of “Crony Communism”:

[…] Mr. Xi’s campaign goes well beyond any immediate desire to establish his political supremacy. It is unprecedented in sweep and ambition, taking on the class of 5,000 or so very senior officials who operate the most vital organs of the C.C.P., the government, the military and state-owned enterprises. Its goal is no less than to upend the unspoken system by which China’s elites have been governing since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989: a self-reinforcing web of relations based on patronage and corruption. As a leader driven by a historic mission to safeguard the C.C.P.’s rule against all odds, Mr. Xi sees endemic corruption as a serious threat to the regime’s long-term survival.

But corruption has penetrated so very deeply into the party-state that it has become the glue that holds it together. And so Mr. Xi’s campaign, which is meant to ensure the C.C.P.’s longevity, seems to pose an existential threat to it in the short or medium term. [Source]

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Arrest Unsettles Chinese Workers for Foreign Media

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 23:25

Chinese employees of foreign media organizations are growing increasingly concerned about their safety following the arrest last Friday of a Chinese woman covering the Hong Kong protests for the German newspaper Die Zeit. Zhang Miao was detained on October 2 on suspicion of “inciting public discontent.” South China Morning Post reports:

“I felt a bit panic when I first heard this because anybody like us could be next, but later I realised that I have been living in the shadow since the first day I took the job,” a Chinese news assistant for a foreign media company in the capital, who preferred not to reveal his identity, told the South China Morning Post.

He said the national security officers would “have tea” with the news assistants now and then to “let us know that they are watching”.

[...] Another Chinese employee in the Beijing office of an overseas media company said she felt troubled by the frequent meetings with the national security authorities, which had influenced her private life.

“Of course [I] have worries. I also feel helpless,” she said, “Compared to foreign correspondents who might face the worse consequence of being kicked out of the country, we may lose more. [I could] often feel the fear in my heart.” [Source]

Chinese employees of foreign media covering politically sensitive topics have also been censored by their own agencies, as in the case of Su Yutong, who was fired by Deutsche Welle for her involvement in a debate over the Tiananmen democracy protests. Su has since called on the German broadcaster’s director general Peter Limbourg to raise the issue of press freedom in China. Recent media regulations have aimed to restrict contributions to foreign media, but reprisals against researchers and other workers had occurred long before the new rules’ introduction. Meanwhile, about three dozen people in mainland China have been detained in recent days for supporting the ongoing democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

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Police Clear Mong Kok as Gov’t Agrees to Talk

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 22:45

After three weeks of street demonstrations, police in lthe Mong Kok neighborhood of Hong Kong cleared out protesters’ camps Friday morning, removing tents and barricades with little resistance from protesters. Clare Baldwin and James Pomfret of Reuters report:

The operation in the gritty and congested Mong Kok district – across the harbour from the heart of the civil disobedience movement near government headquarters – came while many protesters were asleep on the asphalt in dozens of tents or beneath giant, blue-striped tarpaulin sheets.

The raid was a gamble for the 28,000-strong police force in the Chinese-controlled city who have come under criticism for mounting aggressive clearance operations using tear gas, baton charges and a violent beating of a handcuffed protester by seven policemen on Wednesday.

Storming into the intersection with helmets, plastic riot shields and batons at the ready from four directions, the deployment of 800 officers caught the protesters by surprise. Many retreated without resisting. [Source]

The raid came just after Chief Executive C.Y. Leung announced a willingness to launch talks with student protesters, after his government cancelled planned negotiations last week. But Leung still made it very clear that the government would not back down on its position on electoral reforms, which has been a key demand of protesters. Gary Cheung, Joyce Ng, Samuel Chan and Tony Cheung report for the South China Morning Post:

Leung said talks with the students had “to be based on the Basic Law and the decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee”. The decision ruled out public nomination of candidates, which is central to the students’ demands.

“There is no issue of making a compromise or not. We can’t turn something unlawful into lawful,” Leung said.

[...] Leung insisted that the talks and the clearance of protest sites were separate matters, and did not rule out clearing more sites during the negotiations.

Alex Chow Yong-kang, of the Federation of Students, said the group was willing to resume dialogue. The federation would accept a university president as moderator, but would also be open to a retired chief justice such as Andrew Li Kwok-nang.

Meanwhile, Leung faces new questions about his contract with Australian company UGL, which he had failed to publicly disclose. John Garnaut reports for Fairfax Media that Leung tried to ensure millions of dollars for himself in the deal before running for chief executive:

In return for co-operating on the £77 million sale of DTZ, the real estate advisory empire he’d helped to build, Mr Leung wanted the Australians to not only underwrite £1.5 million in bonuses, and pay £4 million in business wealth that had been wiped out, but also to compensate him for £3 million that he’d sunk in the firm’s loss-making franchise in Japan over the previous five years.

“It was like ‘here’s all my losing lottery tickets, could you buy them’,” says one party to those negotiations in November 2011.

But it was not the audacity of Mr Leung’s claim so much as the manner in which he made it that illuminates his political predicament today, as he battles mass pro-democracy protests across the city and widespread calls for him to resign as the city’s Chief Executive. [Source]

Some observers have speculated that news of Leung’s deal must have been leaked to the media, possibly by someone with ties to Beijing, in an effort to provide a convenient justification to dismiss Leung in order to quell protests. Shai Oster reports for Bloomberg:

The timing of the disclosure is raising eyebrows about who leaked the material and the motive behind it.

“These documents weren’t released as we have non-poach and non-compete agreements with some 100 executives, and they’re not published or on-the-record,” UGL Chief Executive Officer Richard Leupen said in an interview. “To our mind, it’s a confidential matter, so it was either taken or leaked out by someone who had access to the information.”

UGL said in a statement the payment was a routine non-compete clause as part of its acquisition of DTZ, a bankrupt real estate consultancy where Leung was a director, shortly before he took office in 2012. [Source]

But an “authoritative source” close to Beijing denied to the South China Morning Post that there was any official role in the release of the information and restated the Chinese government’s support for C.Y. Leung.

Scenes from Mong Kok on Friday:

Saw cops push journalist James Bang to floor in Mong Kok. His head made a loud thud on pavement! #OccupyHK @PRHacks

— Alex Hofford (@alexhofford) October 17, 2014

.@AFP: Map of police action to remove road blockades of #OccupyHK this week including morning's clearance in #MongKok

— Joanna Chiu (@joannachiu) October 17, 2014

Small protest persists in southbound lanes of half-block of Nathan Road here in #mongkok

— Keith Bradsher (@KeithBradsher) October 17, 2014

Protesters sit quietly in front of police line as truck in back remove debris police cleared #OccupyCentral #Mongkok

— Young Post (@youngposthk) October 17, 2014

RT @SCMPVideoMoJo: #Mongkok 's Guan Gong deity — a #HongKong fixture — is unceremoniously carted away to the bins

— Patrick Boehler (@mrbaopanrui) October 17, 2014

Traffic now flowing normally (meaning bumper to bumper) on Argyle Street in #Mongkok following police action

— Keith Bradsher (@KeithBradsher) October 17, 2014

Officers standing guard at Nathan/Shantung junction after removals in MongKok @SCMP_News #hongkong #OccupyHK

— SCMP VideoMoJo (@SCMPVideoMoJo) October 16, 2014

Mongkok protest all cleared. #HK

— Badcanto (@Badcanto) October 16, 2014

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Coming Out From the Cold: Beijing’s Gay Russians

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 18:01

At That’s magazine, Will Philipps writes about the Beijing’s growing community of gay Russians, who have traveled there in search of acceptance and freedom to express their sexual orientation:

“I enjoy living outside of Russia because it’s so conservative there,” Vadim admits. “I feel more free being gay here in China than I do in Russia. Lots of people who work at [LGBT-friendly Russian nightclub] Chocolate are gay: waiters, singers, dancers, creative people. All Russian gay people know each other, they stick together.”

[...] The feeling of being protected by a sense of “foreignness” is shared by many of the Russians I speak to. There’s a different set of rules. “You’re already strange [as a foreigner],” Vadim jokes. “So you can wear whatever you want.”

[...] Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, and although there is an active gay scene in Beijing – exemplified by openly gay nightclubs like Destination and Funky – to be gay in China remains somewhat taboo. A 2014 report by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pointed to an official culture of “not encouraging, not discouraging, not promoting”, with public opinion regarding non-traditional sexual orientation and gender identity ‘remaining predominantly negative’. [Source]

Read about the climate for China’s own gay citizens via CDT.

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Minitrue: Hush Story on Xi’s Praise for Patriotic Bloggers

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 17:55

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.

Minitrue: All websites find and delete the article “Xinhua: What Kind of People are the Internet Writers Xi Jinping Questioned?” and related content. (October 16, 2014)


Yesterday, Xi Jinping called on the nation’s artists and writers to work towards promoting Party ideology and reinforcing his concept of the “Chinese Dream“—yet another political move tempting comparison between the General Secretary and his predecessor Mao Zedong. Both in content and language, Xi’s speech was evocative of the talks Mao delivered 70 years ago in Yan’an, which forged the CCP’s view of the artistic endeavor.

While addressing the crowd, Xi asked two young bloggers to stand and be recognized for their “positive energy”; the above directive prompted Chinese news websites to delete a Xinhua media profile of the two praised Internet writers. Bloomberg Businessweek reports:

In a revealing moment, Xi asked Zhou Xiaoping, a well-known Internet blogger in his early 30s, and a second blogger, Hua Qianfang, also in his 30s, to stand up and be recognized by the largely older attendees. Xi praised Zhou’s and Hua’s essays—known for their patriotism and anti-Western fulminations—for having “positive energy.” Zhou has recently gained notoriety for a particularly virulent essay entitled “Nine Knockout Blows in America’s Cold War Against China.”

In that essay, Zhou savages the tendency of young Chinese to worship the West and accuses the U.S. of using the Internet and its cultural exports, such as Hollywood movies, to try to undermine China’s social and political system. Zhou also attacks America as being viciously anti-China and defaming Chinese, he says, to a degree seen previously only in Hitler’s vilification of the Jews. [Source]

While Xi showered Zhou and Hua with praise for their patriotic web conduct, an ongoing central government crackdown on social media has for the past year been working to silence “Big V” microbloggers known to post more critical commentary.

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


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Photo: Participation chinoise au pavillon de la Finlande (Biennale d’architecture 2014, Venise), by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 16:11

Participation chinoise au pavillon de la Finlande (Biennale d’architecture 2014, Venise)

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