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Updated: 1 hour 5 min ago

Censors Keep Mainland in the Dark About HK Protests

6 hours 5 min ago

As pro-democracy student protests continue to unfold in Hong Kong, Chinese authorities are ramping up censorship to stop news of the unrest from spreading on the mainland. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Striking photos, videos and news about Hong Kong’s ongoing democracy protests and clashes with police have exploded across TV, radio, newspapers worldwide in recent days, to say nothing of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. But thanks to a near-complete information blackout by Chinese censors, most people in mainland China remain unaware of the situation in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Major state-run news outlets carried only brief mentions of the confrontations, if any, and the subject has been censored off popular mainland-based social media services, including Weibo and Weixin, also known as WeChat.

[...] On the Chinese-language homepage of the official New China News Agency and the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, there was not a single story mentioning the protests in Hong Kong. Front pages of the usually liberal Beijing News and Southern Metropolis Daily have been filled with two unrelated stories: One about a directive from the State Council on government meetings; another on the extradition of a corrupted official, as part the government’s efforts to showcase the success of its anti-graft campaign. [Source]

China Media Project’s David Bandurski notes the appearance of two Xinhua reports that have been republished elsewhere; one “woefully [out]dated,” and the other containing “patent falsehoods — the result either of consummately poor reporting or willful distortion of the truth.” Similarly, The Guardian’s Jonathan Kaiman reports that one state-controlled mainland TV channel aired misleading images showing people gathered to support the Chinese government:

On Sunday night, tens of thousands of protesters throughout Hong Kong faced down teargas and baton charges, but the state-controlled broadcaster Dragon TV did not show these images. Instead, it cheerfully announced that 28 civil society groups had spent the weekend in Tamar Park voicing support for the central government’s decisions on the region’s political future.

The broadcast showed a crowd of people waving Chinese flags to celebrate the upcoming 65th anniversary of country-wide Communist party rule. “We all hope Hong Kong can be prosperous and stable,” said a young man wearing glasses and a red polo shirt. “I think the National People’s Congress’s decision can bring us a step closer to fulfilling our requirement for universal suffrage.”

[...] “The Communist party is very clear that if the general election were to indeed happen in Hong Kong, people from many places in the mainland would want the same thing,” said Hu Jia, a prominent activist in Beijing. “What Hong Kongers have been doing – the student strike, public voting, protesting, and occupying the central city – could definitely inspire a lot of people in China.” [Source]

On Sunday night, Instagram joined the list of social media services blocked in mainland China as users shared images of the tear-gas-filled streets of downtown Hong Kong. From The Washington Post:

No more sepia-tinged phone pics of your latest meal in Shanghai or, perhaps more significant to Chinese censors’ minds, no more shots of Hong Kong officers in riot gear unloading canisters of pepper spray and tear gas into the faces of Hong Kong’s largely peaceful demonstrators.

[...] The protesters’ clashes with police Sunday night and into the wee hours of Monday were accompanied by a barrage of hashtags: #hk, #hongkong, etc.#Occupycentral, a rallying cry for democracy activists of late, had 9,103 posts as of Monday afternoon. So when the service turned off within hours of protesters getting tear-gassed, many Instagram users assumed Monday that Chinese censors had decided it was not in their interest to let pictures circulate of Chinese residents standing up en masse to local authorities. [Source]

To maintain the flow of information, many protesters have turned to FireChat, an instant messaging app that works locally over Bluetooth without the need for an Internet connection. From The New York Times: 

Amid swelling pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, protesters are turning to FireChat, a new app that allows them to send messages without a cellular or Internet connection.

[...] Introduced in March, FireChat makes use of a cellphone’s radio and Bluetooth communications to create a network between phones close to one another — up to about 80 yards — without connecting to the Internet. If a cellular signal or wireless network is available, the app uses that.

In 24 hours starting on Sunday afternoon, the app, which allows users to host public chat rooms, added 100,000 users in Hong Kong, and usage in the city peaked on Sunday night at 33,000 simultaneous users, according to Open Garden, the San Francisco company that distributes the app. [Source]

Meanwhile, Offbeat China suggested that the protests show how censorship has eroded Weibo’s position as an online “public square”, as activity continues to shift to the more private WeChat:

“Tonight, Weibo is for Paris, Wechat is for Hong Kong.” One prominent account on Weibo commented on Sunday night. While posting pictures of fashion shows in Paris on Weibo, she was sharing, on Wechat, pictures of tear gas filled streets in Hong Kong.

Wechat, as a messaging tool, acts more like a hybrid of Whatsapp and Facebook – one can chat with and get status updates from only those who follow back. It’s exactly such closed and personal networks that make Wechat a safe net for discussing sensitive topics in China. On one hand, such personal communications are much more difficult to censor by keywords, like on Weibo. On the other, commenting within an enclosed personal circle gives users a sense of security – someone who isn’t willing to share Hong Kong protest pictures on Weibo, a public platform, may be OK with sharing with a couple close friends on Wechat, a private network. [Source]

At CNN, Wilfred Chan looks at the important role that information technology has played in facilitating the protest movement in Hong Kong:

It’s a high-tech response to a high-stress situation. Armed with top-of-the-line phones on some of the world’s fastest mobile networks, Hong Kong’s young protesters are able to organize themselves at a lightning pace older generations of activists could have only dreamed of.

“The Internet is a critical reason these protests have exploded so quickly and so out of control,” says Li. “We all want instant news, and people are very unsettled.”

[...] Just before the clock struck midnight Sunday, at least 1,000 protesters — many heeding messages that had been posted online just minutes before — suddenly flooded the main road in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok shopping district, leaving police surprised and outnumbered.

[...] The police seemed unable to respond, and withdrew from the scene. Along with many other parts of Hong Kong, Mong Kok remains occupied with protesters Monday evening. [Source]

In spite of everything, Christina Larson reports at Bloomberg Businessweek that many people interviewed in Beijing were aware of the unfolding events in Hong Kong. Views of the protests varied widely:

Within mainland China, some said they were cheering on Hong Kong’s democracy activists and wished their Chinese peers had the same courage to fight for “freedom.” Others wondered whether public demonstrations were futile and darkly recalled the brutal 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Still others said the yawning antagonism between mainlanders and Hong Kongers, fueled by quarrels over the influx of mainland tourists and capital into the islands in recent years, meant they felt limited sympathy for Hong Kong’s struggles.

[...] One journalist at a state-run newspaper in a southern Chinese city said she was not allowed to report on the Hong Kong protests, yet was avidly discussing events with her peers. “We are talking about what is real freedom,” and whether they would join in similar demonstrations, even in the face of baton-wielding cops. “A friend of mine said he is so proud of them [the protesters]. … Another friend says the chaos in Hong Kong makes him treasure what we have today,” meaning apparent safety and stability. She said they were all reminded, darkly, of the 1989 crackdown, which, despite being erased from Chinese history books, most knew a bit about: “My father and uncles told me [about it].” [Source]

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Hong Kong Protests: All Eyes on Xi Jinping

6 hours 10 min ago

As protests continue in Hong Kong, many observers are speculating over potential outcomes of the movement and how Beijing will respond to a sustained challenge to its authority. In the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor writes:

The protests appear to be growing. Wednesday and Thursday mark a national holiday in China, and many expect what takes place on those days to define the current unrest. If the sit-ins and demonstrations continue with the intensity they’ve already shown, there’s a chance that local security forces could crack down more violently than they have so far, including perhaps using rubber bullets. That sort of violent response could be a disaster for Hong Kong’s government, which would face mounting pressure from the territory’s voluble civil society and media.

For China’s rulers, the choices seem more clear. They’ve already signaled their lack of interest in allowing a true democracy to flourish in Hong Kong. State media in the past have pointed to the arrogance and “racism” of Hong Kong’s anti-Chinese activists; an influential Chinese commentator notoriously labeled Hong Kongers “dogs of British imperialists.” China is unlikely to allow the protesters to win many concessions. [Source]

Few expect the Beijing government to back down, yet how that could play out remains to be seen. As Tania Branigan points out in the Guardian, these protests are unprecedented for Hong Kong, even considering large-scale protests which successfully tabled planned anti-sedition legislation in 2003:

While the movement appears to be largely middle class to date, many of those involved say daily life is increasingly tough for ordinary people in the city, citing issues such as rising property prices.

Such concerns have been developing over recent years, along with unhappiness about large-scale migration from the mainland.But the movement sparked by all these factors has been a shock to a city which sees itself as conservative and law-abiding. Even the keenest supporters of the protests are taken aback by their scale and self-confidence.

“This is a watershed,” said Hung Ho-fung, of Johns Hopkins University. “This time people are using civil disobedience and setting up barricades. There’s also the disruptive aspect; in the past, they emphasised that demonstrations would not affect everyday life. This time they really don’t care. I really haven’t seen anything like this in Hong Kong history.”

But, he warned: “Beijing has put itself in a corner and I don’t think it can back down.” [Source]

In the New York Times, Louisa Lim argues that the protests have more at stake than just electoral reforms, as Hong Kong people are trying to forge their own identity, which Beijing is determined to oppose:

For China’s leaders, the accusation that foreign forces are manipulating students is easier to countenance than the idea that Hong Kongers are standing up for the high degree of autonomy promised to them. As students and activists faced off riot police amid the canyons of skyscrapers, one popular chant was simply, “Hong Kong People! Hong Kong People!”

Such an assertion of a separate and distinct identity is anathema to President Xi, whose xenophobic nationalism can accept only one state-approved version of what it means to be Chinese.

But even as the protests continue to swell, Beijing seems to hold all the cards. Yet even if it succeeds in tamping down the anger in Hong Kong — which is unlikely — its gains can be fleeting at best.

The moment that Hong Kong citizens have been dreading for 17 years has finally arrived. And the ramifications will ripple out, to Taiwan, whose residents are increasingly wary of the idea of reunification, as well as to the fringes of Beijing’s empire, where it is struggling with suicidal Tibetan protests and a murderous ethnic insurgency in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. [Source]

For Xi Jinping, the protests present a major dilemma that is positioned to define his tenure. In the New York Times, Edward Wong and Chris Buckley write:

Hong Kong has been under Beijing’s sovereignty for long enough now that even modest concessions could send signals across the border that mass protests bring results — a hint of weakness that Mr. Xi, a leader who exudes imperturbable self-assurance, seems determined to avoid, mainland analysts say. And small compromises are unlikely to placate a good many of the Hong Kong residents who have filled the streets.

Yet any attempt to remove protesters by force would inevitably raise parallels with the killing of democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989, an event that split the Communist Party and poisoned China’s relations with the outside world for years.

Hong Kong’s future, therefore, may rest heavily on whether Mr. Xi has the clout, skill and vision to figure out a solution that somehow keeps the territory stable without sparking copycat calls for change closer to home — and without dealing a heavy blow to his own prestige or his standing among the party elite. [Source]

In the Globe and Mail, Mark MacKinnon writes about Xi’s position in relation to his father, who was considered a moderate and who is rumored to have opposed the June 4th military crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square:

What happens in Hong Kong over the coming days will tell us a lot about where China is heading in the era of Xi Jinping. A negotiated solution that appeases some or all of the protesters would suggest China finally has the kind of leader that the Communist Party’s undemocratic “meritocracy” was supposed to produce. The sidelining of Mr. Xi’s enemies – and his own genuine personal popularity among ordinary Chinese – gives him the power to surprise everyone in how he handles the Occupy Central movement.

A crackdown, particularly one that involves use of the People’s Liberation Army, would tell us China is in for another dark decade of stifling repression.

Once more, the early signs aren’t good. Hong Kong police have already used tear gas and pepper spray in failed efforts to disperse the crowd, which has instead continued to grow. Classic Chinese information-control measures have been deployed, with the terms Occupy Central and Umbrella Revolution (a moniker gained as protesters used their umbrellas to deflect tear-gas canisters) now blocked on the Weibo social network. Instagram – where photos of the umbrella-wielding protesters defying police were rapidly spreading – is no longer accessible in mainland China, consigning it to the same virtual prison as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

In another sign of the government’s thinking, China’s state-controlled media has condemned Occupy Central as an “illegal pro-democracy movement” responsible for “undermining social stability” in Hong Kong. Those are heavy words in the People’s Republic. [Source]

But not everyone believes a crackdown is inevitable. Human Rights Watch’s Nicholas Bequelin tweeted:

.@orvilleschell and I are on the @charlieroseshow tonight. Orville thinks bloody crackdown possible; I think dumping CY Leung more likely.

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

On Vox, Zack Beauchamp interviews historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom about the protests and asks him to put them in a historical context:

ZB: Is this part of why these protests are so concerning from the Chinese government’s point of view? You’ve got something that seems like it has a lot of resonances with a deep tradition of protest in China, so it can’t easily be dealt with by force.

JW: That’s a concern. But I think we should also see it as related to other things that are haunting the Chinese Communist Party right now.

Moves away from authoritarianism in parts of the world other than China, for example, that involve large gatherings in central squares. There’s a way in which this links up to things from the specifically Chinese past, but it’s also something that links to the images of crowds in squares, whether in Ukraine or in Egypt. Those kinds of images are also on the minds of Chinese leaders.

It’s also a moment where there’s unrest across and all around the edges of China. You have a very funny moment now where Beijing has been making these efforts to expand the edges of the territory they control, with moves towards asserting control over islands that other countries claim. But at the same time, you have the edges of what they think of as Greater China plagued by discontent of other kinds: places like the [heavily Muslim Chinese province] Xinjiang or Tibet. There were also protests in Taiwan last spring that were in part pushing back against efforts to bring together Taiwan and the mainland at least in economic terms.

So the Hong Kong movement is linked to long-term traditions and history within China, it’s connected to things in other parts of the world, and it’s connected to quite different but simultaneously occurring challenges around the territory the Chinese government wants to claim authority over. [Source]

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Photo: Fight for Democracy, by Huiying Wang

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 22:11

Fight for Democracy

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‘Martyrs’ Day’ Established to Promote Vision of the Past

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 17:32

The Chinese government has designated September 30th as a national Martyrs’ Day to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting foreign forces, but critics see the move as an attempt to strengthen nationalist sentiments and promote a Party-centric version of history. Ian Johnson at The New York Times reports:

Government officials insist the holiday, called Martyrs’ Day, is no different from holidays honoring the war dead in other countries, like Memorial Day in the United States or Remembrance Day in many countries of the Commonwealth.

[...] But some analysts see the holiday as part of an effort by the Communist Party to enshrine itself as the nation’s guardian against invaders and as the arbiter of who is considered a martyr.

The holiday was added to the calendar on the heels of two other new war-related commemorations. Last February, Parliament ratified Dec. 13 as a memorial day for the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and Sept. 3 as the day China commemorates Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Martyrs’ Day falls on Sept. 30, the day before China’s National Day holiday. The date was selected because on that date in 1949, construction started on the iconic Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The 125-foot obelisk memorializes the sacrifices made to achieve the founding of the People’s Republic that year. [Source]

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Drawing the News: Exploratory Error

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 17:05

Last week, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) chalked up the Great Famine (1959-1961) to an “exploratory error.” The premier academic research organization castigated “Western hostile forces” for insisting that tens of millions of people died during the Great Leap Forward, a period of farm collectivization and other agricultural and food programs that converged with drought to kill anywhere from 18 million to 45 million people throughout China, more than died during WWI. (The Academy itself has recently been accused of harboring Western influence.) Instead, CASS explained, the deaths were the result of “exploring the construction of the socialist path.”

Cartoonists Kuang Biao and Rebel Pepper have grimly illustrated the “exploratory error.”

In Kuang Biao’s cartoon, three headless communists lead the way to nowhere. Skulls pave the land as far as the eye can see, sweeping into a dais where the three figures pose like martial arts heroes. Their “explorations” are blind, and only lead to destruction.

Rebel Pepper envisions a harbor built from skulls. A sign for “discovery communism” points to the ocean. Chairman Mao gazes into the horizon. One of his advisors, perhaps Liu Shaoqi, asks Mao what path of destruction should be built next.

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Sensitive Words: Hong Kong Protests (Updated)

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:18

As of September 29, the following search terms are blocked on Weibo (not including the “search for user” function).

Hong Kong Protests: Protests for electoral reform have escalated after a week of student protests. Police used tear gas and pepper spray yesterday as the faced tens of thousands of Hong Kongers in the streets. Stay up to date on the situation with CDT.

  • 香港+学生: Hong Kong + students
  • 香港+罢课: Hong Kong + student strike
  • 香港+催泪弹: Hong Kong + tear gas canister
  • 香港+开枪: Hong Kong + open fire
  • 香港+抗命: Hong Kong + disobey orders
  • 香港人+上街: Hong Kongers + take to the streets
  • 公民抗命: citizens disobey orders
  • 公民广场: citizen plaza
  • 占中: Occupy Central (abbreviation)
  • 占领+中环: occupy + Central
  • 占领+金钟 occupy + Admiralty
  • 黄之锋: Joshua Wong—17-year-old student leader labeled a “separatist” by Chinese state media.
  • 学联: Student Alliance—First block detected December 6, 2011.
  • 黄丝带: yellow ribbon—Originally the symbol of support for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, the yellow ribbon was later adopted by Occupy Central organizers. Currently, supporters of the Hong Kong democracy movement from around the globe are organizing yellow ribbon campaigns.
  • 香港加油: Go Hong Kong
  • 香港挺住: Hong Kong stand firm
  • 声援+香港: support + Hong Kong
  • 支持香港: support Hong Kong
  • 今天我们都是香港人: today we are all Hong Kongers


Update: Three more blocked search terms have been detected:


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

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

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

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Photo: Yellow ribbons in Hong Kong, by yukikei

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 23:00

Yellow ribbons in Hong Kong

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Badiucao (巴丢草): Go Hong Kong!

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 22:54

For his latest CDT drawing, Badiucao honors protesters in Hong Kong. In this image, a protester, wearing a red cloth over her eyes in a nod to the 1989 protests, is envisioning a bird escaped from the cage. Occupy Central With Love and Peace, which is a primary organizer of recent protests, uses a bird in its logo. The characters say “香港加油!” or “Go Hong Kong!”

Go Hong Kong, by Badiucao, for CDT:

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

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Minitrue: Delete Harmful Information on Hong Kong

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 16:45

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.

All websites must immediately clear away information about Hong Kong students violently assaulting the government and about “Occupy Central.” Promptly report any issues. Strictly manage interactive channels, and resolutely delete harmful information. This [directive] must be followed precisely. (September 28, 2014)

各网站对香港学生暴力冲击政府和“占中”相关信息一定要立即清理,有问题及时报告。严格管好互动栏目,坚决删除有害信息。要严格执行。[Original text]

Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leakSince 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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Hong Kong Protests Met with Arrests, Tear Gas (Updated)

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 15:52

Following a week of student strikes in Hong Kong over electoral reforms, protests spread and provoked a heavy police response over the weekend, with several of the protesters detained by police. From Chris Buckley and Alan Wong at the New York Times:

Overnight and into Saturday morning, the confrontation spilled onto the streets around the government offices. Hundreds of young protesters faced phalanxes of police officers with shields whose warnings to disperse went unheeded.

The nighttime standoff between hundreds of demonstrators and the well-prepared police force came at the end of a week of peaceful student protests over Beijing’s limited proposals for electoral change, released last month.

[...] In Hong Kong, anger with the Chinese government runs especially deep among people in their 30s and younger. This week, thousands of university students boycotted classes and attended assemblies to voice their complaints, and on Friday hundreds of high school students also abandoned classes for a day of protest near the government and legislative headquarters. [Source]

The South China Morning Post reports that 30,000 people joined the protests. Several protesters were detained by police, including Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old protest leader, who was later released. From a Channel 4 report:

Protesters swarmed on Hong Kong’s Admiralty overnight and gathered at police barricades surrounding more demonstrators who had earlier launched what they called a “new era” of civil disobedience to pile pressure on Beijing.

Riot police, in lines five deep in some places used pepper spray against activists and shot tear gas into the air.

[...] The crowds hurled abuse at police “cowards” as they fled several hundred yards, but they regrouped and by early evening on Sunday thousands of protesters throngerd streets leading to Hong Kong’s Central financial district.

Police used tear gas for the first time since they broke up protests by South Korean farmers against the World Trade Organisation in 2005.

Ivan Watson, Elizabeth Joseph, Anjali Tsui and Steve Almasy of CNN report that dozens of people have been injured so far in clashes with police:

At least 38 people were injured and hospitalized, the Hong Kong Information Services Department said Sunday. A spokesman gave no details on the extent of the injuries. The department earlier said six police officers were injured, but it was unclear whether they were included in the 38 figure.

Several of the young people occupying the business district told CNN they were going to stay overnight.

The student-led protests, which were joined Sunday by the like-minded Occupy Central movement, have sought to occupy government property and shut down the business district.

In an early morning video statement addressed to all Hong Kong residents, Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung called for people to leave. He said police have exercised the greatest possible restraint in dealing with the protesters. [Source]

The CNN crew was engulfed in tear gas while on the air:

James Pomfret and Yimou Lee of Reuters report on the protesters’ defiance as police use tear gas and batons against them:

Some protesters erected barricades to block security forces amid chaotic scenes still unfolding just hours before one of the world’s major financial centers was due to open for business. Many roads leading to the Central business district remained sealed off as thousands defied police calls to retreat.

Earlier, police baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal.

Several scuffles broke out between police in helmets, gas masks and riot gear, with demonstrators angered by the firing of tear gas, last used in Hong Kong in 2005.

“If today I don’t stand up, I will hate myself in future,” said taxi driver Edward Yeung, 55, as he swore at police on the frontline. “Even if I get a criminal record it will be a glorious one.” [Source]

While Occupy Central organizers initially planned a protest for October 1, China’s National Day, movement leader Benny Tai announced they would officially join the student protests on Sunday. Timmy Sung, Ernest Kao and Tony Cheung of South China Morning Post report:

“I’ve got a long-awaited message. Occupy Central will start now,” Tai declared to thousands gathered in Admiralty.

The first step of the movement was to occupy the government headquarters, he said: “Students and people who support democracy has begun a new era of civil disobedience.”

The news of the long-awaited protest sparked friction in some quarters, with some students simply packing up and going home, despite the fact the two movements share the same aims in urging Beijing to loosen its strict package of political reforms and give Hongkongers the power to elect their own chief executive. [Source]

Instagram has been blocked in China during the protests, and propaganda authorities have asked websites to clear all information about, “Hong Kong students violently assaulting the government.”

Read South China Morning Post’s Liveblog for more updates from Hong Kong. See also, “Hong Kong in Turmoil: 5 Takeaways from Weekend of Protests” by Zoher Abdoolcarim at Time.

RIGHT NOW: Its 5:25 am in Hong Kong and this is outside the Government HQ. via @PzFeed

— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) September 28, 2014

7.15am Chinese flag flying upside down in Hong Kong. Bad omen for Beijing #OccupyCentral #OccupyAdmiralty

— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) September 28, 2014

Hong Kong's leader gave TV address overnight. Protesters watched on phones, unimpressed. 7am. They are still here.

— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) September 28, 2014

Hong Kong, 6am. Dawn & thousands of protesters still on the streets.

— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) September 28, 2014

BREAKING: Hong Kong Federation of Students open letter "Join the battle, bear responsibility of this era" (Part 2/2)

— George Chen (@george_chen) September 28, 2014

Not the Hong Kong we're used to.

— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) September 28, 2014

The #HongKong protestors I talked to seemed both very proud and totally surprised by what is happening here. They know this is their moment.

— Emily Rauhala (@emilyrauhala) September 28, 2014

Protesters clog Hong Kong streets, defying calls to leave after weekend standoff.

— Jeff Barrett (@BarrettAll) September 29, 2014

RT @sophie_kleeman: Protestors in Hong Kong mimicking the "hands up, don't shoot" of Ferguson demonstrations

— Sheriff Bart (@dcmadness202) September 29, 2014

Amazing photo: Protestor in Hong Kong walking into a cloud of tear gas #HongKongProtests #HongKong

— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) September 29, 2014

Update: With thousands still in the streets near government headquarters in Admiralty Monday morning, crowds started to disperse somewhat as people returned to work. Citing the calmness of the crowds, the Hong Kong government withdrew riot police from the streets. Chris Buckley reports for the New York Times:

The government urged the protesting residents to end their street sit-ins so that life in this busy commercial city could return to normal.

​Despite the announcement, some police officers with riot shields and other crowd-control equipment remained near the protesters who were occupying a main road in the Admiralty area, home to the government’s offices and a focus of the demonstrators’ anger. About two dozen officers guarded a pedestrian overpass that provides access to the government buildings, and other officers were resting nearby. [Source]

While the protests were front page news on many newspapers around the world, they were largely absent from mainland Chinese reporting, China Media Project reports:

At present, it seems that outside this highly restricted coverage in the news pages we have only the same highly restricted coverage on news portal sites. If we found coverage on major news sites in China, we would expect it to be 1) the Xinhua release on the above-mentioned Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office statement, 2) information from the address given by Chief Executive C.Y. Leung at 1AM today or 3) shares of Global Times material.

As of mid-day, most major news sites had no prominently placed coverage at all. That includes the Xinhua News Agency website, People’s Daily Online, (China), and However, when you select “news” on the home pages of the above-mentioned commercial sites, both Sina and QQ offer the Xinhua version of the already-very-outdated remarks made by Chief Executive C.Y. Leung yesterday, September 28. [Source]

Chinese central gov't opposes illegal activities in HK, confident that the SAR can handle the Occupy Central

— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) September 28, 2014

A televised broadcast on Beijing-supported Phoenix Television went so far as to describe footage of the protests as “crowds gathering to celebrate China’s National Day and show support for general election plan,” opposition to which is actually a driving force behind the protests:

Alternate universe TV: "Thousands gather in HK to celebrate the national day, show support for general election plan"

— Gady Epstein (@gadyepstein) September 29, 2014

Drone footage posted by Apple Daily shows the scale of the protests:

Apple Daily’s Live Stream of protests:

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Minitrue: Poem to Shen Hao

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 13:03

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

Without exception, no media is to report on or republish the poem that Shen Hao’s wife posted online. Regarding Shen Hao and other criminal suspects, the media must not publish content reflecting them positively. Do not interfere with judicial proceedings. (September 26, 2014)

沈颢妻子在网上发的诗,各媒体一律不得转载,报道。对沈颢等犯罪嫌疑人,各媒体不刊发正面反映其形象的内容。不干扰司法程序。[Original Text]

Amid a crackdown on alleged extortion in the media industry that has hit many employees at 21st Century Media Group, an organization known for aggressive investigative journalism, 21st Century Business Herald’s chief editor Shen Hao was detained on Thursday along with the paper’s general manager Chen Dongyang. In addition to posting a poem to her husband [Chinese] online, Shen Hao’s wife Jiang Hua stood with a sign pleading for his fair treatment at the headquarters of 21st Century’s parent company.

Shen Hao’s wife Jiang Hua stands outside of the Southern Media Group building. (Yimei Media/WeChat)

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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Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 22:14

The China Report on the Development of the Silver Hair Industry revealed that Chinese businesses that provide services and products for the country’s elderly population have contributed to eight percent of this year’s GDP and are expected to constitute one-third of the Chinese economy by 2050. Bloomberg Businessweek reports:

The market of goods and services for China’s rapidly aging population will reach 4 trillion yuan ($652 billion) this year, or eight percent of GDP, according to the“China Report on the Development of the Silver Hair Industry” issued Tuesday in Beijing.

The industry is expected to rise to 106 trillion yuan ($17 trillion) by 2050, amounting to a third of the Chinese economy. That would make it the world’s largest market for the aged. That year China will have 480 million people over 60—one quarter of the world’s elderly—says the report, which was published Sept. 23 by theChina National Committee on Aging.

[...] Future opportunities to serve the elderly will be clustered in four main fields, the report explains. Those include appliances (to serve the less-mobile elderly, for example), services (such as home care and special transportation), real estate (assisted living centers), and financial services. The latter—insurance and money management for the elderly, for example—will make up the biggest portion of the market and still has lots of room to grow. [Source]

Read more about China’s aging population, via CDT.

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Chicago to Close Confucius Institute

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 22:06

The University of Chicago in Illinois said in a statement that it had terminated its contract to run a Confucius Institute, a Beijing-affiliated language and research center whose curriculum and hiring practices are largely controlled by the Chinese government. More than 100 professors lobbied for the eviction of the Institute after concerns arose over Chinese government interference in academic freedom. From Inside Higher Ed:

The University of Chicago has suspended negotiations to renew its agreement to host a Confucius Institute after objecting to an unflattering article that appeared in the Chinese press. The decision follows a petition, signed by more than 100 faculty members this spring, calling for the closure of the institute. The petition raised concerns that in hosting the Chinese government-funded center for research and language teaching, Chicago was ceding control over faculty hiring, course content, and programming to Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing, which is also known as Hanban.

The decision means that the Confucius Institute at Chicago will cease to exist when the current five-year agreement expires this Monday, Sept. 29, although its director, Dali Yang, said that the institute continues to support existing projects.

“Since 2009 the University of Chicago and Hanban have worked in partnership to develop the [Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago], which has benefited research on China and collaboration between the University of Chicago and academic institutions in China,” Chicago said in a statement. “The university and Hanban have engaged in several months of good faith efforts and steady progress toward a new agreement. However, recently published comments about UChicago in an article about the director-general of Hanban are incompatible with a continued equal partnership.” [Source]

The article refers to an interview with Xu Lin, the director of Hanban and chief executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, whose comments antagonized the university. Didi Kirsten Tatlow at The New York Times reports:

The interview with Ms. Xu appeared in an article published on Sept. 19 in the newspaper Jiefang Daily, which is run by the Shanghai Communist Party Committee’s News Bureau.

The full-page article, headlined “The Difficulty of Culture Lies in a Lack of Consciousness,” described an incident it said happened in late April, after more than 100 faculty members at the university called for the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago to be discontinued.

[...] “Many people have felt Xu Lin’s toughness,” The Jiefang Daily wrote admiringly, citing a letter it said Ms. Xu wrote to the University of Chicago’s president in response to the petition.

“In just one sentence she said, ‘Should your college decide to withdraw, I’ll agree,’” the article said. In Chinese, that sentence carries connotations of a challenge. It continued: “Her attitude made the other side anxious. The school quickly responded that it will continue to properly manage the Confucius Institute.” [Source]

At Mediapart, Gregory Lee, a French academic at Jean Moulin University who has worked extensively with China’s Minzu University, reflects on his institution’s engagement with Chinese universities and the rise of Confucius Institutes around the globe.

I still believe that both French and Chinese students benefited from these efforts. Of course, French students were able to take a more critical approach, but our Chinese students were also trained to think in a critical manner as a number of co-advised doctoral dissertations demonstrate. However, since the advent of the network of Confucius institutes around the globe, it has become clear that the openness of the Chinese to humanistic dialogue has not only changed but has gone into reverse, with the Chinese authorities offering financial packages to international students to engage in doctoral work on Chinese studies in China and under sole Chinese supervision.

[...] Last year, after a year’s haggling with the Beijing headquarters of the Confucius Institute network, my university decided to close down its Confucius Institute. Interference in the running of the Institute, disapproval of our programme of public lectures and events, and demands that we allow Beijing-appointed teachers access to our degree and research students left the university with no option but to cease operations. The director of the Confucius network in Beijing, Madame Xu Lin, who had brought about this situation through her intransigeance, then went on to cause a scandal at this year’s bi-annual European sinology congress held in Portugal. She demanded and obtained the removal of a page of the congress’s programme because it referred to the Taiwan research funding agency, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation. This international imbroglio has now become known as the Braga Incident after the name of the Portuguese university town where the European Association for Chinese Studies congress took place. [Source]

Last year, University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins wrote a lengthy piece examining the role of Confucius Institutes, including at his university, for The Nation. Read more about Confucius Institutes via CDT.

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21st Century Group Media Corruption Probe Deepens

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 16:05

Reuters’ Megha Rajagopalan reports the intensification of an investigation into corrupt practices at a Chinese financial newspaper:

Chinese authorities closed down the website of the paper, the 21st Century Business Herald, and opened an investigation into it this month after executives confessed they extorted “huge payments” from companies in exchange for quashing critical coverage.

The well-known newspaper’s chief editor, Shen Hao, and general manager, Chen Dongyang, were detained on Thursday afternoon, the official Xinhua news agency said on its microblog.

[…] Suspects had extorted money from more than 100 companies since November 2013, Xinhua reported, demanding payment for positive coverage and “protection money” to stop negative reports.

The website would charge companies between 200,000 ($33,000) and 300,000 yuan ($49,000) in the form of advertising contracts to delete critical articles, according to Xinhua. [Source]

Last week, China Media Project continued a series of posts on the issue with an essay by Zhu Xuedong, who argued that the industry in general, like “our political, economic and cultural life,” has fallen into “an era of corruption.”

It would be wrong to point to some past Eden of professional purity. There was no such place. But there was at least a time — counting from around the mid-1990s — when commercial media in China sought a higher professional character as they pursued greater independence in the marketplace. There was a professional esprit de corps that somehow brightened the darker aspects of media practice.

[…] There are still media in China struggling to hold on to their professional standards. There are still journalists doing their best to take the high road, pursuing truth for the betterment of our society. But we cannot deny that the travelers on that road are an ever rarer sight. Nor can we deny that the other path grows more crowded by the day. [Source]

Zhu writes that this fall has been driven “by political and economic pressures and by our darker human instincts.” On Wednesday, CMP’s David Bandurski translated an editoral by He Yonghai, who narrowly attacked “the corrosive affect of commercial interests.” But in his introduction, Bandurski described this focus as exactly “the kind of hypocrisy we should be alert for in official reflections on the case.”

The media, make no mistake, work for the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, a point Xi Jinping has made more emphatically than his predecessor, telling propaganda leaders they should “show their swords” and “struggle” for domination of the ideological sphere.

Press controls under the CCP have always emphasized that “politicians run the newspapers,” a term that goes back to Mao Zedong. Under this idea of the role of the press, it is the Party’s prerogative to dictate what is meant by such things as truth, fact or rationality. And year after year, propaganda leaders bang their fists about the need to “emphasize positive news” and “speak with one voice.”

Long before money could ever corrupt the relationship between the media and the public, power severed that relationship.

[…] Perhaps next time, before we begin the debate about how money has corrupted China’s media, we should open our wallets, pull out a 100 yuan note and remember whose face is on it. [Source]

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This Week on CDT, September 26, 2014

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:59

The Scottish vote for independence coincided with events that struck at one of China’s most politically sensitive subjects: territorial integrity.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students led a weeklong boycott of classes. Their protest was yet another demonstration that Beijing’s role in screening candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive is intolerable.

Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life in prison for separatism. CDT artist, Badiucao pays homage to the scholar, who strove to end violent conflict in Xinjiang.

Citing unjust pressure from authorities, the non-profit China Rural Library shuttered locations in Xi’an, Chongqing, Hubei and Shanxi.  Censors made clear that reporting on the closures is off limits.

The phrase of the week, “exploratory error,” is what Chinese Social Sciences Net (sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, CASS) determined was to blame for the famine and deaths that occurred during the Great Leap Forward.

Want to learn more subversive netizen slang? Check out our new eBook, 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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Photo: Close and Not So Close, by Bryon Lippincott

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:14
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Drawing the News: Robot Cat Class Enemy

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:00

In August, 102 life-size figures of a beloved robotic cat from the future descended on the southwestern city of Chengdu in Sichuan. Thousands of fans of Doraemon, the feline cartoon star created in Japan, gathered to take selfies and hug the statues. But this week, three local newspapers warned that the lovable character was pulling the wool over the eyes of city residents.

“Don’t Let Doraemon Dilute Our Pain,” one headline warned. The Chengdu Daily advised readers to “guard against Doraemon’s deceit.” What was the robot cat hiding?

Japan’s WWII war crimes, according to the papers. “The responsibility Doraemon bears is not a cultural goal,” the Chengdu Daily explains, “but one of profound political meaning” [Chinese]. Ever since his creation in 1969, the Chengdu Business Daily explained, Doraemon has diluted the memory of Japan’s invasion of China. “Isn’t this exhibit now, and our attitude towards it, yet another question of the watering down of culture? And as for our memory of pain, will you choose to forget? Or will you remember?” [Chinese]

In the cartoon above, artist Dashixiong envisions the authors of these Doraemon doubters as Red Guards, destroying the “blue chubster” and his friends. The imperial flag of Japan plunges behind the defeated cartoon characters. “Resolutely Overthrow Class Enemy Doraemon,” commands the caption.

Weibo users called out the newspapers’ overreaction, too. “Dear government, be assured that we won’t be fooled,” the South China Morning Post quotes one Internet user. After all, Chinese television and film is so saturated with WWII dramas that even a friendly cat from the 22nd century could do nothing to make mass media consumers forget.

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In Fighting Tigers, Xi Inspires the Masses

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 14:21

While President Xi Jinping’s widespread popularity can be partly credited to a spirited image-crafting campaign, his ongoing crackdown on Party corruption—long a major public concern in China—has also done much in garnering public support. After citing a longtime China-based businessman’s estimate that 90 percent of China supports Xi, Didi Kirsten Tatlow offers an anecdote showing how the anti-corruption drive is directly gaining Xi fans, and explains that Xi’s image as anti-corruption crusader has been a long time in the making. From the New York Times:

Those people [in strong support of Xi] would include the 40- something worker I met last week in Zhuhai, a flourishing city across the border from Macau in China’s south.

Seven years ago, when his nephew joined the army as an ordinary soldier, ‘‘We had to pay 30,000 renminbi to buy him a place,’’ the worker said in Mandarin heavily accented with Cantonese, the local dialect.

[...] Selling posts in the government or military is illegal but has been common for decades. A “tiger” taken down by the campaign, Gen. Xu Caihou, a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which Mr. Xi now heads, was said to be involved in such activities, among other misdeeds.

‘‘This summer, to get my other nephew in,’’ the worker continued, ‘‘guess what we paid? Nothing at all!

[...] It is part of the party iconography of Mr. Xi that, in 1988, after becoming party secretary in Ningde, a poor area in the southeastern province of Fujian, he went after local officials who had built for themselves villas that could not have been paid for from their salaries. Many officials were investigated, according to the party publication ‘‘Collected Writings on Party Building.’’ [...] [Source]

Read more about Xi Jinping’s public image and corruption crackdown, via CDT.

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Children Killed in Knife Attack, Stampede

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 13:28

Two separate incidents in Kunming and Guangxi have resulted in the deaths of several school children. Nectar Gan reports for the South China Morning Post:

In Kunming , Yunnan province, six children were killed and 22 injured in a stampede at about 2.30pm at Mingtong Primary School, Xinhua reported.

The authorities were still investigating the case, and had not determined the stampede’s cause.

[...] China National Radio reported that the incident might have been caused by a bed that collapsed and fell on the children as they played during their lunch break. The injured students were sent to two local hospitals, two of them in a serious condition.

[...] In neighbouring Guangxi province, four schoolboys, aged between eight and 11 years, were stabbed to death on their way to school in Pingshan near the border with Vietnam early yesterday morning. Three of the boys died at the scene while the other died later in hospital. [Source]

Reuters has more on the knife attack:

Police were hunting a middle-aged man after the knife attack, Xinhua said, citing the public security bureau in Lingshan county in Guangxi. Xinhua did not suggest a motive.

The man attacked the children as they were on their way to school, Xinhua said. Three of them died at the scene and one died later at a nearby hospital.

The attack comes less than a month after a man killed three children and injured several at a primary school in Hubei province.

[...] The attacks have led to much soul-searching and calls for measures to improve security at schools in a country were many couples only have one child. [Source]

Read more about incidents of violence at or near schools in China, via CDT.

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Chinese Writer Detained After Alternative School Closure

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:47

The South China Morning Post reports that writer and columnist Cao Baoyin was detained by police in Nanjing on Tuesday. Cao, a vocal proponent of education reform, lost his job at the Beijing Times earlier this year, reportedly over his outspoken advocacy.

Cao was detained on Tuesday, Zhou Ze, a rights lawyer, confirmed in a Weibo post on Wednesday evening. The post has since been deleted. He did not say whether charges have been put forward.

According to Zhou, Cao called his wife from Nanjing on Tuesday, telling her that he had been detained by police. Zhou and another family friend said police in Beijing’s Fengtai district searched Cao’s home there. A seizure notice by Fengtai police showed that two boxes of books, one laptop and 26 CDs were seized.

It was unclear whether Cao had only been summoned for questioning or whether charges had been pressed. Under Chinese law, police can criminally detain suspects for up to 24 hours without informing the family and up 30 days before formalising an arrest, except in extraordinary circumstances.

[...] Family friends have suggested the writer’s detention could be tied to the closure of a controversial alternative school project in the capital’s southern district.

Cao was a strong advocate of the “new education” model of alternative schooling, which the primary school affiliated with the Fengtai No.2 Middle School in his home district had adopted two years ago. [Source]

The AP reports further on the Beijing school closure and Cao’s connection to it, noting that another parent who protested the closure has also been detained:

Cao and other parents protested the end of the previously government-sanctioned New Education project, which emphasized intensive reading at an elementary school associated with the No. 2 Fengtai Middle School.

Cao was also briefly elected to lead a parent committee at the elementary school, but the committee was quickly disbanded after the school administration refused to acknowledge its legitimacy. The committee had sought increased parental input in school affairs.

Chinese authorities hold monopoly control over most primary and secondary education, but parents are increasingly demanding a voice in school affairs.

On Tuesday, the day Cao was taken away, the district government said several parents had disrupted order by pulling their children from classes. [Source]

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