Beijing Officials Pressure International Media
Daniel Wiser writes: China pressured international media outlets to censor their news coverage last year in addition to cracking down on domestic journalists, according to a new report.
“Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, and London lodged direct complaints with senior editors, in an apparent effort to pressure them into restraining their reporters in Beijing. The Tokyo headquarters of Japanese media have received similar visits.”
Conditions for both domestic journalists and foreign correspondents in China have worsened considerably under President Xi . Journalists surveyed last year said they were increasingly subjected to harassment by authorities, sometimes violent in nature, as well as to visa delays and cyber attacks. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which released its annual report on press freedoms in China on Monday, said intimidation from officials in Beijing has now extended to foreign outlets.
Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, London, and Tokyo all reportedly pressured editors at publications based in those cities to alter their coverage and exert more control over their reporters in Beijing.
’For activists, the internet is like dancing in shackles’
– Su Yutong
One Chinese blogger, Su Yutong, was fired from the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle last August after she alleged that directors at the outlet met with the Chinese ambassador and then told their Chinese-language staff to tone down its coverage. A Deutsche Welle spokesman said at the time that Su was terminated because “she tweeted about internal issues” in a manner that “no company in the world would tolerate.”
Deutsche Welle gave more prominence last year to columnists such as Frank Sieren, a Beijing-based media consultant who has business interests in the country and is known to be sympathetic to its leadership. The broadcaster has been criticized in the past for coverage that was overly supportive of the Chinese Communist Party.
IFJ specifically named three other overseas news services that were targeted by the Chinese government.
“At least three media companies—namely France 24, ARD TV (Germany), and the Financial Times—came under unusual Chinese government pressure after publishing news reports that angered the Chinese authorities,” the report said. “Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, and London lodged direct complaints with senior editors, in an apparent effort to pressure them into restraining their reporters in Beijing. The Tokyo headquarters of Japanese media have received similar visits.”
IFJ also condemned the repression of journalists covering Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests last fall. At least 39 reporters were harassed, detained, or assaulted by the city’s police or by demonstrators opposed to the pro-democracy movement…(read more)
The following is a blog post written by a Chinese journalist Su Yutong about her experience and feeling of being an activist calling for social change in China. Although to be an activist even on the Internet is like “dancing in shackles” in China, clearly people will not stop, just as what we have seen in the most recent days. Many people have been actively posting, forwarding and translating related information, raising more international awareness of Guangcheng’s case. Su said in her writing, “To the Chinese people, danger comes not from action, but from silence and submission. Rights activists such as Hu Jia and Chen Guangcheng have demonstrated this to us with their courage and action, and I would like to learn from them.”
When I was in China, I was a journalist. But, after four years, I decided to resign as the Chinese authorities did not allow us to report the truth. I then started to work in an NGO, doing research on social issues.
My concerns included the situation of victims of contaminated water sources, people who contracted HIV/AIDS through blood transfusion, as well as assisting vulnerable groups in defending their rights.
I was one of the more active internet activists, giving my views on public affairs, disseminating information and organizing activities.
From 2005, I was “invited for tea”, and for “chats”, kept under surveillance and periodically placed under house arrest in China.
In 2010, I distributed “Li Peng’s Diary”, a book forbidden by the authorities, and had my home raided and property confiscated by the police. With the help of international NGOs and friends, I managed to go into exile and now live in Germany.
For many bloggers in China, the most common and typical situation you face on a daily basis is all your content is suddenly deleted. In worse situations, sites will block opinions that are deemed to be “sensitive”.
I was an early internet activist. I organized a protest against the Vice Minister Wu Hao of the Yunnan Provincial Propaganda Department, in solidarity with human rights lawyer Ni Yulan; commemorative activities in relation to the Tiananmen crackdown and actions of solidarity with other activists. Read the rest of this entry »
MOVIE LIFE KYOTO is a video series which aims to introduce Japanese culture to foreigners in a light-hearted and humorous fashion. With English narration and Japanese subtitles, they’re filled with little factoids and hilariously on-point observations that will be of interest to foreign visitors and a source of much ‘that’s so true!’ amusement for Japanese people, too…(read more)
Edited from an interview with William Kazer
Julia Leung has spent two decades engaged in financial policy work for the Hong Kong government. During her time as an official, she’s seen the city’s economy whiplashed by the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis and again by the global crisis a decade later. She has also witnessed the territory’s increasing economic links to mainland China.
In her new book The Tides of Capital, Ms. Leung examines the origins and response to financial crises of the 1990s and 2008 that shook economies across Asia and the world. The former Hong Kong Monetary Authority official and ex-undersecretary for financial services and the treasury (who also had a decade-long stint with the Asian Wall Street Journal) contends that emerging economies need a greater voice in global financial governance. China Real Time caught up with the reporter-turned-policy maker to talk about the financial challenges facing emerging nations, as well as China’s own financial and economic reforms.
In your book you conclude that the IMF and the U.S. offered up the wrong prescriptions in the Asian crisis of 1997-1998. Where do you see policy leadership headed in the future?
Twenty years ago, the world was divided between the core and the outlying periphery….Financial crises only happened in the periphery, and the core dished out advice. In 2007, financial crisis erupted at the core and rippled to the periphery. Between 2008 and 2013, the size of China ’s economy doubled in dollar terms. The U.S. grew 14% during the same period, while Europe including the U.K. still falls short of the peak reached before the crisis. Combined GDP of emerging markets now make up more than 50% of global GDP, compared to one-third in 1990.
There will have to be considerable give-and-take between the country that is still the world’s leading economy and the other important players, especially China, that are assuming a progressively more important role. In view of the economic stagnation and political infighting besetting Europe, that continent will not be playing a full part in developing and policing a series of better standards for world economic and financial governance. The world will rely ever more on a U.S.-Asian tandem for policy leadership.
You say the U.S. Congress is standing in the way of reforming International Monetary Fund quotas that would give more say to emerging markets. What will happen if there’s no reform?
The IMF is ideally positioned to provide policy leadership, particularly at times of crisis, but its effectiveness is undermined by its shareholding and governance structure, which has not kept pace with the shift in economic power to emerging markets. It is not surprising that developing countries have shown considerable frustration and exasperation with this imbalance, leading to new regional financing facilities, such as the Asian Infrastructure Bank and the New Development Bank.
When the core of the old world order continues to write rules that don’t take developing countries’ interests into account, the “peripheral” nations will use their own vast resources to start a new core…and write their own rules.
You say Asia needs to speak with a more coordinated voice. How much progress do you see here and what steps are still needed?
Even if Asia has a coordinated voice, it’s hard for it to be heard in the councils of the world power when the governance of these councils is slow to reflect shifting power. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING—Acknowledging that its current programs are insufficient to meet the needs of a fast-paced, 21st-century population, the Chinese Ministry of Justice held a press conference Friday affirming its commitment to fixing the nation’s crumbling reeducation system.
“We are falling well short of the reeducation needs of this country and failing a whole generation of dissidents. We need better reeducators who know how to use modern teaching and disciplinary technologies if we want to inspire our people to become fully subservient pawns of the state.”
According to government officials, the steady decline in the quality of reeducation is evidenced by the system’s serious overcrowding, dilapidated correctional facilities, and outdated propaganda materials, which have left a large percentage of China’s political prisoners unprepared for life as obedient citizens.
“For China to remain competitive, it is of the utmost importance that we hire administrators who have the passion and know-how to promote the inability to think independently.”
“We are falling well short of the reeducation needs of this country and failing a whole generation of dissidents,” said justice minister Wu Aiying, lamenting that many institutions currently rely on standardized reprogramming curriculums that haven’t been updated since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. “We need better reeducators who know how to use modern teaching and disciplinary technologies if we want to inspire our people to become fully subservient pawns of the state.”
“The last thing we want is for state prisoners to fall behind and end up getting stuck in the system for several extra years. If we get them out there, we know they can thrive as pliant mouthpieces for the Communist Party.”
“It is crucial that we find ways to attract the best instructors to our facilities, the devoted ones who aren’t just in it for the paycheck,” Wu added. “For China to remain competitive, it is of the utmost importance that we hire administrators who have the passion and know-how to promote the inability to think independently.”
Speaking candidly with reporters, several top Justice Ministry officials admitted that the majority of reeducators do not actively engage with China’s largest generation of prisoners to date, noting that most instructors lack passion and enthusiasm for their daily thought-suppression and punishment sessions. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally posted on Quartz:
The trippy indigo glow lighting up Hong Kong’s darkened shores doesn’t look like the handiwork of pig manure, fertilizer, and sewage. But that nutrient-packed combo is exactly what’s feeding the colony of bioluminescent Noctiluca scintillans, a single-cell organism that has bloomed in Hong Kong’s waters more and more frequently of late.
Unable to photosynthesize on their own, these little guys eat algae. But since they sometimes kill that algae and sometimes leave it living inside them, these dinoflagellates—which are commonly called “sea sparkles”—are neither fully plants nor fully animals. But even that bathtime-toy-esque name belies how destructive sea sparkles can be when their numbers grow too huge. While Noctiluca doesn’t produce neurotoxins, like many similar organisms do, they disrupt the food chain in a way that harms other marine life.
Many scientists suspect the recent uptick in unusually large Noctiluca blooms has to do with the surge in coastal populations around the Pearl River Delta, the…
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The country’s ISIS hostage crisis is a tragedy—one that its government helped to create. Is the Abe administration more concerned with saving face than saving lives?
Tsuneoka, who was held hostage in 2010 in Afghanistan and is one of the few Japanese journalists with a pipeline to ISIS, told The Daily Beast last year that the group invited him and Japanese Muslim scholar Hassan Ko Nakata to follow the trial as an Arabic translator.
“There has been some speculation in Japan that the government’s inaction leading up to the release of the hostage video was an attempt to deepen the country’s involvement in the fight against ISIS and justify its remilitarization. Since last year, Abe and his Cabinet have been pushing for a reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution under the guise of ‘collective self-defense’ that would allow Japan to go to war with its allies…”
But Tsuneoka said he and Nakata were not allowed to travel to Syria to try to negotiate Yukawa’s release after the police raided their homes on October 6, a day before their planned departure, and seized their passports. Tsuneoka was detained for questioning for 24 hours but was not arrested.
“…They also have announced intentions to abolish Article 9, the Japanese constitutional clause that forsakes warfare. These moves have met with widespread opposition among the Japanese but have been downplayed in Japan’s increasingly compliant media.”
Police sources said the raid stemmed from an ongoing police investigation into Tsuneoka’s involvement with a student who may have been attempting to join ISIS. Tsuneoka and the student are under suspicion of violating the rarely enforced Article 93 of Japan’s criminal code, which prohibits “preparing or plotting to wage war privately upon a foreign state”; if arrested, tried, and convicted, the two could face up to five years in prison. Tsuneoka has denied the allegations, though he acknowledges buying an airplane ticket for the student, who had no credit card.
“Now a backlash against the government’s handling of the crisis is growing, with thousands of people tweeting, with some sarcasm, that the prime minister should give himself up to ISIS in exchange for Goto.”
The day after the raid, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that Japan would take measures to “curb extremists.” Japanese nationals would be barred from traveling to Syria, Iraq, or other countries in pursuit of terrorist acts and from offering financial resources to terrorists and extremist groups, in line with domestic law. Read the rest of this entry »
China’s Answer to Hollywood’s ‘Razzies’
Lilian Lin reports: As China’s film industry has grown, so too has the number of lemons it’s produced.
According to the organizers of this year’s Golden Broom Awards – which asks the public to choose the country’s worst film – this year’s contest is taking place amid “the most shameless, uncreative, dreadful” time in China’s film history.
“Many film critics in this country are bribed by film producers and genuine voice is scarce. There should be an award to represent the audience’s voice.”
“Some online users are complaining to me that they can hardly choose the worst because all of the selected are terrible,” said Cheng Qingsong, who first launched the awards, China’s answer to Hollywood’s Razzies, six years ago. Online voting for the country’s worst movie of the year recently began, with the winner to be announced in the middle of next month.
Last year, the contest attracted more than a million votes, up from merely several thousand in 2009.
“The past few years have witnessed the largest number of lousy films in China’s history that care the least about originality.”
China’s film market has mushroomed, with box-office receipts rising 36% last year to a record 29.6 billion yuan ($4.77 billion), according to the country’s film regulator. Mr. Cheng, a screenwriter and editor-in-chief of an independent film magazine, said he hoped the awards could help spur better movies in the future. “Many film critics in this country are bribed by film producers and genuine voice is scarce,” he said. “There should be an award to represent the audience’s voice.”
“The past few years have witnessed the largest number of lousy films in China’s history that care the least about originality,” he said, criticizing the country’s films as shallow, frequently “uncreative remakes of Hong Kong films.” Read the rest of this entry »
Doing calligraphy, along with playing badminton, is a one of the few hobbies government officials in China admit to having
“The problem today, according to the editorial, comes when officials promote their squiggles as valuable works of art.”
“Officials should put down their calligraphy brushes and stick to governing.”
Wang Qishan, the Politburo Standing Committee member who heads the party’s anti-graft commission, hit out at the traditional craft during a plenary meeting of the organization last week in Beijing, and the message was backed up by an editorial from the agency posted on Tuesday to its website.
Officials shouldn’t “grab meat from the plates of artists,” the editorial said.
Doing calligraphy, along with playing badminton, is a one of the few hobbies government officials in China tend to admit to having. State leaders often pen well-wishes in calligraphy when they drop into companies around the country, creating valuable mementos that tend to get displayed in prominent spots in the companies.
“As you have promised to make contribution to the party and to the country, why are you greedy for an unnecessary title for unjustified interests?”
Officials can be forgiven for thinking it’s OK to strive for recognition in calligraphy, an art form associated with erudition and wisdom. Chinese leaders from Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong to Mao Zedong have been celebrated for their ability to put brush to paper, though there is some debate as to whether the latter’s distinctive style deserved the praise the Communist Party has lavished upon it ever since.
The problem today, according to the editorial, comes when officials promote their squiggles as valuable works of art. Read the rest of this entry »
— Edward Wong (@comradewong) January 15, 2015
This is not the first time that HKU, among the city’s most prestigious universities, has come under fire from the Hong Kong government and Beijing since the outbreak of student-led protests in September, which followed a decree from Beijing that Hong Kong should elect its leader from a handful of pre-screened candidates.
Isabella Steger reports: A relatively unknown student magazine at the University of Hong Kong may get a surge in readership after Hong Kong’s leader made a reference to the publication, warning that support for ideas it propagates could lead to “anarchy” in the city.
In his annual policy speech, Leung Chun-ying kicked off his address with a series of stern warnings against further attempts by Hong Kong people to challenge Beijing’s authority on the issue of constitutional reform. He specifically named ideas advocating self-determination for Hong Kong published in Undergrad, a monthly Chinese-language magazine published by HKU’s student union.
“The protest showed Beijing that Hong Kong people were not loyal so Beijing ratcheted up interference in Hong Kong, but it also catalyzed a new wave of native ideology.”
– From the article in Undergrad
Saying that Hong Kong problems should be solved by Hong Kong people “violates the constitution,” said Mr. Leung, warning that such slogans could help throw the city into anarchy.
“Regardless of the likelihood of Hong Kong independence…we must fight to the end for the freedom to at least talk about it.”
– Keyvin Wong, a former assistant editor in chief of Undergrad
Under the One Country, Two Systems framework, Hong Kong is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy, but many in the city fear growing encroachment from Beijing. Mr. Leung said Hong Kong’s autonomy is not absolute.
Joshua Wong, the 18 year-old leader of another student protest group Scholarism, called Mr. Leung’s reference to the magazine “stupid” because it will only serve to boost interest in the publication.
This is not the first time that HKU, among the city’s most prestigious universities, has come under fire from the Hong Kong government and Beijing since the outbreak of student-led protests in September, which followed a decree from Beijing that Hong Kong should elect its leader from a handful of pre-screened candidates. Read the rest of this entry »
China is in the midst of a crackdown on what it describes as “terrorism driven by religious extremism”. The campaign is focused on the western province of Xinjiang, home to China’s Uighur ethnic minority who are predominantly Muslim.
The government believes religion breeds terror and has been trying to control religious expression in the region by imposing rules on the Uighur community. Critics say it is exacerbating the terror problem.
They show what the Chinese government deems as acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. They are a striking example of Chinese propaganda and highlight the government’s crude portrayal of ethnic relations in Xinjiang.
Inspirational posters are a fairly common sight in Chinese cities, advocating things like hard work and team spirit. It is not clear who painted these posters, but their presence implies they have some kind of official approval…(read more)
The question of religious and cultural tolerance hits close to home for China, which is battling a surge of ethnic violence in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighurs
Josh Chin reports: The deadly terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo shows the need to impose limits on freedom of the press, China’s official news agency argued on Sunday, as more than three million people marched in anti-terror rallies across France.
“Charlie Hebdo had on multiple occasions been the target of protests and even revenge attacks on account of its controversial cartoons,” the Xinhua news agency commentary said, adding that the magazine had been criticized in the past for being “both crude and heartless” in its attacks on religion.
The commentary, written by Xinhua Paris bureau chief Ying Qiang, appeared timed to coincide with Sunday’s rallies. The largest of those took place in Paris and attracted several world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“What they seem not to realize is that world is diverse, and there should be limits on press freedom.”
The commentary, written by Xinhua Paris bureau chief Ying Qiang, appeared timed to coincide with Sunday’s rallies. The largest of those took place in Paris and attracted several world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Many religions and ethnic groups in this world have their own totems and spiritual taboos. Mutual respect is crucial for peaceful coexistence.”
The spree of violence ended on Friday after French police killed the three men suspected of murdering 17 people, including 11 inside the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The magazine was known for publishing vivid cartoons lampooning religion, including Islam, and had been targeted in the past by Muslims angry at its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
“Unfettered and unprincipled satire, humiliation and free speech are not acceptable.”
China’s ambassador to France, Kong Quan, attended the rally, China’s Foreign Ministry said at a regular press briefing on Monday. “The content of the Xinhua commentary reflects Xinhua’s own point of view,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, adding that China opposed terrorism in all forms. Read the rest of this entry »
Hong Kong activists kicked off a long-threatened mass civil disobedience protest Sunday to challenge Beijing over restrictions on voting reforms, escalating the battle for democracy in the former British colony after police arrested dozens of student demonstrators.
HONG KONG – Hong Kong police are investigating after small firebombs were thrown at the home and business of a pro-democracy media magnate in an apparent intimidation attempt.
“The goal is intimidation…a continuation of the attacks against Mr. Lai and Next Media for its editorial position, which is at odds with the anti-democracy forces.”
– Next Media spokesman Mark Simon
Surveillance video showed a car backing up to the gates of Jimmy Lai‘s home early Monday and a masked attacker getting out and throwing what looks to be a Molotov cocktail before driving off.
At about the same time, another incendiary device was thrown from a car at the entrance to his Next Media company. Its publications include the flagship pro-democracy Apple Daily, one of the city’s most popular newspapers.
No one was injured and the small fires were quickly extinguished. The cars used in the attacks were later found burned out and stripped of their license plates, according to local media reports.
Lai is well known as a critic of Beijing and a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, which occupied streets for 11 weeks last year to press their demands for free elections. He was among the thousands of protesters who were tear-gassed by police as the protest movement erupted in September. Read the rest of this entry »
HONG KONG—Shares in blue chip firms Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd and Hutchison Whampoa surged on Monday after Asia’s richest person, Li Ka-shing ,announced the reorganization of his empire into two new companies.
By the close of trading in Hong Kong Monday, Mr. Li and his family’s stakes in Hutchison and Cheung Kong were valued at US$19.9 billion combined, up 14.5% from US$17.4 billion Friday. Cheung Kong soared 14.7% to close at 143.2 Hong Kong dollars (US$18.47) Monday, outperforming the benchmark Hang Seng Index’s 0.5% gain, while Hutchison Whampoa jumped 12.5% to close at HK$98.35.
Mr. Li, 86 years old, said Friday the real-estate assets of Cheung Kong and Hutchison will be carved out into a new company listed in Hong Kong, to be called CK Property. Read the rest of this entry »
Clifford Coonan reports: A state-run Chinese newspaper has run a commentary condemning the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, but at the same time underlined how the incident exposes the dangers of press freedom.
“Even after China officially determines their terrorist nature, Western mainstream media puts quotation marks when describing these bloody assaults as ‘terrorist,’ saying that it is a claim of the Chinese government. This always upsets Chinese people.”
“We notice that many Western leaders and mainstream media outlets highlighted their support for press freedom when commenting on the incident. This remains open to question,” ran the commentary in the Global Times newspaper, part of the group that publishes the official Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily.
“It’s inspiring that mainstream opinion worldwide supports Paris. But if the West can be milder in expressing cultural clashes and consider the feelings of many others, it would be very rewarding and respectable.”
China’s media are all state-controlled and content is heavily censored, and the ruling Communist Party keeps a tight grip on dissenting views and rejects calls for greater press freedom, saying it is Western core value.
“If the West thinks of globalization as an absolute expansion and victory of certain values, then it is in for endless trouble.”
The attack should make Western governments and media rethink their approach to press freedom when it comes to causing conflict with other cultures. Read the rest of this entry »