A journalist’s plight demonstrates the depth of China’s present illness
Xiao Shu writes: Chinese journalist Yang Zili first appeared in international headlines in 2001 after being arrested in Beijing and charged with “subverting state authority.” His crime was starting the “New Youth Society,” a salon with the stated mission of “seeking a road for social reform.” Mr. Yang eventually served eight years in prison for his involvement.
“We had no idea how quickly the tide would turn. Mr. Yang is now in hiding.”
Once released from prison, Mr. Yang joined the Transition Institute. Unlike many other nongovernmental organizations in China, the Transition Institute isn’t engaged in direct social action but rather focuses on research work as a think tank. While there, Mr. Yang studied Chinese social issues and proved to be a prolific writer. Much of his work was on equal access to education and migrant-worker rights. His friends applauded his return to the public sphere within a profession that still allowed him to promote social change.
“Mr. Yang is now in hiding. Chinese authorities last year detained three leaders of the Transition Institute and six people indirectly involved, including the lawyer Xia Lin. The organization remains paralyzed.”
We had no idea how quickly the tide would turn. Mr. Yang is now in hiding. Chinese authorities last year detained three leaders of the Transition Institute and six people indirectly involved, including the lawyer Xia Lin. The organization remains paralyzed. It suffered this fate despite having a far more nuanced understanding of political struggle than did the New Youth Society in 2001.
“The decisive factor in the case against Mr. Yang was a set of written instructions from Jiang Zemin , China’s president at the time. ‘Because instructions had come down from heaven,’ Mr. Yang recalled years later, ‘every material fact was forcibly crushed.’ And so was the process of justice.”
The similarities and differences between these two cases reflect the deep uncertainty that all Chinese citizens face when confronted with contemporary “socialist rule of law.”
The New Youth Society focused on hot-button social issues like government corruption, unemployment among workers from state-owned enterprises, and rural development. Members were at first split over what to do with their activities. Either they could operate in secret, attempting to disguise their group from the authorities, or they could be entirely open, affirming their discussions in hopes of avoiding the impression they were being covert. Mr. Yang and others compromised: They didn’t actively promote their ideas, nor did they conceal them. Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Chin, with Yang Jie: Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has never been one to hold his tongue. A document from a law firm that began circulating online Tuesday night shows how police are trying to use that outspokenness to send him to prison.
“Pu Zhiqiang has already he was responsible for posting most of these messages. The question is whether writing and posting them falls within the realm of free expression or constitutes a crime.”
Mr. Pu, a hard-charging attorney and Tiananmen Square veteran known for defending high-profile dissidents such as artist Ai Weiwei, was detained in May. The following month, he was formally arrested on suspicion of illegally obtaining personal information and picking quarrels, and in November prosecutors added charges of inciting ethnic hatred and inciting separatism. The last three charges are related to messages posted online by Mr. Pu and detailed in the document.
Mr. Pu’s lawyer, Shang Baojun, confirmed the authenticity of the document to China Real Time on Wednesday, saying it was a copy of posts compiled by his law firm from a list of evidence provided by prosecutors.
Police resubmitted Mr. Pu’s case to prosecutors earlier this month after their initial investigation was rejected for insufficient evidence, Mr. Shang said. Police and prosecutors have repeatedly ignored or declined to respond to requests for comment on Mr. Pu’s case.
The document lists 28 messages posted on the Weibo microblogging site between 2011 and 2014 from 12 different accounts belonging to Mr. Pu. (Dissidents in China often post from multiple accounts in order to evade censors.) The posts cover a range of topics, from China’s dispute with Japan over contested islands in the East China Sea to terrorist attacks attributed to Xinjiang separatists to Communist Party icon of do-goodery Lei Feng. Many of the posts, including those that deal with the issue of terrorism, appear to come in response to Weibo posts from other users or news organizations.
“Pu Zhiqiang has already he was responsible for posting most of these messages. The question is whether writing and posting them falls within the realm of free expression or constitutes a crime,” Mr. Shang said. “On this, we understand things differently (than the authorities).”
Mr. Shang said he hadn’t seen any evidence beyond the posts relating to the three charges. If indicted and found guilty of all four charges, Mr. Pu could face up to 20 years in prison, he said.
Below are rough China Real Time translations of seven of the posts as they appeared in the document.
2) June 8, 2013: One of the biggest lies of the last 60 years is Lei Feng. He hoodwinked me for two decades, actively pandering to his promoters, his diaries a collective creation. A monthly allowance of seven or eight yuan and he’s making 100-yuan donations – either that’s fiction or there’s corruption involved. Back then 30 million died from starvation, people my age might have taken a single photograph, and yet when he’s up late at night studying Mao with a flashlight, there are people taking pictures! He left thousands of photos behind! Beijing police, if you want to arrest hidden forces, go arrest the hidden forces behind Lei Feng. 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…
View original 71 more words
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 »
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 »
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 »
Many Americans point to globalization as a bogeyman, robbing our country of good jobs and resources. But really, the phenomenon has ushered a period of unprecedented prosperity in many poor countries.
Marian L. Tupy writes: Is inequality increasing or decreasing? The answer depends on our point of reference.
In America, the income gap between the top 1 percent and the rest has grown. But if we look not at America, but the world, inequality is shrinking. We are witnessing, in the words of the World Bank’s Branko Milanovic, “the first decline in global inequality between world citizens since the Industrial Revolution.”
For most of human history, incomes were more equal, but terribly low. Two thousand years ago, GDP per person in the most advanced parts of the world hovered around $3.50 per day. That was the global average 1,800 years later.
But by the early 19th century, a pronounced income gap emerged between the West and the rest. Take the United States. In 1820, the U.S. was 1.9 times richer than the global average. The income gap grew to 4.1 in 1960 and reached its maximum level of 4.8 in 1999. By 2010, it had shrunk by 19 percent to 3.9.
That narrowing is not a function of declining Western incomes. During the Great Recession, for example, U.S. GDP per capita decreased by 4.8 percent between 2007 and 2009. It rebounded by 5.7 percent over the next 4 years and stands at an all-time high today. Rather, the narrowing of the income gap is a result of growing incomes in the rest of the world.
Consider the spectacular rise of Asia. In 1960, the U.S. was 11 times richer than Asia. Today, America is only 4.8 times richer than Asia.
To understand why, let’s look at China.
Between 1958 and 1961, Mao Zedong attempted to transform China’s largely agricultural economy into an industrial one through the “Great Leap Forward.” His stated goal was to overtake UK’s industrial production in 15 years. Industrialization, which included building of factories at home as well as large-scale purchases of machinery abroad, was to be paid for by food produced on collective farms. 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 »
Hong Kong Supporters of Charlie Hedbo Held Silent Protest Outside the Foreign Correspondents Club in Central TodayPosted: January 8, 2015
Dean Napolitano and Joyu Wang report: The blockbuster “Transformers: Age of Extinction” topped Hong Kong’s box office in 2014, a year in which big-budget Hollywood tentpoles again dominated local cineplexes.
The fourth installment of the “Transformers” franchise pulled in HK$98.2 million (US$12.7 million), according to Hong Kong Box Office Ltd. That far outpaced “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which came in second and earned HK$56.6 million.
Director Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was something of a hometown film: A major part of the action takes place in Hong Kong, including the movie’s climax, in which much of the city is destroyed in a battle between giant robots
The movie held its world premiere at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, with stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Nicola Peltz hitting the red carpet while admiring the city’s dramatic skyline.
The cast also included popular Chinese actress Li Bingbing in a co-starring role, while other Hong Kong and Chinese actors took minor roles. Still, the movie failed to match 2013’s top hit, “Iron Man 3,” which made HK$106.4 million….(read more)
Top 10 Films by Box-Office Receipts in Hong Kong in 2014
- “Transformers: Age of Extinction” – HK$98.2 million
- “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – HK$56.6 million
- “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” – HK$54.7 million
- “Interstellar”* – HK$51.1 million
- “X-Men: Days of Future Past” – HK$50.8 million
- “Golden Chickensss” – HK$41.3 million
- “Maleficent” – HK$40.9 million
- “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” – HK$36.97 million
- “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”* – HK$36.5 million
- “From Vegas to Macau” – HK$33.6 million
“I Want Genuine Universal Suffrage” at times square, causeway bay.
(source; SocRec @ 25dec14)
Originally posted on TIME:
Hong Kong authorities on Monday began tearing down the last of the city’s pro-democracy camps, bringing a quiet end to two and a half months of street occupations that constituted the most significant political protest in China since 1989’s Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing.
By Tuesday, all three protest sites — in the Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay districts — will be gone. The streets will be tidied up and returned to traffic, office workers and shoppers.
The protesters are leaving the streets with few tangible results. Beijing has rejected their insistence that Hong Kongers should have the right to freely elect the head of the city’s government without a pro-establishment committee first handpicking the candidates.
The Hong Kong government has also made it clear that it sees itself as a local representative of the central government, and is unwilling to convey the democratic aspirations of many of its…
View original 378 more words
Originally posted on TIME:
The 79-day occupation of Hong Kong’s streets by pro-democracy protesters met a rather lackluster end on Monday morning, as police cleared the last of three protest sites in a matter of hours.
The clearance of the Causeway Bay camp, a small street occupation that was partly set up to accommodate the spillover from the main camp in the Admiralty district, began at around 10 a.m. with a 20-minute warning from police telling the protesters to clear out.
The authorities moved in soon after, and hurriedly cleared barricades, tents and protest artwork in a process devoid of the drama of the Admiralty clearance four days earlier or the conflict that accompanied the removal of the Mong Kok protest site across the harbor in Kowloon the week before that.
The Causeway Bay site, over the course of the past few weeks, had dwindled to a hundred-meter stretch of road held down by…
View original 219 more words
The world response was shameful. As during Iran’s Green Movement protests in 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, so five years later Obama all but ignored what was happening in Hong Kong: He chose to expend a minuscule drop of the moral authority of the American president to make a point about the value of democracy.
Michael Auslin writes: The tents are gone and the streets are cleared. The thousands of students and older citizens peacefully trying to make their voices heard have gone back home. And the best hope for ensuring that Hong Kong’s fragile and evolving democracy does not flicker out has been extinguished.
What the Chinese government, and its proxy in Hong Kong, gained from the protests should not be underestimated.”
Hong Kong police finished clearing out the last remaining protest site this week after allowing two and half months of peaceful demonstrations. For a brief while in the beginning, back in late September, it looked as if things could get violent — that Hong Kong students in 2014 could wind up suffering a fate close to that of their predecessors in Tiananmen Square in Beijing back in 1989. Yet the Hong Kong police, despite a few volleys of tear gas, refrained from physical confrontation.
“First, they crushed the movement peacefully, thereby avoiding the international opprobrium that would have come in the wake of a violent suppression…”
Not so the mysterious groups of thugs who harassed the students and attempted to break up some of their encampments. Whether directed by China or not, those ruffians clearly had the backing of the mainland authorities, as well as of Hong Kong’s Beijing-picked leader, who made clear throughout the months of protest that his primary loyalty is to the Communist party of China, and not the people of Hong Kong.
“Second, they successfully encouraged or used small groups of thugs to intimidate the protesters and sympathetic onlookers….”
So many weeks later, it is hard to remember that the demonstrations began over a simple point: the right of Hong Kongers to democratically choose their chief executive in elections starting in 2017, as seemingly promised by Beijing back in the 1984 agreement with Great Britain that paved the way for the handover of the colony in 1997.
“Third, they neutralized global criticism. Most importantly, in winning the confrontation, they have shaped perceptions of Hong Kong’s future, erasing any doubt over China’s ultimate control of the city.”
Yet the agreement’s language was vague enough that Beijing could manipulate its implementation despite later promises to allow free elections — and, really, what could anyone actually do to prevent the Chinese from running Hong Kong however they liked? Read the rest of this entry »
Isabella Steger reports: Lunchtime strolls, camping gear and folding origami umbrellas in one of Hong Kong’s busiest thoroughfares will soon be a thing of the past.
As Hong Kong police prepare to clear the main occupied protest encampment in Admiralty on Thursday morning, thousands turned out to witness the final hours of the site, which pro-democracy protesters have occupied since Sept. 28.
On Wednesday afternoon, a larger than usual crowd of office workers spent their lunch break at the Admiralty site, eating, taking photographs and talking politics.
“They have built up a good micro-community here. This is a place where people who support the democracy cause but who don’t necessarily align themselves with any political party can come together.”
– Jeff Cheung, 27, who works in nearby Central district
“They have built up a good micro-community here,” said Jeff Cheung, 27, who works in nearby Central district. “This is a place where people who support the democracy cause but who don’t necessarily align themselves with any political party can come together,” he added, eating a homemade salad with two friends in the so-called study area of the encampment, where volunteers built rows of desks for students to use.
Leaders of the two main student protest groups—The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism— urged protesters to turn out Wednesday night for a last hurrah and to stay overnight if they could.
Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of Scholarism, said he wouldn’t be at the front line during Thursday’s clearance operation because he needs to avoid being arrested again before his Jan. 14 court appearance. Mr. Wong was arrested in November during the clearance of the Mong Kok site. Read the rest of this entry »
HONG KONG— Mia Lamar and Isabella Steger reporting: Student protesters demanding greater democracy for Hong Kong said Thursday they are more seriously weighing a retreat from the roads they have occupied for more than two months.
The remarks were the latest sign of the narrowing options that the protesters face as police have increased their efforts to remove the demonstrators from the streets and public support for the occupation of busy city thoroughfares has faded.
“Occupying here doesn’t put enough pressure on the government. If it put enough pressure, we wouldn’t be here two months….In the end, we didn’t get what we want, but this movement inspired people that we can’t live like this anymore.”
– 18-year-old student Timothy Sun
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, a group of university students at the helm of the protests, and Scholarism, a teenage student protest group, could issue a decision over whether to retreat from the encampments within the next week, according to student leaders.
Yvonne Leung, a spokeswoman for HKFS, made the remarks on a local radio program. Eighteen-year-old Scholarism leader Joshua Wong separately told The Wall Street Journal that his group, which works closely with HKFS, is also considering a retreat. Mr. Wong is in the third day of a hunger strike, along with four other teen members of his group.
“For me, I think it’s time to adjust tactics. Retreat doesn’t necessarily mean failure.”
– Student leader
Protesters are calling for the right of citizens to select their own candidates for the city’s top leadership post, not those vetted by Beijing as per a decision handed down by the National People’s Congress in August. Those calls have been rejected by the government as nonnegotiable under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a “mini-constitution” held with Beijing. The city will vote in 2017 for its next chief executive, a five-year appointment. Read the rest of this entry »