China Bans Internet News Reporting as Media Crackdown Widens

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The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices.

China’s top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country’s web and information industries.

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“President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.”

The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency’s Beijing office. The companies have “seriously violated” internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing “huge negative effects,” according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday.

The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle “current-affairs news” operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia’s largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.

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The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices. President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.

[Read the full story here, at Bloomberg]

The party has long been sensitive to the potential for negative reporting to stir up unrest, the greatest threat to its decades-old hold on power. Regulations forbidding enterprise reporting have been in place for years without consistent enforcement, but the latest ordinance suggests “they really mean business,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies. Read the rest of this entry »


話を聞いてくれる男性をレンタル: Japanese ‘Rent Men’ Who Are Paid Just to Listen

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Japan has struggled with problems of social isolation, most notably the phenomenon of ‘hikikomori’ where people, often teens and young adults, refuse to leave the house or engage socially, instead opting to play video games or remain in their rooms.

Tokyo (AFP) – From lonely pensioners to Japanese schoolgirls with shattered dreams, Takanobu Nishimoto and his crew of middle-aged men will lend an ear to clients who would never dream of spilling their guts to a therapist or worse, their families.

Anyone in need of company can sign up to his online service to rent an “ossan” — a man aged between 45 and 55 — for 1,000 yen ($10) an hour.

“For me, the service is a hobby more than anything,” says Nishimoto, who first came up with the concept four years ago and who now has a growing network of some 60 men across Japan.

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“The people who rent me are just asking me to keep them company for an hour or two, mainly to listen to them.” 

“The initial idea was to improve the image of guys my age, people who might not be spring chickens anymore and not taken so seriously.”

And while the 48-year-old professional fashion coordinator is used to renting himself out, he insists conversation is all he offers to between 30 and 40 clients a month, roughly 70 percent of whom are women.

“The people who rent me are just asking me to keep them company for an hour or two, mainly to listen to them,” he tells AFP between sessions, giving the example of a woman in her 80s who would book him every week for a walk around the local park.

“I almost became like her son,” he says.

Other clients include a fisherman who was sick of waiting in solitary silence for a catch, a college student with ambitions to get into show business but who lacked family support, and an awkward young employee who did not know how to behave around his direct supervisor.

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“I never know exactly what they’re going to ask for when they rent me, and of course that’s a bit scary, but it’s also why it’s so interesting. Honestly, I’ve never had problems with any weird clients… I’ve had plenty of emotional experiences.”

Japan has struggled with problems of social isolation, most notably the phenomenon of “hikikomori” where people, often teens and young adults, refuse to leave the house or engage socially, instead opting to play video games or remain in their rooms.

But the people who come to Nishimoto do not suffer from detachment from society or challenges adjusting to it. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Running Out of Its Most Valuable Asset: Land 

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In a city where land is everything, a housing crunch is brewing.

Annie Zheng reports: According to a new study by think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, the amount of new, developable land in the former British colony is shrinking. Add in a growing population that will outpace the supply of new apartment units, and there’s a pressing need for the creation of more land, says the think tank, led by former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

“We see a substantial shortage in land and housing resources,” said William Tsang, senior researcher and 41BMIIPgioL._SL250_author of the study. “The government is increasingly relying on changing the use of old land. This means the amount of buildable land is dwindling. When that runs out, what’s next?”

[Order Alice Poon’s book “Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong” from Amazon]

The study found that in 2012, 73% of the nine million square feet of public land for bidding was reclaimed land; by 2015 that had dropped to 50% of the 7.8 million square feet on offer. As a result, the government is relying more on selling converted forms of land, such as work sites, slopes and former staff quarters.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report ]

Public land sales in the form of 50-year land grants are a major source of revenue for the government and one way developers secure land on which to build. In recent years, a flurry of new developers including mainland Chinese have entered the bidding process as the government has put up smaller and more pieces of land. Read the rest of this entry »


Quick Take from Hong Kong on Ruling Against China on South China Sea

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Here’s a clue: The history of the 100 years before 1949 is taught in mainland Chinese schools with the explicit curriculum title of “The Century of Humiliation.” I have described how China’s history over the time since the 1840s is perceived as a comic book story of a superhero who was transformed into a weakling by the villain, but has now regained his superpowers. EVERYTHING is perceived as “getting even.”

Westerners who don’t specialize in the world I now inhabit can’t imagine the absolutely rabid nationalism that is the mainstream default in China’s public discourse and, wang_never.jpgincreasingly in private sentiment — especially among educated people. Basically the default level of nationalism makes Donald Trump look like Noam Chomsky … I am seriously not kidding.

This will be perceived as an “insult to the Chinese people.” Period. The legal and factual merits of the case will NOT be discussed in official media on the mainland (there is no other kind). Anyone who raises any kind of protest against that view online will be bullied and condemned as a traitor and agent of US imperialism.

There is ZERO chance of China accepting this. It will be lovingly placed into the treasure chest of grievances against the world (and especially the U.S.), to be taken out and paraded around on a regular basis — whenever Xi gets some bad economic news (which is all the time now).


BREAKING: China Has No Historic Rights to South China Sea Resources, Court Says 

The case was brought by the Philippines, arguing that China’s claims don’t comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. While the court says the ruling is binding, it lacks a mechanism for enforcement.

David Tweed reports: China’s assertions to more than 80 percent of the disputed South China Sea have been dealt a blow with an international tribunal ruling it has no historic rights to the resources within a 1940s map detailing its claims.

“There was no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said Tuesday in a statement. “The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

“There was no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources. The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

— Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, in a statement on Tuesday

[Read the full story here, at Bloomberg]

The case was brought by the Philippines, arguing that China’s claims don’t comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. While the court says the ruling is binding, it lacks a mechanism for enforcement.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

China’s assertions are based on a 1947 map showing vague dashes — known as the nine-dash line — looping about 1,120 miles (1,800 kilometers) south of China’s Hainan Island and covering about 1.4 million square miles. It contends its claim is grounded in “historic rights” and reclaimed reefs and islands are its indisputable territory. China boycotted the arbitration process and vowed to ignore the result.

“The result of the arbitration is non-binding as far as China is concerned. The Chinese government has already repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept it, will not attend the arbitration, does not acknowledge it and will not implement the result.”

—  Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo, in June

The ruling risks inflaming tensions in a waterway that hosts about $5 trillion of trade a year and plays a vital link for global energy shipments. China has stepped up its assertions under President Xi Jinping, straining ties with fellow claimants like the Philippines and Vietnam.

[MORE on China’s territorial disputes]

“The result of the arbitration is non-binding as far as China is concerned,” Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo said in June. “The Chinese government has already repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept it, will not attend the arbitration, does not acknowledge it and will not implement the result.” Read the rest of this entry »


‘Chinese Agents Acted Like Triads’, says Bookseller in Abduction Row

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An outspoken Hong Kong bookseller who has become a symbol of opposition to China’s authoritarian government has accused Chinese security agents of behaving like the notorious triad gangs in a bid to silence the publishers of provocative books about the country’s leaders.

Lam Wing-kee shot to prominence in June when he revealed how he had been spirited into secret detention in eastern China by a mysterious group of agents supposedly acting on the orders of the Communist party leadership.

Writing in the Diplomat, Amnesty International’s China researcher William Nee said Lam’s testimony had provided “a blow-by-blow account of the abusive tools that have become Chinese authorities’ modus operandi to silence critics since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012”.  Read the rest of this entry »


Faith in Government Collapsing Everywhere: Kim Jong-Un Photographed Smoking a Cigarette While Visiting a Middle School 

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The heavy smoker had reportedly stopped smoking in public for 80 days after the government intensified its anti-smoking campaign.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has smoked a cigarette while visiting a school, a photo released by the North’s mouthpiece media shows, Sunday.

“It’s difficult to understand why the North Korean media stressed the detrimental effects of smoking and then showed Kim doing exactly that.”

In images provided by Korean Central Television (KCT), Kim is seen smoking in a gym and in a classroom while touring a middle school in Pyongyang.

The heavy smoker had reportedly stopped smoking in public for 80 days after the government intensified its anti-smoking campaign.

But he resumed smoking earlier last month at the Mangyongdae Children’s Camp in Pyongyang.

A North Korea expert said Kim may have resumed smoking in public to inspire nostalgia toward North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, who also smoked. Read the rest of this entry »


Japanese Supreme Court Upholds Special Surveillance to Keep Tabs on Muslims

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Japan has actually done remarkably well in averting terror attacks and has never been the victim of lethal jihadist violence. Some have praised Japan’s effectiveness in forestalling Islamic violence, proposing it as a model for other nations.

The Japanese Supreme Court has affirmed the practice of extensive surveillance of Muslims, rejecting an appeal by 17 plaintiffs who challenged the policy on the grounds that it violated Muslims’ constitutional rights to privacy, equal treatment, and religious freedom.

 “The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam.”

In 2010, over a hundred Japanese police files were leaked to the public, which revealed widespread monitoring of Muslims across Japan. The files reportedly showed that the Japanese government was keeping tabs on some 72,000 Japanese residents who hailed from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Tokyo police had also been monitoring places of worship, halal restaurants, and “Islam-related” organizations, according to the documents.

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“Along with surveillance, Japanese authorities also apply tight immigration standards. Muslims seeking a working visa or immigration permit, for instance, are subject to detailed scrutiny, which is credited with preventing the sort of terrorist activity that has plagued Europe. “

Soon after, 17 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit saying that their privacy had been violated, and challenging the extensive monitoring of followers of Islam in Japan.

[Read the full story here, at Breitbart]

After two appeals, the case made it to Japan’s Supreme Court, which on May 31 concurred with a lower court that awarded the plaintiffs a total of ¥90 million ($880,000) in compensation because the leak violated their privacy.

Nonetheless, the high court dismissed the more general charges of police profiling and invasive surveillance practices, which a lower court had upheld as “necessary and inevitable” to guard against the threat of Islamic terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Shoji Terayama In Front of Tenjō Sajiki (天井桟敷), 1967

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Shoji Terayama In Front of Tenjō Sajiki (天井桟敷), his Public Underground Theatre, 1967

Source: 


[VIDEO] Chinese Jet Makes ‘Unsafe’ Intercept 

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, reports: A U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft flying Tuesday in international airspace over the East China Sea was intercepted in an “unsafe manner” by a Chinese J-10 fighter jet, several defense officials tell CNN.

The Chinese jet was never closer than 100 feet to the U.S. aircraft, but it flew with a “high rate of speed as it closed in” on the U.S. aircraft, one official said. Because of that high speed, and the fact it was flying at the same altitude as the U.S. plane, the intercept is defined as unsafe.

The officials did not know if the U.S. plane took any evasive action to avoid the Chinese aircraft or at what point the J-10 broke away. It is also not yet clear if the U.S. will diplomatically protest the incident.

Officials said the RC-135 was on a routine mission.

Chinese jet makes 'unsafe' intercept

Chinese jet makes ‘unsafe’ intercept 01:24

The Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
>News of the intercept comes as Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are in Beijing for the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Lew is pressing China to lower barriers to foreign business and cut excess steel production, with limited success.

The intercept also occurred just days after Defense Secretary Ash Carter and top military officials returned from a regional security meeting in Singapore. Read the rest of this entry »


Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese 

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Amos Zeeburg writes: The stories have become all too familiar in Japan, though people often do their best to ignore them. An elderly or middle-aged person, usually a man, is found dead, at home in his apartment, frequently right in his bed. It has been days, weeks, or even months since he has had contact with another human being. Often the discovery is made by a landlord frustrated at not receiving a rent payment or a neighbor who notices an unpleasant smell. The deceased has almost no connections with the world around him: no job, no relationships with neighbors, no spouse or children who care to be in contact. He has little desire to take care of his home, his relationships, his health. “The majority of lonely deaths are people who are kind of messy,” Taichi Yoshida, who runs a moving company that often cleans out apartments where people are discovered long after they die, told Time magazine. “It’s the person who, when they take something out, they don’t put it back; when something breaks, they don’t fix it; when a relationship falls apart, they don’t repair it.”

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The death rate for U.S. whites (USW), U.S. Hispanics (USH), and six comparison countries (France, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden) since 1990.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

These lonely deaths are called kodokushi. Each one passes without much notice, but the phenomenon is frequent enough to be widely known. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported there were 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in Japan in 2013, but some researchers estimate that because of significant under-counting, the true figure is closer to 30,000. In any case, the frequency of kodokushi has been on the rise since they emerged in the 1980s.

[Read the full story here, at Nautilus]

The increase seems to be associated with deep social changes in the country, particularly the breakdown of the traditional multigenerational Japanese family. In 1960, about 80 percent of elderly Japanese lived with a child; since then that number has split in half. Read the rest of this entry »


China Detains Activists on Tiananmen Anniversary

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Beijing (AFP) – Chinese police have detained several activists while others were placed under surveillance for the anniversary of the bloody 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, which was heavily policed on Saturday.

On June 4 1989 military tanks rolled into the square in the centre of Beijing to crush pro-democracy protests, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians — by some estimates thousands.

Nearly three decades after the crackdown, the communist regime continues to forbid any debate on the subject, mention of which is banned from textbooks and the media, and censored on the Internet.

Six human rights activists, including the poet Liang Taiping, have been held by Beijing police since Thursday after holding a private ceremony commemorating June 4, the Chinese NGO Weiquanwang said.

A Chinese protestor blocks a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Blvd. June 5, 1989 in front of the Beijing Hotel. The man, calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way.

A Chinese protestor blocks a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Changan Blvd. June 5, 1989 in front of the Beijing Hotel. The man, calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way.

The detained activists were suspected of “provoking quarrels and fomenting unrest”, the group said, adding another activist had “disappeared” in recent days in the capital.

As in previous years, the “Tiananmen Mothers“, an association of parents who lost children during the violence, were placed under heavy surveillance in the lead up to the anniversary.

Tiananmen square in the centre of Beijing was also under tight security on Saturday, with guards at the entry points into the iconic tourist spot checking the IDs and passports of visitors more closely than usual, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

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Around a dozen parents from the Tiananmen Mothers visited a Beijing cemetery on Saturday where many of those killed in the crackdown are buried.

They said they were outnumbered by security forces as they paid their respects at the graves of their children. Read the rest of this entry »


Krauthammer: How Do You Distinguish a Foreign Policy ‘Idealist” from a ‘Realist’?

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Charles Krauthammer writes: How do you distinguish a foreign policy “idealist” from a “realist,” an optimist from a pessimist? Ask one question: Do you believe in the arrow of history? Or to put it another way, do you think history is cyclical or directional? Are we condemned to do the same damn thing over and over, generation after generation — or is there hope for some enduring progress in the world order?

“Barack Obama is a classic case study in foreign policy idealism. Indeed, one of his favorite quotations is about the arrow of history: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He has spent nearly eight years trying to advance that arc of justice. Hence his initial “apology tour,” that burst of confessional soul-searching abroad about America and its sins, from slavery to the loss of our moral compass after 9/11. Friday’s trip to Hiroshima completes the arc.”

For realists, generally conservative, history is an endless cycle of clashing power politics. The same patterns repeat. Only the names and places change. The best we can do in our own time is to defend ourselves, managing instability and avoiding catastrophe. But expect nothing permanent, no essential alteration in the course of human affairs.

[Read the full story here, at telegraph.co.uk ]

The idealists believe otherwise. They believe that the international system can eventually evolve out of its Hobbesian state of nature into something more humane and hopeful. What is usually overlooked is that this hopefulness for achieving a higher plane of global comity comes in two flavors — one liberal, one conservative.

A Japanese patrol plane, pictured in 2011, flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese patrol plane, pictured in 2011, flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan Pool, via Jiji Press

The liberal variety (as practiced, for example, by the Bill Clinton administration) believes that the creation of a dense web of treaties, agreements, transnational institutions and international organizations (like the U.N., NGOs, the World Trade Organization) can give substance to a cohesive community of nations that would, in time, ensure order and stability.

The conservative view (often called neoconservative and dominant in the George W. Bush years) is that the better way to ensure order and stability is not through international institutions, which are flimsy and generally powerless, but through the spread of democracy. Because, in the end, democracies are inherently more inclined to live in peace.

Japan's Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defence Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on December 25, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised December 24 at the start of his new term to revive Japan's economy so he can pursue "powerful diplomacy", but China's state media warned him to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan’s Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defence Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on December 25, 2014. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

Liberal internationalists count on globalization, neoconservatives on democratization to get us to the sunny uplands of international harmony. But what unites them is the belief that such uplands exist and are achievable. Both believe in the perfectibility, if not of man, then of the international system. Both believe in the arrow of history. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Cherry Blossoms Flood the Inokashira Park Lake in Tokyo

Christopher Jobson reports: Every spring, photographer Danilo Dungo spends time at Inokashira Park in Tokyo, famous for its abundance of blooming cherry trees. The photographer has become a master at capturing the event from all angles, especially with aerial shots that show the pink flowers covering the nearby lake…(read more)

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Source: Colossal


John Bolton: Obama’s Shameful Apology Tour Lands in Hiroshima 

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Narcissist-in-Chief Honors Himself in Hiroshima, Japan

boltonJohn Bolton writes: An American president’s highest moral, constitutional and political duty is protecting his fellow citizens from foreign threats. Presidents should adhere to our values and the Constitution, and not treat America’s enemies as morally equivalent to us.

If they do, they need not apologize to anyone.

The White House says that President Obama won’t apologize as he visits Hiroshima Friday. But who believes his press flacks?

“Obama’s narcissism, his zeal for photo opportunities with him at the center, whether in Havana or Hiroshima, too often overcomes lesser concerns — like the best interests of the country.”

His penchant for apologizing is central to his legacy. He may not often say “I apologize” explicitly, but his meaning is always clear, especially since he often bends his knee overseas, where he knows the foreign audiences will get his meaning. It is, in fact, Obama’s subtlety that makes his effort to reduce America’s influence in the world so dangerous.

He started in Cairo in 2009, referring to the “fear and anger” that the 9/11 attacks provoked in Americans, saying that, “in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.” He later said, “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions . . . based on fear rather than foresight” — a characterization Americans overwhelmingly reject.

[Read the full story here, at the New York Post]

In Europe, saved three times by America in the last century, Obama apologized because “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” And in this hemisphere, Obama said, “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms,” culminating in his recent fawning visits with the Castros in Cuba.

The list goes on and on.

President Barack Obama walks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.Photo: Getty Images

Then there’s his penchant for bowing to foreign leaders. He has bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. He bowed to the emperor of Japan on a previous visit. He has bowed to China’s leader, Xi Jinping. And these are not casual nods of the head, but unmistakable gestures of obeisance. Read the rest of this entry »


Decapitated Churches in China’s Christian Heartland 

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Christianity is Stigmatized, Feared, and Marginalized, in China as well as in the United States, because the Idea that Rights are God-Given Undermines Government Authority.

SHUITOU, China — Ian Johnson reports: Along the valleys and mountains hugging the East China Sea, a Chinese government campaign to remove crosses from church spires has left the countryside looking as if a typhoon had raged down the coast, decapitating buildings at random.

In the town of Shuitou, workers used blowtorches to cut a 10-foot-high cross off the 120-foot steeple of the Salvation Church. It now lies in the churchyard, wrapped in a red shroud.

About 10 miles to the east, in Mabu township, riot police officers blocked parishioners from entering the grounds of the Dachang Church while workers erected scaffolding and sawed off the cross. In the nearby villages of Ximei, Aojiang, Shanmen and Tengqiao, crosses now lie toppled on rooftops or in yards, or buried like corpses.

On a four-day journey through this lush swath of China’s Zhejiang Province, I spoke with residents who described in new detail the breathtaking scale of an effort to remove Christianity’s most potent symbol from public view. Over the past two years, officials and residents said, the authorities have torn down crosses from 1,200 to 1,700 churches, sometimes after violent clashes with worshipers trying to stop them.

A Sunday service at a state-sanctioned church in Wenzhou in 2014. There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

A Sunday service at a state-sanctioned church in Wenzhou in 2014. There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

“It’s been very difficult to deal with,” said one church elder in Shuitou, who like others asked for anonymity in fear of retaliation by the authorities. “We can only get on our knees and pray.”

The campaign has been limited to Zhejiang Province, home to one of China’s largest and most vibrant Christian populations. But people familiar with the government’s deliberations say the removal of crosses here has set the stage for a new, nationwide effort to more strictly regulate spiritual life in China, reflecting the tighter control of society favored by President Xi Jinping.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

In a major speech on religious policy last month, Mr. Xi urged the ruling Communist Party to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means,” and he warned that religions in China must “Sinicize,” or become Chinese. The instructions reflect the government’s longstanding fear that Christianity could undermine the party’s authority. Many human rights lawyers in China are Christians, and many dissidents have said they are influenced by the idea that rights are God-given.

In recent decades, the party had tolerated a religious renaissance in China, allowing most Chinese to worship as they chose and even encouraging the construction of churches, mosques and temples, despite regular crackdowns on unregistered congregations and banned spiritual groups such as Falun Gong.

Hundreds of millions of people have embraced the nation’s major faiths: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. There are now about 60 million Christians in China. Many attend churches registered with the government, but at least half worship in unregistered churches, often with local authorities looking the other way. Read the rest of this entry »


A Subversive Message in Hong Kong Goes Up in Lights 

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The city has gone to great lengths to contain protests during Mr. Zhang’s visit, but pro-democracy messages have slipped through.

BEIJING — Jason Lam reports: For more than a minute on Tuesday night, nine-digit numbers were displayed across the facade of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper, the International Commerce Center. Towering above Victoria Harbor, the glowing white digits blinked against the night sky: 979,012,493… 979,012,492… 979,012,491…

“Due to the high level of security, there’s almost no channel for the Hong Kong people to voice and protest.”

The seemingly innocuous numbers contained a subversive statement. The animation is a countdown of the seconds until when the “one country, two systems” framework — a guarantee that Hong Kong, a former British colony, would keep its civil liberties and a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 — is set to expire.

[Watch in Times Video »]

“We hope to deliver this work to illustrate the biggest anxiety of the Hong Kong people,” Sampson Wong, who created the animation with the artist Jason Lam, said before the lights first went up.

“Most of the animations shown on the I.C.C. are ad-like, meaningless videos. We wanted to show something relevant to the social situation of Hong Kong.”

–Sampson Wong

The artists planned the display to coincide with a three-day visit to Hong Kong by Zhang Dejiang, a member of China’s governing Politburo Standing Committee, which began on Tuesday. Mr. Zhang is the highest-ranking official from mainland China to visit Hong Kong since the pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 known as the Umbrella Movement.

Zhang Dejiang

Zhang Dejiang

[Read the full text here, at The New York Times]

The city has gone to great lengths to contain protests during Mr. Zhang’s visit, but pro-democracy messages have slipped through. At least seven members of the League of Social Democrats party were arrested on Tuesday in connection with at least two banners appearing in public — one on a hillside, the other along the route taken by Mr. Zhang’s motorcade — reading “I Want Genuine Universal Suffrage” and “End Chinese Communist Party Dictatorship.”

“Due to the high level of security, there’s almost no channel for the Hong Kong people to voice and protest,” Mr. Wong said. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Glues Down Paving Stones to Prevent Violence During Beijing Official’s Visit 

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Beijing taking no chances in protest-prone Hong Kong.

Emily Rauhala writes: In a sign of the times, officials in Hong Kong are gluing down bricks ahead of a visit by a top Chinese official, a move reportedly aimed at stopping protesters from turning pieces of pavement into projectiles.

The road work is part of a sweeping security mobilization that includes counterterrorism measures, such as road closures and barricades near the city’s central business district. Demonstrators will be relegated to protest zones, drawing complaints that the government is trying to play down dissent.

The man at the center of the storm: Zhang Dejiang, a member of China’s highest political body and the top official responsible for Macau and Hong Kong. Zhang lands in Hong Kong on Tuesday for a three-day trip. He will be the highest-ranking cadre to visit the city since pro-democracy protests in 2014.

Rioters throw bricks at police in Hong Kong in February after local authorities tried to prevent street food sellers from operating. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Rioters throw bricks at police in Hong Kong in February after local authorities tried to prevent street food sellers from operating. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Judging by the security preparations, not everyone is looking forward to his visit.

Anger and frustration over Beijing’s influence in Hong Kong affairs has been on the rise since 2014, when protesters occupied the heart of the city for months calling for free and fair elections.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

More than a year and a half later, the issues raised by the demonstrators remain unresolved and many worry that Beijing is tightening its grip on the former British colony, threatening rule of law and the free press.

Amid crackdown on a Hong Kong publishing house this winter, Lee Bo, a local bookseller with a British passport, disappeared from a warehouse in the city and surfaced across the border in mainland China under truly unbelievable circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »


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