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Hong Kong University Purge

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Pro-Beijing Forces Target a Top School’s Leaders to Intimidate Professors.

The new school term in Hong Kong is off to a bad start. A year after university students led mass protests for democracy, the government is taking revenge against pro-democracy voices in the academy.

The crackdown is especially harsh at elite Hong Kong University, where the governing council last week blocked the appointment of former law dean Johannes Chan to the senior post of pro-vice chancellor. Mr. Chan was the only candidate recommended by a search committee.

The problem is that Mr. Chan is a human-rights and constitutional lawyer with moderate pro-democracy views. He has done academic work with his HKU law colleague Benny Tai, founder of the group Occupy Central With Love and Peace, which helped start the street protests last year.

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For months Mr. Chan faced a smear campaign, with hundreds of articles in pro-Beijing newspapers condemning his “meddling in politics.” Critics accused him of mishandling a donation to Mr. Tai, but the governing council cleared him of wrongdoing earlier this year. Nevertheless the council denied his appointment last week by a 12-8 vote.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Council deliberations are meant to be confidential, but leaks suggest Mr. Chan was supported by the council members drawn from HKU’s faculty. Read the rest of this entry »

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75% in U.S. See Widespread Government Corruption

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: In this handout from the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama talks on the phone while in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister David Cameron on February 13, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

While the numbers have fluctuated slightly since 2007, the trend has been largely stable since 2010. However, the percentage of U.S. adults who see corruption as pervasive has never been less than a majority in the past decade, which has had no shortage of controversies from the U.S. Justice Department’s firings of U.S. attorneys to the IRS scandal.

These figures are higher than some might expect, and while the lack of improvement is somewhat disconcerting, the positive takeaway is that Americans still feel fairly free to criticize their government. This is not the case in some parts of the world. Questions about corruption are so sensitive in some countries that even if Gallup is allowed to ask them, the results may reflect residents’ reluctance to disparage their government. This is particularly true in countries where media freedom is restricted.

Speaker of the House John Boehner arrives at the Capitol

This is why it is most appropriate to look at perceptions of corruption through such lenses as the Freedom House‘s Press Freedom rankings. Ratings vary among countries with a “free press,” including the U.S., and range from a high of 90% in Lithuania to a low of 14% in Sweden. The U.S. does not make the top 10 list, but notably, it is not far from it.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 U.S. adults each year, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2007 and 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults in the U.S., the margin of sampling error has typically been ±4.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of national adults across the 134 countries surveyed in 2014, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Read the rest of this entry »


China Exerts Pressure on Foreign News Outlets

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Beijing Officials Pressure International Media

 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.

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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.”

Frank Sieren, Beijing-based communist and media consultant

Frank Sieren, Beijing-based communist and media consultant

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.

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“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)

Washington Free Beacon

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Chinese blogger Su Yutong

From HumanRightsWatchinChina:

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 criticalNGO, doing research on social issues.

[Li Peng Diary: The Critical Moments is available at Amazon]

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.

Photo courtesy of Su Yutong

Photo courtesy of Su Yutong

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 »


EXIT SIGNS [VIDEO] Why Not “Opt Out” of Government Control?

From bootlegging to working off the books, we’ve done it many times before, and it’s getting ever-easier to exit the system.

  writes:  Balaji Srinivasan, a Stanford Universty instructor and genomics entrepreneur, recently offered some radically individualistic advice to aspiring tech innovators. Speaking at at this year’s Startup School, sponsored by tech “seed accelerator” Y Combinator, he warned members of the audience that, despite (or maybe, because of) the liberating and enriching qualities of technology in people’s lives, the tech industry faces a backlash from old-line power centers. In response, he said, technological innovators should publicly state their case, but also be prepared to exploit a market opportunity to help people escape government control, no matter the law. Their innovations, he suggested, should allows fans of the old order to “enjoy” the rules and structures to which they’re attached, but offer the rest of us a means of exiting an increasingly authoritarian system. In other words, to hell with arguing for more freedom, let’s take it.

That’s good advice for all of us—if we can break with old attitudes and embrace a willingness to defy authority.

“I believe the ability to reduce the importance of decisions made in D.C., in particular, without lobbying or sloganeering, is actually going to become extremely important over the next ten years,” Srinivasan told his audience. His goal, one he wants tech entrepreneurs to share, is “giving people the tools to reduce the influence of bad policies over their lives without getting involved in politics; the tools to peacefully opt out.”

Read the rest of this entry »