China’s New Social Enforcement Campaign: Beijing Turns to Social Media Tattletales in Battle Against Smoking

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Alyssa Abkowitz and Hu Chao report: Smokers in Beijing get ready: law enforcement officers won’t be the only ones trying to catch you smoking indoors.

“To pump up attention for the WeChat account, the government is inviting people to vote for a hand gesture that residents can use to try and discourage people from smoking.” 

Beijing’s government is rallying residents to help enforce the country’s new smoking rules, which will be implemented on June 1. The rules ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor public places, with maximum fines of 200 yuan (about $33) for individuals and 10,000 yuan for organizations and companies.

“The government-suggested images include:  I do mind(我介意),which depicts a woman covering her nose with her hand, Don’t(不可以), in which the woman is holding her palm like a stop sign, and Please stop(请停止), in which the woman makes a time-out signal with her hands.”

The government this week launched an account on the social messaging app WeChat to allow residents to report violators, either by uploading images or videos of smokers caught in the act. In addition, the account offers a bevy of anti-smoking information including the full text of the regulations, anti-smoking videos featuring famous CCTV anchors, and warnings about the health impact of smoking (such as the fact that it can negatively affect the quality of one’s sperm).

“But the campaign will face an uphill push in a country where smoked-filled banquet rooms are a routine part of doing business, and the state-run tobacco industry generates a whopping 956 billion yuan ($156 billion) in taxes and profits.”

Asking the public to help police the nation is a familiar thread in Chinese history. During the Cultural Revolution, neighbors were encouraged to report anti-revolutionary actions of one another. More recently, the government has urged citizens to report polluters by calling an official hotline. Read the rest of this entry »


Tiananmen Protest ‘Black Hand’ Chen Ziming Dies in Beijing

Chen Ziming

Josh Chin reports: One of the two activists identified as the “black hands” behind China’s 1989 democracy protests died of cancer on Tuesday, in a reminder of how little the Communist Party has budged in its tolerance of political dissent over the past quarter century.

Chen Ziming, 62 years old, died from pancreatic cancer Tuesday afternoon in Beijing, according to close friends.

“He was incredibly influential, in the academic world as well as in government and public circles.”

— Chen Min, a liberal writer and political commentator better known by his penname, Xiao Shu

“Famous Chinese dissident, so-called June 4th black hand and my mentor Chen Ziming finally succumbed to cancer,” Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the 1989 student-led Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, wrote on his Facebook page. “His death is a massive loss for the Chinese opposition movement, and for the country.”

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Mr. Chen and fellow activist Wang Juntao were accused by the government of being the masterminds behind the 1989 protests. In 1991, both were sentenced to 13 years in prison, in a trial authorities used to bolster the official line that the protests had been the work of a handful of conspirators rather than a movement with mass appeal. Read the rest of this entry »