Political Chill in Beijing: Xi Turns Back the Clock on Women’s Rights in China

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An emboldened Beijing clamps down on civil liberties

Andrew Browne writes: Although it would be almost unthinkable today, as a political chill descends over Beijing, two decades ago close to 30,000 women from around the world converged on a muddy tent village outside the Chinese capital to
promote a host of social and political causes.

“Even though the so-called ‘Feminist Five’ were released from custody in April, they say they are still being treated as criminal suspects.”

The carnival-style NGO Forum on Women made the authorities nervous, but it was part of the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, which China agreed to host as a way to polish its international image still tarnished by the army’s brutal suppression of student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hard-liners in charge at the time evidently figured the political discomfort was worth the gains to China’s global prestige.
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“Just as President Xi Jinping prepares to attend a U.N. summit in New York in September to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark women’s conference, his administration has begun to clamp down on independent women’s groups for the first time since the NGO Forum.”

Tibetan activists set up stalls. Amnesty International, in China for the first time, rebuked the Chinese government over its human rights practices at a news conference. Then U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, one of the celebrity attendees, made herself popular with the women by lecturing her Chinese hosts about free speech and assembly after they withheld visas for some of the delegates.

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The event became a watershed moment for the Chinese women’s movement. Because foreign NGOs would be there, Chinese authorities had to allow local NGOs to set up and participate.

They never looked back—until now.

Ironically, just as President Xi Jinping prepares to attend a U.N. summit in New York in September to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark women’s conference, his administration has begun to clamp down on independent women’s groups for the first time since the NGO Forum.

The restrictions underscore just how far Mr. Xi is turning back the clock on civil liberties in China—all the way to the days of harsh political repression that followed the crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

They also reveal a transformation in the mind-set of the government, still fearful of organized political opposition but so confident in China’s elevated place in the world that it no longer feels much compulsion to make concessions to its international critics. Read the rest of this entry »


紫禁城 ! Chinese Education Minister Warns Against ‘Infiltration’ of Western Ideas

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Te-Ping Chen reports: Chinese teachers should be on their guard against the infiltration of Western ideas, the country’s education minister says. Also, while they’re at it, they should stop complaining and venting their grievances in front of students as well.

“Mr. Yuan declared that the government ‘absolutely could not allow teachers to whine while teaching, air their resentments or spread negative spirits to their students.’ The report didn’t elaborate on the nature of grumbling that the government was opposed to.”

The minister, Yuan Guiren, made the comments at a conference Thursday at which representatives from some of China’s best universities were assembled. According to Mr. Yuan, as cited by state news agency Xinhua, universities should avoid use of teaching materials that “disseminate Western values.”

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As well, Xinhua said, Mr. Yuan declared that the government “absolutely could not allow teachers to whine while teaching, air their resentments or spread negative spirits to their students.” The report didn’t elaborate on the nature of grumbling that the government was opposed to.

“Since assuming office, Chinese President Xi Jinping has actively pushed the study of traditional Chinese culture. Such a push has also come in tandem with a backlash against certain Western traditions, notably Christmas.”

Mr. Yuan’s comments come amid a growing scrutiny of ideology on China’s campuses. Earlier this month, the State Council General Office released an opinion on the need to “further strengthen and improve propaganda and ideology work.” It declared that higher education is a key “battlefield” in the struggle for ideology. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: China Says 5 Jihadis Are Arrested in Beijing Attack

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BEIJING — reports:  The Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday the arrests of five people described as Islamic jihadists who they say helped orchestrate an audacious attack near Tiananmen Square, the political heart of the nation, that left five people dead.

In a brief message posted on its microblog account, the Beijing Public Security Bureau said the arrested men, all ethnic Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang region, had enlisted a family of three to drive a vehicle across a crowded sidewalk on Monday and then ignite the car at the foot of the Tiananmen Gate. Two tourists were killed and 40 people were injured as the vehicle sped toward the entrance to the Forbidden City, just yards from the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao.

The occupants of the car — identified by the police as Usmen Hasan, his wife and his mother, also Uighurs — died as it went up in flames. The police say that in addition to gasoline and a gas canister, investigators recovered from the vehicle two knives, metal clubs and a banner bearing “religious extremist messages.” The police did not disclose the content of those messages.

“This was a violent terrorist act that was carefully planned and organized,” the statement said.     Read the rest of this entry »