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China is in the Midst of Harshest Crackdown on Human Rights and Civil Society in Decades

Since Xi Jinping came came to power nearly four years ago, hundreds of activists, lawyers, writers, publishers and employees of nongovernmental groups have been rounded up. Many more have been threatened and intimidated. Internet news sites have been ordered to stop publishing reports from sources that aren’t sanctioned by the state.

Julie Making reports: For five days last week, the confessions poured forth from Chinese human rights activists and attorneys rounded up last summer and held incommunicado for a year. Four men, facing trial for subversion, cowered before a court where they were represented by lawyers they didn’t choose.

A fifth person, knowing her husband was detained and teenage son under surveillance, declared her wrongs in a videotaped interview.

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“As an old timer who’s been studying China since the Mao era, I have to say it’s the worst I’ve seen since then. It’s very discouraging.”

— Susan L. Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Program at UC San Diego

China is in the midst of what many overseas scholars say is its harshest crackdown on human rights and civil society in decades. Since Xi Jinping came came to power nearly four years ago, hundreds of activists, lawyers, writers, publishers and employees of nongovernmental groups have been rounded up. Many more have been threatened and intimidated. Internet news sites have been ordered to stop publishing reports from sources that aren’t sanctioned by the state.

President Xi Jinping, who also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, shakes hands with PLA division commanders in Shandong province last year. Photo: Xinhua

“I want to remind everybody to wipe their eyes and clearly see the ugly faces of hostile forces overseas. Never be fooled by their ideas of ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights’ and ‘benefiting the public.’”

— Zhai Yasmin, one of the defendants

Even as China has been touting its efforts to boost the “rule of law,” some critics of the government have vanished under mysterious circumstances in places like Thailand and Hong Kong, only to surface months later in Chinese custody, claiming rather unbelievably they had turned themselves in voluntarily. Many of those detained have appeared on state-run TV confessing to crimes before they have had a day in court.

Archive/Getty Images

Archive/Getty Images

“Xi likes to underscore his status as the new Mao Tse-tung by not giving a damn about what the major Western leaders, authors or media are saying about China.”

“As an old timer who’s been studying China since the Mao era, I have to say it’s the worst I’ve seen since then,” said Susan L. Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Program at UC San Diego. “It’s very discouraging.”

[Read the full story here, at LA Times]

The activists and lawyer prosecuted last week confessed to having illegally organized protests and drawn attention to sensitive cases at the behest of “foreign forces” in order to “smear the [Communist] party and attack the Chinese government.” They had erred in accepting interviews with international journalists, they added, and traveled abroad to participate in interfaith conferences and law seminars infiltrated by separatists and funded by enemies of China. Read the rest of this entry »

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Read the Newspaper, Chinese Official Urges Communist Party Members

wsj-china-communist-party-read-newspapers

Russell Leigh Moses writes: The People’s Daily is the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper. It announces what the party sees as the major issues of the day and the current direction of the nation. It’s also the main platform for political discussion, marking out initiatives and identifying the parameters for debate. Like many other party newspapers, People’s Daily is required reading for party members.

It is also, for too many new party members at least, increasingly irrelevant.

With articles on a typical day involving discussions of party doctrine, dogma and jargon abound. Major stories often include grip-and-grin accounts of Chinese leaders meeting obscure peers from faraway nations.

And headlines in the newspaper can have an eerie similarity, such as the recent edition that had 11 that began with the name Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party leader.

That makes the People’s Daily no different from newspapers around the world struggling to stay significant during the digital revolution. But for the Communist Party, the stakes are arguably bigger: Its power and legitimacy depend on party leaders getting the word out and those words being taken seriously.

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

That unease was on display in an editorial in an edition of People’s Daily last month titled, “Is It OK for Party Members Not To Read Party Newspapers?” Yan Jin, an official in Changsha, the capital of China’s southern province of Hunan, noted that these days “some cadres do not bother to even read party newspapers and spend that time browsing through gossip instead.”

Yan concedes that this situation shouldn’t be a surprise as “current party members born in the 1980s and 1990s haven’t grown up with the habit of reading actual newspapers and now have more ways of getting information from the computer or their phone.” In his own district, Yan said, cadres between 22 and 30 years of age comprised 25% of the membership, suggesting that this problem of paying less attention to party news will grow as older officials retire and younger ones join the ranks.

Yan said that party newspaper readership has also declined because a growing number of cadres “justifiably criticized party newspapers as boring.” Many party members simply haven’t wanted to devote the time to wading through the heavy political prose even though, as he contends, party newspapers have “tried to write more and more lively sentences, and attempted to adopt a new style that’s both shorter and addresses real issues.” Yan notes that party newspapers are now easier to access online and at news kiosks, which should help their appeal to younger officials.

Apparently, that strategy is falling short. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Antigraft Drive Hits Communist Party Media

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Criticism of China’s top party-controlled publications comes amid a spell of tightened scrutiny of China’s news media.

Chun Han Wong reports: Over the past two years, Chinese state media have cheered as President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anticorruption campaign felled bureaucrats and businessmen alike.

Now, the ruling Communist Party’s own top scribes find themselves in the crosshairs.

china-media-censorship

Following recent investigations of the party’s mouthpiece daily and top political journal, Chinese antigraft officials said they uncovered a litany of financial and journalistic misconduct, including Chinese leader Xi Jinpingblackmail and misuse of public funds.

The criticism of China’s top party-controlled publications comes amid a spell of tightened scrutiny of the country’s news media. Graft busters have probed into alleged corruption and other ethical lapses in China’s journalism world in the past year, though the news outlets implicated have mainly been commercial publications rather than official organs.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

This changed late Sunday when the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s internal watchdog, criticized the mouthpiece People’s Daily newspaper and the party’s main political journal Qiushi for what it described as a broad range of transgressions.

At the People’s Daily, these include lax enforcement of internal discipline, misuse of public funds for travel, and improper use of official vehicles and residences, the antigraft team said.

“Some domestic bureaus made use of party newspaper resources to pursue profits through joint development projects,” the CCDI said. It added that there had also been “instances of extortion related to the reporting or non-reporting of news in return for compensation.” Read the rest of this entry »


Isabella Steger: Leaked Chats on Vote Strategy Leave Hong Kong Lawmakers Reeling

Tsang-HK

Isabella Steger reports: Beijing is striving to present a united front with its supporters in Hong Kong’s legislature, even as the pro-establishment camp is rocked by a series of leaked online conversations related to last week’s failed vote on a 2017 election overhaul.

“According to the leaked conversations published by the Oriental Daily, participants in the online chat included Jasper Tsang, a veteran pro-Beijing politician who is also the president of the legislature. The conversation shows Mr. Tsang was involved in the discussion last Thursday morning to orchestrate the timing of the vote.”

On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper published a series of conversations among a group of pro-Beijing lawmakers on the popular mobile messaging service Whatsapp, showing the internal debate before the vote took place and the politicians’ reactions afterwards.

An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday.
Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

“That compromised Mr. Tsang’s obligation to remain neutral as president of the Legislative Council, opposition lawmakers said, with some demanding that he step down.”

Pro-Beijing lawmakers last week attempted to stage a walkout of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to delay a vote on the election plan. Yet the tactic backfired: The vote was not postponed, and the package – which had been expected to narrowly fall short of passage – met a resounding defeat. In the wake of the vote, pro-Beijing lawmakers such as Regina Ip, a former security secretary, and Jeffrey Lam, who initiated the walkout, delivered emotional public apologies over the blunder.

“Everyone who could be a potential defector in the opposition has already spoken, it doesn’t look like there will be a change to the final result.”

— Mr. Tsang wrote in the chat, according to the leaked transcripts

The election plan, which for the first time would grant the public the right to vote for the city’s top leader, is opposed by pro-democracy lawmakers because it only allows pre-screened candidates to run. While pro-Beijing lawmakers hold a majority in Hong Kong’s legislature, the pro-democracy camp’s opposition to the measure denied it the two-thirds majority required for passage. Read the rest of this entry »


Top Chinese Director, People’s Daily Fight It Out Over Reality TV Movies

Feng-WSJ

The spat began earlier this month, when director Feng Xiaogang lambasted the popularity of a spate of recent Chinese movies based on popular reality television shows

Lilian Lin reports: An unusual public spat between a famous director and the Communist party’s main propaganda arm is shining a light on the state of pop culture in China.

The spat began earlier this month, when director Feng Xiaogang lambasted the popularity of a spate of recent Chinese movies based on popular reality television shows. Such movies, he said on a local television program, are “shot in five or six days” yet make quick money. That hurts genuine filmmaking, he argued, because it draws investor money away from more serious movies.

Dad, Where Are We Going?

Dad, Where Are We Going?

The apparent target of his criticism was a new film called “Running Man,” which is based on a popular reality show of the same name. The TV show, which is based on a South Korean program and is similar to “The Amazing Race” series in the U.S., pits celebrities against each other in random tasks. (The losers face indignities such as Running_Man_2015_film_posterbeing flung into a swimming pool.) The movie, which has a similar plot, has taken in over 400 million yuan ($64 million) in ticket sales after only two weeks, according to the local film research company EntGroup.

“Is film censorship really based on rule of law and letting the market call the shots? Of course not.”

— Zou Xiaowu, marketing director of theater chain Dadi Cinema

Another movie based on a hit Chinese reality show, “Dad, Where Are We Going?,” took in nearly 700 million yuan and was the country’s third highest-grossing domestic film last year.

Mr. Feng himself made his name initially with light-hearted comedic films that became major box office successes. But in recent years he has turned to more serious films, including 2010’s “Aftershock,” about a deadly 1976 earthquake, and “Back to 1942,” a 2012 film about a famine that killed up to three million people.

 “The films that really should be criticized are those films that put people to sleep. At least ‘Running Man’ is logical.”

— Wang Zhengyu, a producer of “Running Man”

His critique of the new reality TV movies is a familiar one, and not just inside China. (A spokesman said Mr. Feng didn’t have more to add.) But the counterargument came from a surprising source: The People’s Daily newspaper.

"Running Man"

“Running Man”

In an editorial last week, the Communist party’s main newspaper said the films are “the choice of audiences and the market.” The challenge for filmmakers like Mr. Feng, it said, is to “complain less but make more good films.”

A separate, later editorial on the paper’s Weibo social-media account suggested such criticism is hypocritical. “Directors of commercial films looking down upon variety show film is kind of like a crow accusing a pig of being black,” it said. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Newspaper Condemns Paris Attack, But Says Exposes Dangers of Press Freedom

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

Clifford Coonan reports: A state-run Chinese newspaper has run a commentary condemning the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, but at the same time underlined how the incident exposes the dangers of press freedom.

“Even after China officially determines their terrorist nature, Western mainstream media puts quotation marks when describing these bloody assaults as ‘terrorist,’ saying that it is a claim of the Chinese government. This always upsets Chinese people.”

“We notice that many Western leaders and mainstream media outlets highlighted their support for press freedom when commenting on the incident. This remains open to question,” ran the commentary in the Global Times newspaper, part of the group that publishes the official Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily.

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“It’s inspiring that mainstream opinion worldwide supports Paris. But if the West can be milder in expressing cultural clashes and consider the feelings of many others, it would be very rewarding and respectable.”

China’s media are all state-controlled and content is heavily censored, and the ruling Communist Party keeps a tight grip on dissenting views and rejects calls for greater press freedom, saying it is Western core value.

Security guards stand outside newspaper offices in Guangdong province in January, where banners and flowers were laid in protest of censorship.

Security guards stand outside newspaper offices in Guangdong province in January, where banners and flowers were laid in protest of censorship.

“If the West thinks of globalization as an absolute expansion and victory of certain values, then it is in for endless trouble.”

The attack should make Western governments and media rethink their approach to press freedom when it comes to causing conflict with other cultures. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Newspaper: The Interview Shows Hollywood’s ‘Senseless Cultural Arrogance’

 (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Clifford Coonan reports: A state-run Chinese newspaper has slammed Sony’s North Korean-baiting comedy The Interview, which it pulled after a cyberattack, saying it was evidence of Hollywood’s “senseless cultural arrogance”.

“Any civilized world will oppose hacker attacks or terror threats. But a movie like The Interview, which makes fun of the leader of an enemy of the U.S., is nothing to be proud of for Hollywood and U.S. society.”

An editorial in the Global Times newspaper, part of the group that publishes the official Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said making a comedy about the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “tasteless” and “nothing to be proud of.”

the_interview_still_2

China is North Korea’s only significant ally. China supported the North during the Korean War (1950-53) and aid from Beijing has probably kept the North Korean economy going since it lost the support of the Soviet Union following its collapse in the early 1990s.images

“No matter how the U.S. society looks at North Korea and Kim Jong Un, Kim is still the leader of the country. The vicious mocking of Kim is only a result of senseless cultural arrogance.”

However, relations have been strained since the North decided to go ahead with its nuclear weapons program against China’s wishes.

The editorial ran as North Korea said accusations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it was involved in a cyberattack on Sony Pictures were “groundless slander” and that it was wanted a joint probe into the incident with the US.

“Any civilized world will oppose hacker attacks or terror threats. But a movie like The Interview, which makes fun of the leader of an enemy of the U.S., is nothing to be proud of for Hollywood and U.S. society,” ran the commentary. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong’s Hopes Crushed

Protesters wave their mobile phones during a rally, after China's legislature has ruled out open nominations in elections for Hong Kong's leader, on Aug. 31. Associated Press

Protesters wave their mobile phones during a rally, after China’s legislature has ruled out open nominations in elections for Hong Kong’s leader, on Aug. 31.    –  Associated Press

From this weekend’s WSJ opinion pages:

The people of Hong Kong can plead or protest for democracy all they want, but they can only hold a sham election for Chief Executive in 2017. That was the ruling of 20140831 HK 05China’s rubber-stamp National People’s Congress on Sunday.

“The threat to Hong Kong’s capitalism comes not from democracy, but from the cronyism and erosion of the rule of law that are infiltrating from the mainland.”

Moderates on both sides of the political spectrum in Hong Kong had urged compromise. They proposed nomination procedures that would satisfy Beijing’s concerns while still allowing the free election that China promised in 1997 when it made the city a self-governing special administrative region for 50 years.

“The tragedy for both Hong Kong and China is that the conflict is unnecessary.”

Beijing not only rejected these ideas, it seems they were never seriously considered. The Communist Party insists on absolute veto power over the choice of candidates. The result will be more frustration in Hong Kong.

“The city is manifestly ready for democracy, which would give Beijing fewer headaches rather than more.”

Since the handover from British rule, the city has suffered under mediocre leaders weakened by their lack of a popular mandate. This has angered parts of the population, particularly the young, and some are promising acts of civil disobedience. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Showdown: China Warns Against ‘Foreign Meddling’

Hong Kong Democracy Showdown

Protesters are taken away by police officers after hundreds of protesters staged a peaceful sit-ins overnight on a street in the financial district in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s simmering summer of discontent gets even hotter on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 when Beijing is expected to recommend restricting the first direct elections for the Chinese-controlled financial hub’s leader, stepping up chances of a showdown with democracy groups. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

BEIJING (AP) — China warned against foreign meddling in Hong Kong’s politics Saturday ahead of an expected announcement to recommend highly contentious restrictions on the first direct elections for the leader of the Chinese-controlled financial hub.hk-protest

An article in the ruling Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily said that some in the former British colony were colluding with outside forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s governance.

“Not only are they undermining Hong Kong’s stability and development, but they’re also attempting to turn Hong Kong into a bridgehead for subverting and infiltrating the Chinese mainland,” said the article.

[Also see – Hong Kong Tensions Rise as Beijing Critic’s Home Raided – WSJ]

“This can absolutely not be permitted,” it said, citing an unidentified official in the Foreign Ministry‘s department for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs. Read the rest of this entry »


China and the U.S. are Racing to Turn Poor, Naive Millennials into Spies

mao-spy-web

Someone’s always watching. Reuters/David Gray

The FBI video describes Chinese intelligence officers plying the young American with cash and luxury liquor, and appealing to his fascination with China.

For QuartzLily Kuo writes: Chinese state media are accusing an “unnamed foreign country” of recruiting spies at Chinese universities and through popular blogs and social media. This week, a series of news reports claim that unsuspecting Chinese, some of them as young as16 years old, are being lured into working for foreign intelligence agents.

 “…an unnamed foreign country recruited at least 40 people in 20 provinces to give military secrets to an agent whose online alias was Feige or ‘Flying Brother.'”

The reports seem to be a response to a short documentary posted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations last month, telling the story of a 28-year-old Michigan native, Glenn Duffie Shriver who says he was was recruited to spy for the Chinese while living in Shanghai, and was eventually caught by US authorities. The FBI video describes Chinese intelligence officers plying the young American with cash and luxury liquor, and appealing to his fascination with China. Read the rest of this entry »


Campaign Against Foreign Words: ‘VIP, Wi-fi, iPhone’, Threaten Chinese Language ‘Purity’

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For World Affairs JournalGordon G. Chang writes:

Twice in late April, People’s Daily railed against the incorporation of acronyms and English words in written Chinese. “How much have foreign languages damaged the purity and vitality of the Chinese language?” the Communist Party’s flagship publication asked as it complained of the “zero-translation phenomenon.”

“Since the reform and opening up, many people have blindly worshipped the West, casually using foreign words as a way of showing off their knowledge and intellect. This also exacerbated the proliferation of foreign words.”

— Xia Jixuan, Ministry of Education

So if you write in the world’s most exquisite language—in my opinion, anyway—don’t even think of jotting down “WiFi,” “MBA,” or “VIP.” If you’re a fan of Apple products, please do not use “iPhone” or “iPad.” And never ever scribble “PM2.5,” a scientific term that has become popular in China due to the air pollution crisis, or “e-mail.”

 People’s Daily has criticized the use of foreign words as damaging the “purity and health” of the Chinese language. Adrian Bradshaw/European Pressphoto Agency

People’s Daily has criticized the use of foreign words as damaging the “purity and health” of the Chinese language.    Adrian Bradshaw/European Pressphoto Agency

“How much have foreign languages damaged the purity and vitality of the Chinese language?”

— The People’s Daily

China’s communist culture caretakers are cheesed, perhaps by the unfairness of the situation. They note that when English absorbs Chinese words, such as “kung fu,” the terms are romanized. When China copies English terms, however, they are often adopted without change, dropped into Chinese text as is…

“The use of imported words is becoming more widespread every day. It’s become so serious that the foreign words are even showing up in regular publications and formal documents, giving rise to resentment among the public.”

 ..In 2012, the Chinese government established a linguistics committee to standardize foreign words. In 2013, it published the first ten approved Chinese translations for terms such as WTO, AIDS, and GDP, ordering all media to use them. A second and third series of approved terms are expected this year. How French.

There is a bit of obtuseness in all these elaborate efforts. Read the rest of this entry »


Rent-A-Boyfriend: Single Chinese Women under pressure to find Suitable Partner turn to web for by-the-hour BF Rental Service

False romance: Women under pressure are resorting to fake boyfriends in a bid to impress their families

False romance: Women under pressure are resorting to fake boyfriends in a bid to impress their families

Chinese website offers men by the hour to women ashamed of their single status
  • Rent-a-boyfriends can advertise their wares on Taobao.com
  • Increasingly popular with women under parental pressure to marry
  • Services include dinners and cinema visits. Hand-holding is free

Ruth Styles reports:  Meeting someone new isn’t always the easiest of tasks, so spare a thought for China’s young women who face intense parental pressure to find the right man.

As a result, women terrified of returning home without a handsome other half resort to hiring ‘boyfriends’ for the duration of their visit.

Now a shopping website, Taobao, has launched a new rent-a-boyfriend service which allows would-be fake other halves to advertise their services – complete with price lists.

Read the rest of this entry »


Red Hot Communist Party Sex Party

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

Pictures that an Internet poster on China’s Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

Racy online photos of Chinese sex party go viral over speculation that Communist Party officials were involved

In August, 2012, China was buzzing over a trove of raunchy photos showing six people engaged in an orgy – some of whom are rumored to be high-ranking Communist Party officials, Meena Hart Duerson reported, for the New York Daily News. Whatever became of this social media scandal? Let’s revisit:

orgy17n-2-webThe series of 181 often graphic photos went viral last week on China’s microblogging site Sina Weibo and have now traveled around the world. [PHOTOS] In the images, which were reportedly taken around 2008, six men and women can be seen performing group sex acts as well as posing for strangely formal portrait-style photos together.

Those involved make no effort to hide their faces, smiling in group shots, including one where one of the men can be seen grabbing the breasts of the woman in front of him.

Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Fake Mooncakes Lead to Arrest

shockface Customs net 135 boxes of fake mooncakes

A 50-year-old beautician was arrested for selling fake mooncakes at the parlor where she works.

A total of 135 boxes of the Mid-Autumn Festival delicacy – carrying forged trademarks and valued at HK$20,000 – were seized in Yuen Long.

Police acted after a customer complained to the Hang Heung Cake Shop about the substandard mooncakes. Read the rest of this entry »