Te-Ping Chen reports: The case of a Beijing judge gunned down late last week — the latest in a slew of physical attacks against the profession — has triggered horror and introspection among China’s legal community, which is already facing problems of morale.
According to the Supreme People’s Court’s verified Weibo account, Ma Caiyun, 38, was shot and killed on Friday by two attackers. One of the attackers, the court said, was an individual whose post-divorce property settlement case had previously been heard by Ms. Ma. The duo killed themselves after the attack on Ms. Ma, the court said.
According to the Beijing police, the perpetrators also attacked several others, including a man married to one of the attackers’ ex-wives. The man died in the assault, police said, adding that the gun used in the attack was homemade.
China’s judges have faced violent assaults before, including physical beatings, knifings and more. Last September, a 43-year-old man involved in a Hubei labor dispute, unhappy with the verdict, stabbed four judges.
On social media, numerous judges and lawyers mourned and shared news of Ms. Ma’s death. While such postings were at first the subject of assiduous deletions by censors, on Sunday, the country’s highest court publicly confirmed her death. Read the rest of this entry »
Stanley Lubman writes: A trio of recent repressive actions by the Chinese party-state represents a disturbing three-pronged attack that treats legality as an unnecessary burden on governance over society, and illustrates how far China is willing to go to snuff out dissent.
The actions include the arrest of seven lawyers accused of “subversion” and four others charged with lesser offenses; the televised “confession” of a China-based Swedish citizen who worked for a rights NGO and has been charged with “endangering state security;” and the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers One reemerged on CCTV to confess to a prior crime years earlier, and a second has written to his wife from Shenzhen to say that he has been “assisting in an investigation.”
Arrests for “subversion of state power”
The lawyers who have been arrested have all been in the forefront of defending controversial activists. Seven are accused of “subversion of state power,” an offense that has been on the books since 1997 but infrequently used. More commonly, activists such as Pu Zhiqiang have been convicted for the lesser charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels.” (Pu received a three-year sentence that was simultaneously suspended for the same length of time; however, because of his conviction, Pu is barred from practicing law.) Conviction for subversion can lead to a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.
Three of the other lawyers were charged with the lesser offense of “inciting subversion against state power” which, according to a recent posting by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is used against individuals who “express criticism of the government” and is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. One other person, a paralegal, has been charged with “assisting in destruction of evidence; other lawyers have been detained incommunicado or forcibly disappeared for at least six months.
The arrests raise the severity of the charges by aiming at speech related to “subversion” — rather than acts. Foreign experts are dismayed; Eva Pils (Kings College London) comments that the situation “is basically about as serious as it gets for human rights advocacy.”
The arrest of the human rights lawyers is a continuation of the crackdown that exploded in July, but the rise of the accusation of “subversion” raises the odds of harsher punishment.
Arrest and televised “confession” of Swedish citizen affiliated with a human rights NGO
A Swedish man in his 30s, Peter Dahlin, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) that organizes training programs for human rights defenders, was detained in early January, on a charge of “endangering state security.” On Wednesday, he was paraded on China Central Television and shown admitting to have broken Chinese laws, in a televised “confession” that has been denounced by rights advocates as coerced.
According to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono legal aid to victims of rights violations. Dahlin is in need of daily medication due to affliction by a rare disease; Chinese state media reports say he is receiving it, but no other information has been available. China’s Foreign Ministry says it is granting Swedish consular officials access to him, although no information has been available on his whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called ‘The Power of Deepening Reforms‘.
Alyssa Abkowitz, Yang Jie and Chang Chen report: As 2015 comes to an end, China Central Television is rolling out a novel rap song that presents a year in review, Communist Party style – with only good news.
On Monday, the state broadcaster released a 2:44-minute rap to celebrate the achievements of everyone’s favorite party organ, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which will mark its two-year anniversary on Dec. 30.
The song — which struck China Real Time as more Skee-Lo than Kendrick Lamar – reminds the Chinese public to “trust the government” and look at China’s progress on advancing education, combating smog and reforming the health care system during 2015.
It also features voice clips from President Xi Jinping (although the soundbites appear to have been sampled from Mr. Xi’s speeches rather than performed by the Chinese leader live in-studio).
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called “The Power of Deepening Reforms.” It comes on the heels of the second year of Mr. Xi’s far-reaching anticorruption campaign, which has snagged, as the song says, hundreds of “flies, tigers and large foxes.”
It also touts China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s move to accept the yuan as its fifth reserve currency and the progress made by the “One Belt, One Road” network of infrastructure projects.
Xi makes his debut at around 49 seconds with the phrase: “To turn the people’s expectations into our actions.” Ten seconds later, he comes back, saying, “An arrow will never return once it’s shot.” Read the rest of this entry »
Carlos Tejada reports: The U.S. Embassy in Beijing issued a rare security alert for Westerners in the Chinese capital city on Christmas Eve, prompting a number of other foreign embassies to follow suit.
The notice posted on Thursday said the embassy had received “information of possible threats against Westerners” patronizing the area around Sanlitun, the site of a number of tony shops and restaurants catering to foreigners and affluent Chinese alike. The area is also close to a number of embassies, though not the U.S. embassy.
It said U.S. citizens should be vigilant. An embassy spokesman said he didn’t have additional information.
Beijing police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Via social media, they issued their own security alert, though it didn’t specify any specific threats. It wasn’t clear whether the police notice was related to the embassy advisories. Chinese authorities have routinely issued security notices during holidays, even during foreign holidays such as Christmas.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman referred questions to other authorities. He added that Chinese authorities would do their best to ensure the safety of foreigners in the country.
A small group of armed troops were stationed in front of the Tai Koo Li mall, a high-end shopping center famous for housing an Apple Store that is sometimes the scene of scuffles when the gadget maker updates one of its popular products. Chinese security personnel also erected spiked barricades near embassies in the area. Read the rest of this entry »
Thousands march on the legislature to demand a freer vote
Joanna Plucinska reports: Nine months after the Umbrella Revolution began, pro-democracy protesters again took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand a say in the way the city’s leader is elected in polls slated for 2017.
“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is.”
— Carol Lo, a protester at Sunday’s rally
A crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 people—workers and families as well as students and democracy activists—marched on Sunday afternoon from Victoria Park, a traditional gathering place for protests, to the legislature buildings downtown. Many carried yellow umbrellas—adopted as the symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement after protesters took to carrying them during last year’s unrest to protect themselves from police pepper spray.
Others carried signs that read “Citizens Against Pseudo-Universal Suffrage,” declaring their opposition to the form of democracy described in a political reform bill to be voted on by the city’s legislature on June 17. That bill will allow the central government in Beijing, and a 1,200 member electoral college composed mostly of pro-establishment figures, to vet all candidates for the position of Chief Executive, as the city’s top official is known. Similarly unrepresentative electoral methods helped to spark last fall’s Umbrella Revolution, and protesters are once again demanding broader political rights.
“I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China. Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.”
— Protester and Uber driver Chao Sang
“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is,” said Carol Lo, 35, a protester at Sunday’s rally and a parent of a 9-year-old girl. Lo voiced fears for the political future of Hong Kong’s next generation: “How will [my daughter] survive, if this situation gets worse and worse?” she said.
Another protester, Uber driver Chao Sang, voiced the growing tendency of many Hong Kongers to see themselves as politically, linguistically and culturally separate from mainland Chinese. “I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China,” he told TIME. “Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.” Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities.
Felicia Sonmez writes: At a U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing in Washington on the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown this week, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao presented his listeners with a choice.
“They arrest the journalists, then the journalists who speak out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defend the arrested journalists, and then the lawyers who defend the lawyers who defend the journalists.”
“History will require us to answer one question: Did we stand on the side of the ‘Tank Man,’ or on the side of the tank?” Mr. Teng said Wednesday, referring to the iconic photo of a lone man blocking a convoy of military vehicles during the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.
Mr. Teng isn’t from the generation that marched in Beijing and other cities 26 years ago; at the time he was a high school student at a county in northeastern China.
Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities. His law license was revoked in 2008; authorities have not publicly given a reason. He was harassed and in 2011 was detained for more than 70 days in an unknown location, with officials again declining to publicly address his treatment. He left the mainland in 2012 for Hong Kong.
A year ago, the normally soft-spoken Mr. Teng delivered a forceful speechin Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, declaring at a vigil commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown: “You can’t kill us all.”
“They arrest the journalists, then the journalists who speak out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defend the arrested journalists, and then the lawyers who defend the lawyers who defend the journalists,” he said at the time, describing a tightening of Beijing’s grip over civil society in China. Read the rest of this entry »
Some student groups won’t join annual vigil on June 4
HONG KONG— Isabella Steger reports: Every year for a quarter-century, large Hong Kong crowds have commemorated the 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This June 4, some young Hong Kongers say they won’t join in.
Much like in Beijing in 1989, student groups were at the forefront of the monthslong pro-democracy protests that paralyzed much of Hong Kong last year and which challenged Beijing on how Hong Kong should elect its leader.
“I feel very sad. It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”
— Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown
Unlike in Beijing, the Hong Kong protests ended peacefully, though with no visible concession from the Chinese government. What the rallies also did was lay bare a growing chasm between old and young over Hong Kong’s identity and relationship with Beijing. That rift is now playing out over the annual Tiananmen vigil, with some student groups saying Hong Kongers should focus on democratic rights in the territory rather than on the mainland.
“Every year it’s the same, we sing the same songs and watch the same videos. For some people, going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in. Should we continue looking back on a historical event, or focus on the more urgent situation here now?”
— Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong’s student union will organize its own June 4 event “to reflect on the future of democracy in Hong Kong.” Separately, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the main group leading last year’s protests, said that for the first time it won’t participate in the vigil as an organization.
“I feel very sad,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown. “It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”
“Going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in.”
—Cameron Chan, University of Hong Kong student
But to Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong, it is precisely that the annual vigil has become such a fixture that is the problem.
The student group’s decision is baffling to many democracy supporters in the city, who see the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the Tiananmen victims as an important civic duty—not least because it’s the only mass commemoration of the event in the Greater China universe.
“I don’t see how Hong Kong can fully divorce itself from democracy movements on the mainland.”
—Joshua Wong, student leader
“I cannot understand [the students’] thinking,” said Jack Choi, a 36-year-old who works in finance and has been going to the vigil on and off since 2000. “It’s two separate issues. Our mother is China, if the mother is not free, how can the child be?” Read the rest of this entry »
“Things have been changing dramatically in the last two years. Since Xi Jinping came to power, what was tolerated before is not tolerated any longer, in China or Hong Kong.”
Ilaria Maria Sala writes: The shop assistant is abrupt when the question comes.
“We are not going to sell that one. Sorry,” he says, when asked for a copy of one of Hong Kong’s most eagerly searched-for books.
[Order Zhao Ziyang book “Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang” from Amazon.com]
“It might come back,” he says vaguely.
On the surface, there seems to be no censorship in Hong Kong. Unlike the mainland, the web is free, a wide range of newspapers is available, TV news covers demonstrations and protests, and nobody needs to apply for permission to print books.
“The pressure is on to stop Hong Kong people and mainlanders from reading unapproved books. When sales became harder, we started shipping books to individual customers in China. Nothing reached them. We tried through a courier in Shenzhen, but they stopped accepting books.”
“In 40 years, I know of only one book that has ever been stopped from distribution,” says Wong Sheung Wai, director of Greenfield Bookstore, a shop and distribution company, “and that was the Chinese translation of a guide to suicide.
“The real problem, though, is that our local government does not defend our autonomy. Rather, they lecture Hong Kong on how to behave to please the central authorities.”
“Taiwan translated it, but the Hong Kong authorities did not allow for it to be published and distributed here,” he says.
But mounting pressure from China to have greater control over what the Hong Kong public, and the Chinese tourists flocking there, read is creeping into this former British colony.
“Even the three big chains are commercial interests, so they do try to sell what clients want. At times certain books disliked by the Chinese authorities will still be available, but hidden behind a counter, or piled up with the spine turned to the walls.”
Through a complex web of self-censorship, soft censorship and mainland economic control, bookshops and media outlets in the territory have been changing their tone or giving less coverage to topics that China deems sensitive.
A slow but steady “mainlandisation” of Hong Kong, a key factor in bringing tens of thousands of protesters to the streets during last year’s umbrella movement, has been changing the face of the publishing and book distribution industry, with fewer shops willing, or able, to sell books forbidden in China.
Booming real estate costs add to that problem.
“Readers’ numbers are going down everywhere, and nobody can afford a ground-floor bookshop unless they are backed by people with very deep pockets,” says one publishing industry insider.
“If you ask me what is the biggest problem that Hong Kong faces right now, it is the Liaison Office, and their growing involvement in Hong Kong’s affairs.”
— Alex Chow, one of the student leaders at last year’s protests
The three main local bookshop chains, with a total of 51 outlets, are controlled by the Liaison Office, Beijing’s official representation in Hong Kong, which, she adds, makes sure they only pay a nominal rent for their operations. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING—Here in China’s capital, riding the city’s sprawling subway can sometimes be a contact sport. Morning rush hours turn into mosh-pit-like scenes in which riders compete to board packed trains. Shouts and curses ring out. Elbows are thrown. Occasionally, passengers who squeeze their way in are flung out again by the crowds.
“‘We must select the good passengers and let them show up with honor in our town!’ says an open letter to riders circulated as part of the event.”
Now, as President Barack Obama and other world leaders descend on Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week, authorities have launched a behavior-modification campaign: A contest to promote grown-up deportment onboard.
“Photos of contestants are hung on posters during rush hour across the city’s subway and bus stations. The prize for winners, to be named later this month, includes a subway pass with about $10 of stored value, and a certificate of honor.”
Started this summer, the “Be a Splendid Beijinger and Welcome APEC—Civilized, Polite Passengers” competition aims to identify and honor the top 100 best-behaving bus and subway passengers. It’s a kind of “China’s Next Top Model,” except for public transportation.
“Some 40,000 residents have entered to win. Many did so by filling out forms that asked them to explain their “accomplishments” as riders.”
Others were handpicked by the more than 8,000 yellow-jacketed guides, mostly elderly retirees, Beijing has deployed to encourage more-orderly behavior at bus stops and subways. Read the rest of this entry »
“Two of the world’s powerful autocracies, both rooted in the idea and practice of communist dictatorship, are bent on encroaching upon freedom and democracy on two different fronts: Ukraine and Hong Kong.”
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators turned out in Hong Kong on Monday, defying a government crackdown over the weekend that saw riot police using tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters. As demonstrations grow against Beijing’s violation of its promise to allow universal suffrage, there is a danger that the infamous 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square could be repeated in Hong Kong.
“Requiring voters to select leaders from two to three candidates selected by a committee controlled by Beijing is not meaningful “universal suffrage.'”
The crisis began in June, when Beijing released a white paper that reneged on the “One Country Two Systems” principle laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.
China had pledged that Hong Kong could rule itself on all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs, and voters could freely choose their own leader.
Instead, the white paper claimed that Beijing has complete jurisdiction over Hong Kong, with the only autonomy being what the central government decides to grant. All aspects of local government are subject to oversight by Beijing, and even judges must meet its standard of patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »
Since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the semi-autonomous city has operated under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing a limited democracy. In August, the Chinese government announced plans to vet candidates in Hong Kong’s 2017 elections, virtually assuring only pro-Beijing politicians would be on the ballots. Student groups and pro-democracy supporters have taken to the streets in recent days to protest the limitations and to demand universal suffrage. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have occupied Hong Kong’s Central District, bringing parts of the city to a standstill. The protests are one of the largest political challenges to Beijing since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Chinese officials have scolded protesters and warned against any foreign interference. [30 photos]
Tens of thousands have gathered in Hong Kong for the only major commemoration in China of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
For BBC News, Juliana Liu reports: The organizers said some 180,000 attended the vigil, but the police put the crowd size at just under 100,000. The city retains civil liberties not permitted to mainland Chinese. The 1989 protesters wanted political reform, but the crackdown was ordered after hardliners won a power struggle within the ruling Communist Party.
In Beijing, the authorities have imposed blanket security, particularly on Tiananmen Square, to prevent any attempts to mark the anniversary.
Dozens of activists were detained in the run-up to the anniversary, with foreign journalists ushered away from the square on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »
— TIME.com (@TIME) June 5, 2014
1989 Raw Video: Man vs. Chinese tank Tiananmen square
On this day in 1989, students began protesting in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the symbolic central space of China. Several weeks later, when the government sent in the army to end the demonstrations, the citizens of Beijing poured into the streets in support of the students.
The demonstrations ended in a massacre on the night of June 3-4, when the government sent the troops into the city with orders to clear Tiananmen Square.
One day later, a single, unarmed young man stood his ground before a column of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Captured on film and video by Western journalists, this extraordinary confrontation became an icon of the struggle for freedom around the world.
Lily Tang Williams writes: I was born in Chengdu, China. When I was growing up, the Communist Party controlled everything. There were no choices of any sort. We were all poor except the elite. The local government rationed everything from pork to rice, sugar, and flour because there were not enough supplies. We were allowed only a kilogram of pork per month for our family of five. We lived in two rooms, without heat in the winter. I got impetigo during the cold, humid winters. There were eight families living around our courtyard, and we all had to share one bathroom (a hole in the ground) for males, one for females. We had only government-run medical clinics, where the conditions were filthy and services were horrible. I was afraid of going there because I might get some other infectious diseases. Read the rest of this entry »