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In Era of Journalism Cutbacks, a Chinese ‘Robot Reporter’ 

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More Chinese newsrooms are starting to use so-called “robot reporters,” but developers say their capabilities remain limited.

Te-Ping Chen reports: China has found itself in the midst of a full-blown robot obsession in recent years, with everything from robot monks to robot waiters grabbing headlines.

Now, the robots are writing the actual headlines, too — in certain newsrooms, anyway.

Last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily published its first-ever report written by what the newspaper describes as a “robot reporter.” The story, clocking in at just over 300 words, summarizes what train tickets are most in demand bn-rt602_robot_cv_20170124041448over the Lunar New Year holiday, during which millions of Chinese workers travel home to see their families. It discusses which routes are selling out fast and advises travelers to buy tickets soon, cautioning that for certain routes, all seats are sold out.

“You’ll have to stand the whole way, the route will be more exhausting,” it advises. The Southern Metropolis Daily story is bylined “Xiao Nan Robot,” or ‘Little South’ robot and accompanied with a picture of a white, rotund robot riding atop a thick black pen.

So far, though, the scope of robot reporters is limited, says Wan Xiaojun, a computer-science professor at Peking University who worked to develop the newspaper’s program.

Mr. Wan explains that Xiao Nan is currently programmed only to analyze train-ticket sales, which accounts for the somewhat monotonous nature of its reporting. “There Are Still High-Speed Rail Tickets From Guangzhou to Numerous Destinations for Lunar New Year’s Eve,” ran one robot-produced headline today. “Hard-Seat Tickets on the 26th From Guangzhou to Zhengzhou Are Still Available,” ran another yesterday.

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

Sports are another fertile area for robot coverage: another robot-reporter program Mr. Wan worked on was used by news publisher Toutiao during the Rio Olympics last year, producing more than 400 news briefs, he said. Those briefs were built off published game statistics or summarized the transcribed narration of sports broadcasters, seeking out keywords such as “goal,” “red card” and more. Read the rest of this entry »

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China Blocks Hong Kong Lawmakers in a Reminder of Who is In Charge

Cheng Chung-tai speaks to supporters in Hong Kong elections

Hong Kong is reminded that the freedoms it enjoys are ultimately at the whim of Beijing.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is an 18th Century trumpet call for free speech, one often repeated by parliamentarians around the world… but never in China.

The message from Beijing to its unruly territory 2,000km (1,350 miles) south is, by contrast, “we disapprove of what you say and we hereby decree that you have no right to say it”.

China has now spoken on the question of whether elected members of Hong Kong’s legislature can use that public platform to campaign for ideas offensive to China and the answer is a resounding no. In a unanimous decision by a panel of the Communist Party-controlled national parliament, Hong Kong has been reminded that the freedoms it enjoys are ultimately at the whim of Beijing.

Today’s “interpretation” of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution is one of the most significant interventions in Hong Kong’s legal system in two decades of Chinese rule. It is the first time China’s parliament, without the request of either the Hong Kong government or Court of Final Appeal, has interpreted the mini-constitution at a time when the issue is under active consideration in a Hong Kong court.

Newly elected lawmaker Yau Wai-ching displays a banner before taking oath at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China October 12, 2016.

Newly elected lawmaker Yau Wai-ching displays a banner before taking oath at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China October 12, 2016. Yau Wai-Ching had used her oath-taking attempts to insult China. – Reuters

Why didn’t China’s politicians wait till after a court ruling on whether two legislators might be allowed to retake their oaths? Li Fei, the chairman of the Basic Law Committee of China’s parliament, made the logic clear when he said the Chinese government “is determined to firmly confront the pro-independence forces without any ambiguity”.

The interpretation is a highly confrontational move which plunges Hong Kong into a new phase of its long running political and constitutional crisis. But Beijing’s move comes in response to an equally confrontational move from the other side.

[Read the full story here, at BBC News]

The two lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who used their swearing-in ceremony to insult China and talk of a “Hong Kong nation” should have known that a Chinese government so sensitive to questions of national pride and dignity would feel it had no choice but to act.

Legislative Councillors-elect Yau Wai-ching (L) and Sixtus Leung (R) are seen as thousands of people march through the streets of Hong Kong to protest against the Legislative Council oath-taking interpretation of the city's Basic Law, or mini-constitution, by the Chinese authorities in Beijing, Hong Kong, China, 6 November 2016

Ms Yau (left) and Sixtus Leung (right) have refused to pledge allegiance to Beijing

It was no surprise when China’s parliament said their words and actions had “posed a grave threat to national sovereignty and security”, with Li Fei adding: “The central government’s attitude is absolute. There will be no leniency.”

A price worth paying

The scope of Monday’s interpretation will raise inevitable questions about whether China is interpreting Hong Kong law, which is allowed, or re-writing it, which is not. And apart from disqualifying the two young legislators at the heart of the crisis, it will raise a raft of questions about the way in which some of the other newly elected young democracy activists took their oaths.

A man yells during pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong

The democracy activists could now capitalise on anger in Hong Kong – AFP

For example, does reciting the oath in slow motion or using eccentric intonation contravene the interpretation’s insistence on “genuine” sincerity and solemnity? Who will decide? And if Beijing doesn’t like the decision of a Hong Kong court, what will it do next? For that matter, where does Beijing’s intervention leave the ongoing review of the oath taking question in Hong Kong’s courts? Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Protesters Clash With Police as China Plans Political Intervention 

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Officers use pepper spray on protesters angry that Beijing will issue an interpretation of the semiautonomous city’s Basic Law.

Police used pepper spray on protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday evening as thousands rallied against Beijing’s plans to intervene in a political standoff over two local lawmakers who insulted China in the city’s legislature.

Ese Erheriene and Chester Yung in Hong Kong and Chun Han Wong in Beijing report: The conflict was the latest sign of a deepening rift between Beijing and many in Hong Kong over how much autonomy the territory should have. Hong Kong is allowed to govern itself under a miniconstitution—the Basic Law—and has an independent judiciary. But Saturday, China’s top legislative body said it is prepared to override Hong Kong’s legal authority over how to handle the local lawmakers’ actions, which Beijing denounced as a threat to national security. The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress said Saturday it would issue its own interpretation of the Basic Law as Beijing “cannot afford to sit idle” when faced with challenges to its authority over Hong Kong, according to the government-run Xinhua News Agency.

Police face off against protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016.

“The police was using very brutal violence to depress us. We were very angry because we think that for such an important issue, we at least have our right to protest.”

— Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the 23-year-old newly elected ‘localist’ who has advocated for greater autonomy from China.

On Sunday, thousands marched in central Hong Kong to protest against China’s looming intervention. In scenes reminiscent of the city’s mass pro-democracy protests of 2014, video taken by local press showed police spraying the crowd and protesters protecting themselves with umbrellas.

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“We were trying to occupy Connaught Road…but there were too many police and there were some conflicts between us. They used pepper spray. We tried to step back and fight again, but they kept on spraying.”

— Hayley Lee, 27, an airline cabin-crew member

Hong Kong Police Force senior superintendent Lewis Tse confirmed officers used pepper spray during a “chaotic” confrontation with some protesters late Sunday. He said two men—aged 39 years and 57 years—had been arrested.

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Hundreds of protesters gathered near Western Street, in the city’s Sai Ying Pun district, as the march against China’s reinterpretation of the Basic Law turned into a standoff with the police. People held umbrellas aloft and wore face masks to protect themselves from the pepper spray.

“We were trying to occupy Connaught Road…but there were too many police and there were some conflicts between us,” said Hayley Lee, 27, an airline cabin-crew member. “They used pepper spray. We tried to step back and fight again, but they kept on spraying.”

[Read the full story here, at  WSJ]

In the crowd, familiar faces from the so-called Umbrella movement two years ago were present.

“The police was using very brutal violence to depress us,” said Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the 23-year-old newly elected “localist” who has advocated for greater autonomy from China. “We were very angry because we think that for such an important issue, we at least have our right to protest,” he said of police attempts to move the crowd near China’s official Liaison Office on Connaught Road.

Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching during a protest march in Hong Kong on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016.

Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching during a protest march in Hong Kong on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

As the night wore on, rows of police held their lines, while others looked on from the steps of the Western Police Station. Officers stood with shields, warning protesters to keep maintain control and stay calm.

Protesters continued to mill around, disorganized, and many were unsure about whether they would stay out for whole night. Still, they agreed they wanted to take a stand with Beijing’s decision expected to be made Monday. Read the rest of this entry »


The Return of Mao: a New Threat to China’s Politics

Archive/Getty Images

The dictator is enjoying a surge of popularity. But the rise of this neo-Maoist movement could upend China’s stability.

 writes: A heavy pall of pollution hangs over Tiananmen Square and from a distance the giant portrait of Mao Zedong above the entrance to the Forbidden City looks a little smudged. It is 8am and the temperature in central Beijing is already approaching 30C.

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But the heat and smog are no deterrent to the thousands of people waiting in hour-long queues to pay respects to the preserved body of the “great helmsman”. Since his death 40 years ago, Chairman Mao’s corpse — or, more likely, a wax replica — has been on display in a purpose-built mausoleum in the geographic and figurative heart of the Chinese capital. Well over 200 million people have visited.

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In the west, Mao is understood chiefly as China’s “Red Emperor” — a vicious dictator who fostered an extreme personality cult, launched the disastrous Cultural Revolution and masterminded a “Great Leap Forward” that resulted in the worst famine in history. Experts estimate that Mao was responsible for between 40 million and 70 million deaths in peacetime — more than Hitler and Stalin combined.

[Read the full text here, at FT.com]

However, while Hitler, Stalin and most of the other totalitarian dictators of the 20th century were repudiated after their deaths, Mao remains a central figure in modern China. The Communist party he helped found in 1921 and the authoritarian Leninist political system he established in 1949 still run the country. “Mao Zedong Thought” is enshrined in the party’s constitution and, since 1999, his face has adorned most banknotes (something he refused to allow during his lifetime).

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But this whitewashing of Mao’s legacy is a risky strategy. Thanks to the party’s tight control over education, media and all public discourse, most people in China know very little of Mao’s terrible mistakes. Indeed, the dictator is more popular today than at any time since his death. Last year nearly 17 million people made pilgrimages to his home town — Shaoshan — in rural central China. In the mid-1980s, barely 60,000 undertook the journey.

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China has also seen the rise of a vocal political movement of “neo-Maoists” — militant leftists who espouse many of the utopian egalitarian ideas that China’s current leaders have largely abandoned. These neo-Maoists are by definition an underground movement, which makes it very difficult to estimate their numbers, but public petitions sympathetic to their cause have garnered tens of thousands of signatures in recent years.

[Read the full story here, at FT.com]

Several experts believe a neo-Maoist candidate would probably win a general election in China today, should free elections ever be allowed. This means the movement could enjoy the sympathy of hundreds of millions of China’s 1.4 billion people. As such, it poses one of the biggest threats facing the authoritarian system in the world’s most populous nation today.

Mao in modern China

“Speed up comrades, walk forward,” a young man in a clean white shirt with a bullhorn yells at the tourists lined up in Tiananmen Square, many of whom bow three times before a large Mao statue as they enter the mausoleum. Visitors are not allowed to take photos and tall paramilitary officers shoo people along, ensuring nobody gets more than a quick glimpse of the figure wrapped in the hammer and sickle flag and laid out in a crystal coffin behind a glass wall. Just a kilometre away is the heavily guarded compound where China’s current leaders work and live.

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“Chairman Mao was a truly great man but this is not the country he dreamt of, this is not real communism.”

— University lecturer interviewed in Tiananmen Square

Many of the people visiting Mao’s remains have been left behind by China’s economic boom in recent decades. They see Mao as a symbol of a simpler, fairer society — a time when everyone was poorer but at least they were equally poor. Those who have studied the resurgence in Mao’s popularity in China see it as part of a broader global phenomenon that encompasses the appeal of Donald Trump in the US, Brexit in the UK and populist politicians on the left and right in Europe. At a time of sharp dislocation and intense resentment towards elites, people in many countries are attracted by nostalgia and tradition. For ordinary people in China, that means Mao and the classless society he envisioned. Read the rest of this entry »


China Paper says U.S., South Korea will ‘Pay the Price’ for Planned Missile System

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea are destined to “pay the price” for their decision to deploy an advanced missile defense system which will inevitably prompt a “counter attack”, China’s top newspaper said on Saturday.

“If the United States and South Korea harm the strategic security interests of countries in the region including China, then they are destined to pay the price for this and receive a proper counter attack.”

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high this year, beginning with North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, which was followed by a satellite launch, a string of tests of various missiles, and its fifth and largest nuclear test last month.

In July, South Korea agreed with the United States to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to protect against any North Korean threats.

South Korea aims to deploy the system on a golf course, a defense ministry official said on Friday.

But the plan has angered China, which worries that THAAD’s powerful radar would compromise its security and do nothing to lower temperatures on the Korean peninsula.

Military parade in Pyongyang

In a commentary, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said China’s opposition to THAAD would never change as it was a serious threat to the regional strategic security balance.

“Like any other country, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests,” the newspaper said in the commentary, published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy. Read the rest of this entry »


The Umbrella Movement Fights Back

The run-up to the Sept. 4 election for Legislative Council is getting tense, and the governments of both Hong Kongand Beijing are watching with keen interest. 

For the first time, a crop of fresh-faced candidates who cut their political teeth during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 are hoping to bring to the lawmaking body their battle to emancipate Hong Kong from Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian control.The activists, most of whom are in their 20s, no longer believe in the promises of the “one country, two systems” principle set out in the Basic Law. Even after paralyzing major traffic hubs in the city for 79 days in 2014, they failed to obtain any concession to democratize the rules by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the chief executive, is nominated and elected. They concluded from the experience that democracy is impossible in Hong Kong as long as the territory remains under Chinese sovereignty. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Craftsman Ji Zhenshan Frames Olympians in Woodwork

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Ji Zhenshan has spent the past week drawing portraits of Chinese medalists on wooden eggs using an electric iron.

There’s a Chinese saying that the true masters of art live among the ordinary people – and that aptly describes Ji Zhenshan.

The middle-aged artist in eastern China’s Chiping county, Shandong Province, has spent the past week drawing portraits of Chinese medalists on wooden eggs using an electric iron. He has recorded the cheerful moments of the athletes winning medals in the Rio Games with his pyrography artworks.

Ji’s works include Sun Yang, gold medal winner of men’s 200m freestyle, female shooter Zhang Mengxue, China’s first gold medal winner at the ongoing Games, and China’s longtime diving queen Wu Minxia, among others. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


China Bans Internet News Reporting as Media Crackdown Widens

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The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices.

China’s top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country’s web and information industries.

Xi-wall

“President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.”

The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency’s Beijing office. The companies have “seriously violated” internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing “huge negative effects,” according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday.

The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle “current-affairs news” operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia’s largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.

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The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices. President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.

[Read the full story here, at Bloomberg]

The party has long been sensitive to the potential for negative reporting to stir up unrest, the greatest threat to its decades-old hold on power. Regulations forbidding enterprise reporting have been in place for years without consistent enforcement, but the latest ordinance suggests “they really mean business,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies. Read the rest of this entry »


Decapitated Churches in China’s Christian Heartland 

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Christianity is Stigmatized, Feared, and Marginalized, in China as well as in the United States, because the Idea that Rights are God-Given Undermines Government Authority.

SHUITOU, China — Ian Johnson reports: Along the valleys and mountains hugging the East China Sea, a Chinese government campaign to remove crosses from church spires has left the countryside looking as if a typhoon had raged down the coast, decapitating buildings at random.

In the town of Shuitou, workers used blowtorches to cut a 10-foot-high cross off the 120-foot steeple of the Salvation Church. It now lies in the churchyard, wrapped in a red shroud.

About 10 miles to the east, in Mabu township, riot police officers blocked parishioners from entering the grounds of the Dachang Church while workers erected scaffolding and sawed off the cross. In the nearby villages of Ximei, Aojiang, Shanmen and Tengqiao, crosses now lie toppled on rooftops or in yards, or buried like corpses.

On a four-day journey through this lush swath of China’s Zhejiang Province, I spoke with residents who described in new detail the breathtaking scale of an effort to remove Christianity’s most potent symbol from public view. Over the past two years, officials and residents said, the authorities have torn down crosses from 1,200 to 1,700 churches, sometimes after violent clashes with worshipers trying to stop them.

A Sunday service at a state-sanctioned church in Wenzhou in 2014. There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

A Sunday service at a state-sanctioned church in Wenzhou in 2014. There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

“It’s been very difficult to deal with,” said one church elder in Shuitou, who like others asked for anonymity in fear of retaliation by the authorities. “We can only get on our knees and pray.”

The campaign has been limited to Zhejiang Province, home to one of China’s largest and most vibrant Christian populations. But people familiar with the government’s deliberations say the removal of crosses here has set the stage for a new, nationwide effort to more strictly regulate spiritual life in China, reflecting the tighter control of society favored by President Xi Jinping.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

In a major speech on religious policy last month, Mr. Xi urged the ruling Communist Party to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means,” and he warned that religions in China must “Sinicize,” or become Chinese. The instructions reflect the government’s longstanding fear that Christianity could undermine the party’s authority. Many human rights lawyers in China are Christians, and many dissidents have said they are influenced by the idea that rights are God-given.

In recent decades, the party had tolerated a religious renaissance in China, allowing most Chinese to worship as they chose and even encouraging the construction of churches, mosques and temples, despite regular crackdowns on unregistered congregations and banned spiritual groups such as Falun Gong.

Hundreds of millions of people have embraced the nation’s major faiths: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. There are now about 60 million Christians in China. Many attend churches registered with the government, but at least half worship in unregistered churches, often with local authorities looking the other way. Read the rest of this entry »


China Open to Sino-US Space Cooperation

China is open to space cooperation with all nations including the United States, the heavyweights of China’s space program said on Sunday, the anniversary of China’s first satellite launch 46 years ago. “China will not rule out cooperating with any country, and that includes the United States,” said Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut.

Payload has been reserved in the Chinese space station, due to enter service around 2022, for international projects and foreign astronauts, said Yang on the occasion of the first China Space Day, an annual celebration newly designated by the government.

Upon request, China will also train astronauts for other countries, and jointly train astronauts with the European space station, Yang said. “The future of space exploration lies i international cooperation. It’s true for us, and for the United States too,” according to the senior astronaut.

His words were echoed by Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China’s manned space program. Zhou said, “It is well understood that the United States is a global leader in space technology. But China is no less ambitious in contributing to human development.”

“Cooperation between major space players will be conducive to the development of all mankind,” Zhou added.

Citing security reasons, the U.S. Congress passed a law in 2011 to prohibit NASA from hosting Chinese visitors at its facilities and working with researchers affiliated to any Chinese government entity or enterprise.

Ban remains in effect
The U.S.-dominated International Space Station, which unsurprisingly blocks China, is scheduled to end its service in 2024. China’s space station could be the only operational one in outer space, at least for a while.

Commenting on Sino-U.S. space relations earlier this week, Xu Dazhe, the head of China’s National Space Administration, cites Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster “The Martian,” in which a U.S. astronaut gets stranded on Mars and is eventually brought back to Earth by NASA, with help from China. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Communist Party Modernizes its Message — With Rap-aganda

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.Xi-tall-Jinping-HT

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.

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

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 »


China is Putting Tighter Controls on Online Mapping Services 

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New regulations could make it harder than ever for Google to re-enter the world’s largest market.

David Z. Morris reports: In rules released this week, China’s State Council announced that all digital maps provided in China be stored on servers within its borders. The rules, which also lay out certification standards for digital mapping providers, will go into effect Jan. 1.

“Keeping map servers within China would, in theory, give its government even more control over what its citizens see. But the move is arguably redundant—China has long held mapping services to strict content standards, and blocks those that don’t comply.”

According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, the purpose of the new regulations is to “boost development of the geographic information industry” and safeguard “national sovereignty and geographic information security.”

“Google has since made moderate concessions in its representation of Chinese borders on maps accessed from outside of the country, changing the names of disputed regions and depiction of Chinese borders with India and the Philippines”

The rules seem much heavier on tightening control than on boosting development. In addition to the server location requirements, map providers are prohibited both from displaying or even storing any data deemed to be prohibited by the government. Government officials will be able to regularly inspect data for “errors and leaks of information that threaten national sovereignty,” according to Xinhua. Read the rest of this entry »


CHILL: China Asks United Nations to Impose International ‘Code of Conduct’ on Internet 

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Rudy Takala reports: A Chinese official on Friday called on the United Nations to impose an international code of conduct on the Internet.

“It is highly necessary and pressing for the international community to jointly bring about an international code of conduct on cyberspace at an early date.”

“It is highly necessary and pressing for the international community to jointly bring about an international code of conduct on cyberspace at an early date,” said Wang Qun, director-general of the Arms Control Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in comments to the U.N. General Assembly.

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“China, for its part, will continue to commit itself to establishing a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and pushing for an early international code of conduct acceptable to all.”

Wang’s comments were reported by China’s main state-owned press outlet, the Xinhua News Agency.

“China, for its part, will continue to commit itself to establishing a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and pushing for an early international code of conduct acceptable to all,” Wang added. Read the rest of this entry »


China: 197 Punished for ‘Online Rumors’

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BEIJING (AP) — People recently punished in China’s campaign against online rumors include those who circulated an inflated death toll in the Tianjin blasts and who alleged a man committed suicide because of the country’s stock market woes, state media reported Monday.

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“Among the rumors circulated were that a ‘man jumped to his death in Beijing due to the stock market slump,’ and that ‘at least 1,300 people were killed in the Tianjin blasts.’ The death toll in the Aug. 12 explosions at warehouses for hazardous chemicals in the port city so far is 150.”

The official Xinhua News Agency said 197 people have been punished in a special campaign, citing the Public Security Ministry, but did not say over what period. Read the rest of this entry »


China Police ‘Summon 11 Over Stock Market Activities’

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Shanghai (AFP) – Chinese police have summoned 11 people including a financial journalist to assist investigations related to illegal stock market activities, state media reported, as the government targets volatility on the exchanges.

The Chinese government launched an unprecedented rescue package as the stock market plummeted 30 percent from mid-June, which included a crackdown on short-selling and funding a state company to buy shares on its behalf.

Authorities have accused a Caijing magazine journalist of allegedly colluding with others to manufacture and spread false information on securities and futures trading, the official Xinhua news agency reported late Tuesday.

The magazine confirmed journalist Wang Xiaolu was subpoenaed by police but defended his actions.

Wang wrote a story in July saying the securities regulator was studying plans for government funds to exit the market. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Massive Explosion in Tianjin, China

TIANJIN — A massive explosion late Wednesday shook the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, startling nearby residents with tremors and noise, but it was not known immediately if there were any casualties, according to state media.

The explosion in Tianjin erupted at a container port where flammable material was being stored in containers, reported CCTV, China’s state-owned broadcaster.

The Chinese broadcaster said it was unable to confirm the number of those injured or whether any people had been killed. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Latest Crackdown: Homemade Porn

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The Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications mentioned the videos in its notice and declared that they are ‘having an extremely bad impact on society’.

Felicia SonmezFSinstagram_400x400 reports: Chinese authorities are striking back after a string of high-profile incidents involving explicit homemade videos, according to a notice by the country’s antipornography office.

“So-called ‘indecent videos’ are harming social virtue, promoting pornography, severely disturbing order on the Internet and trampling on the moral and legal bottom line,” reads the notice, which was posted Thursday on the website of China’s National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.

Last month, a clip of a couple having sex in a Uniqlo dressing room went viral on the Chinese Internet, in an episode that inspired scores of online parodies and prompted thousands of couples to take selfies outside of the downtown Beijing store where the incident took place. Four people have been detained in connection with the video.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ – Follow Felicia on Twitter @feliciasonmez]

Since the Uniqlo incident, several other risqué videos have found their way to the Chinese public eye. In one case, a clip made by several people in Shengzhou in coastal Zhejiang province after a night out at a karaoke parlor went viral online late last month. Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Fem-Five-WSJ

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 »


Chinese Stock Market Chaos Could Be Worse Than Greek Debt Crisis: ‘The Disorder Could Be Monstrous’

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While the world worries about Greece, there’s an even bigger problem closer to home: China

A stock market crash there has seen $3.2 trillion wiped from the value of Chinese shares in just three weeks, triggering an emergency response from the government and warnings of “monstrous” public disorder.

“If China does not find support today, the disorder could be monstrous.”

And the effects for Australia could be serious, affecting our key commodity exports and sparking the beginning of a period of recession-like conditions.

“State-owned newspapers have used their strongest language yet, telling people ‘not to lose their minds’ and ‘not to bury themselves in horror and anxiety’. [Our] positive measures will take time to produce results,” writes IG Markets.

“All short-selling — the practice of betting that stocks will fall — has been banned, and Chinese media has rushed to reassure citizens.”

“If China does not find support today, the disorder could be monstrous.”

In an extraordinary move, the People’s Bank of China has begun lending money to investors to buy shares in the flailing market. The Wall Street Journal reports this “liquidity assistance” will be provided to the regulator-owned China Securities Finance Corp, which will lend the money to brokerages, which will in turn lend to investors.

The dramatic intervention marks the first time funds from the central bank have been directed anywhere other than the banks, signalling serious concern from authorities about the crisis.

At the same time, Chinese authorities are putting a halt to any new stock listings. The market regulator announced on Friday it would limit initial public offerings — which disrupt the rest of the market — in an attempt to curb plunging share prices.

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“The market crash there is generating headlines, but it’s not going to have the same impact as a comparable crash would in a developed market.”

While the exact amount of assistance hasn’t been revealed, the WSJ reports no upper limit has been set.

All short-selling — the practice of betting that stocks will fall — has been banned, and Chinese media has rushed to reassure citizens.

Yesterday, shares in big state companies soared in response to the but many others sank as jittery small investors tried to cut their losses, Associated Press reports. The market benchmark Shanghai Composite closed up 2.4 percent but still was down 27 percent from its June 12 peak.

Experts fear it could turn into a full-blown crash introducing even more uncertainty into global markets as Europe teeters on the edge of a potential eurozone exit by Greece, after Sunday’s controversial referendum.

For Australia, the market crash in China is likely to impact earnings on key exports iron ore and coal, further slashing government revenue, while also putting downward pressure on the Australian dollar.

Jordan Eliseo, chief economist with ABC Bullion, said it was important to remember that the amount of wealth Chinese citizens have tied up in the stock market is relatively minor compared with western investors.

Stocks only make up about 8 per cent of household wealth in China, compared with around 20 per cent in developed nations. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Officials Hounded by Activists as Dog-Eating Festival Nears

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Alyssa Abkowitz writes: The dog days of summer have arrived.

As locals prepare for the annual Yulin Dog Eating Festival in China’s Guangxi region, animal rights organizations are unleashing high-profile figures and waging global social media campaigns in an effort to bring the event to heel.

“An estimated 10,000 dogs are slaughtered for the annual festival, which marks the traditional start of summer and will occur on June 22 this year. Festival participants typically pair dog meat with lychees and a bevy of grain alcohol.”

As of June 18, Animals Asia, a Hong Kong based advocacy group, said that within the past two weeks, around 70,000 people had signed a letterasking China’s dog meat traders to stay away from the festival. It’s the first year Animals Asia has run a petition, the group said.

British comedian Ricky Gervais has partnered with Humane Society International to campaign against the festival. Mr. Gervais recently tweeted out, “Please help our best friend. #StopYuLin2015.” He included a photo of a canine with lipstick rings on its face, along with the caption: “The only marks you should leave on a dog.”

Humane Society International also launched a letter-writing campaign and has bestowed the name “Ricky” (in Mr. Gervais’ honor) to a black-and-white pooch rescued from a Yulin slaughterhouse last month. According to the Humane Society, 400,000 people have used the organization’s websiteto send messages directly to Guangxi’s Communist Party secretary, Peng Qinghua. Mr. Peng could not be reached for comment, and Humane Society officials did not immediately respond to a request for further details on how the messages were delivered and whether they had successfully reached his office.

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

Raise UR Paw, a non-profit in Canada, said that as of June 15 its letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the petition website change.org had received more than 340,000 signatures. Read the rest of this entry »


‘She’s Freaking Me Out’: Man Sues Chinese Actress Over Her ‘Intense Stare’ in TV Show

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Plaintiff alleges Zhao’s stare caused him ‘spiritual damage’

BEIJING (AP) — Rules making it easier to file lawsuits in China have led to a new concern over frivolous claims, such as one in which a man says actress Zhao Wei stared at him too intensely through his TV set.

The regulations making it more difficult for courts to reject lawsuits took effect May 1, leading to an increase in cases nationwide last month of 29 percent compared with same period last year, to just over 1 million cases, according to the Supreme People’s Court.

Shocked Man --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Shocked Man — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The registration system requires courts to accept legitimate lawsuits when they are filed or clearly state the reasons for rejecting them, and citizens have the right to appeal the decisions.

“Previously, it was difficult for administrative cases, such as people suing governments, to be accepted,” said Li Heping, a Beijing lawyer.

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In announcing the registration system, the official Xinhua News Agency said: “Authorities are determined to put an end to obstructive behavior by courts and officials meddling in cases.”

The change has led to Shanghai Pudong New District Court receiving a case against Zhao, the court’s litigation service hotline confirmed. The court official, who declined to identify himself, refused to say whether the court had accepted the case. Read the rest of this entry »


China Cites Cartoons, Film Development in Defending Human Rights Record

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Josh Chin writes: China offered an almost exclusively positive portrait of its human rights situation in a white paper released Monday that cited progress in a wide range of areas. Near the top of the list: development of the country’s film and cartoon industries.

“The white paper has departed so much from reality that its claims that the government has made ‘great achievements’ on human rights are absurd. The government could have counted the number of pandas as a sign of rights progress.”

— Ms. Wang

The annual white paper, which weighed in at 21,000 characters this year, is China’s response to frequent foreign criticisms of its human rights record. In contrast to its critics, who tend to emphasize the rights of the individual, China advocates a broader definition of human rights that puts greater weight on social goods, such as economic and cultural development.

And, evidently, entertainment.

In the report’s first section, titled “Right to Development,” this year’s white paper backed up Beijing’s claim to have better protected the Chinese people’s cultural rights by pointing to, among other things, China’s burgeoning television, cartoon and film production.

”The tremendous achievements China has made in its human rights endeavors fully demonstrate that it is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions.”

In 2014, the paper noted, China produced 429 TV series, accounting for 15,983 episodes, and cartoon programs amounting to 138,496 minutes. The report also flagged growth on the silver screen, saying the country produced a total of 618 feature films — 36 of which earned more than 100 million yuan each — and racked up total box office revenues of 26.9 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) last year.

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

The latter figure represented a 36% increase over 2013, the white paper said. It wasn’t clear from the report how that growth related to human rights. The State Council Information Office, which produced the report, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read the rest of this entry »


China Ship Disaster Takes Nearly 400 Lives

Yangtze-Rover-Ship-Getty-WSJ

Hundreds more bodies from the Eastern Star were found, bringing the death toll to 396

JIANLI, China—The death toll in the Eastern Star capsizing rose to nearly 400 on Saturday after disaster teams stabilized the river cruiser in an upright position and searched it for more bodies, making it China’s deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades.

Authorities have attributed the overturning of the ship in the Yangtze River late Monday to sudden, severe winds, but also have placed the captain and his first engineer under police custody.

Passengers’ relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its cruise after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.

Heavy rains in the Yangtze area over four days beginning Monday have killed 15 people and left eight others missing, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Hundreds more bodies from the Eastern Star were found overnight and Saturday, bringing the death toll to 396, Hu Kaihong, the vice director-general of the press bureau of the State Council Information Office, told a news conference. Read the rest of this entry »


China Suspends WWII Drama After Complaints About ‘Crotch Bomb’ Scene

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Katie Nelson reports: An anti-Japanese war drama has been temporarily pulled from Chinese television after viewers complained that a scene showing a female character concealing a suicide bomb in her crotch has gone too far.

“They are using sex and violence to entice the audience under the cover of national sentiments. They are reveling on the scars of the history.”

— Xinhua editorial that lashed out at ludicrous plots in such dramas

That’s saying something, considering Chinese TV dramas set during the Japanese invasion are known for their impossibly violent and outlandish plots. This includes one scenario in which a man ripped a Japanese soldier in half with his bare hands, and another scene showing a communist hero blowing up a plane by tossing a hand grenade in the air.

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“The authorities have banned foreign TV shows only to let us see this?”

— Question from a dissatisfied netizen

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) is now reviewing the popular period drama Together We Fight the Devils, after the viewers seemed to agree that the scene showing Chinese actress Ge Tian pulling an explosive from her undercarriage was even more lewd than usual.

[See the video at Shanghaiist]

The shot begins with “sister Yin” visiting her lover who’d been locked up by Japanese soldiers, Associated Press explains.

He fondles her and finds a grenade hidden in her crotch. It is meant for a suicidal act of resistance against his Japanese captors. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Tourism Blacklist: ‘Without the Red Army, How Can You Live a Happy Life?’

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Vacationers from the People’s Republic have acquired a reputation for being unruly at times, and have lately made global headlines by attacking flight attendants, fighting in airplane aisles and opening emergency doors in non-emergency situations

Colum Murphy reports: Here’s a new addition to China’s growing list of do’s and don’ts for citizens when traveling at home and abroad: don’t snap a selfie while sitting on the head of a Red Army warrior when visiting a place that considers itself a holy land of Maoist China.

 “Are these people raised by monkeys? Whatever they see at scenic spots, trees or statues, they climb up for pictures.”

— Sina Weibo user Li Biyou

That’s exactly what 18-year-old Li Wenchun did on a recent visit to what’s known as a red tourism site —and now he’s paying the price.

The incident took place in the city of Yan’an, in northern Shaanxi province, famous in Communist Party history as the endpoint of the Long March. On its website, the government of Yan’an says the city “is reputed as a world-renowned holy land of Chinese revolution,” where “tourists are organized to learn knowledge of revolutionary history and attend theme activities for traditional revolutionary education and experience broadening.”

“What an ignorant man. Without the Red Army, how can you live a happy life?”

— Another Sina Weibo user

The only things Mr. Li widened were his legs. Photographs of him circulating on the Internet show him dressed in a black shirt and trousers and wearing red sneakers, striking a pose on the heroic head of a bronze statue of a female warrior.

As a result of this stunt, Mr. Li has become one of the first Chinese to be added to a blacklist that China’s national tourism authority said earlier this year it would introduce to discourage Chinese vacationers from misbehaving while traveling. Read the rest of this entry »


China: ‘Please Stop Hiring Funeral Strippers’

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In China, friends and family of the deceased may have to do without a special form of funeral entertainment: strippers

Primatologisteditor-commen-desk alerted me to this item from WSJ’s Real Time China Report. Hopefully before those Communist Chinese government party-killers crush this unique tradition, we can convince our Hong Kong Bureau Chief to attend one of these events in person? In the meantime, Te-Ping Chen and Josh Chin have it covered:

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“The point of inviting strippers, some of whom performed with snakes, was to attract large crowds to the deceased’s funeral – seen as a harbinger of good fortune in the afterlife. ‘It’s to give them face,’ one villager explained. ‘Otherwise no one would come'”.

Te-Ping Chen and Josh Chin: According to a statement from the Ministry of Culture on Thursday, the government plans to work closely with the police to eliminate such performances, which are held with the goal of drawing more mourners.

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Pictures of a funeral in the city of Handan in northern Hebei province last month showed a dancer removing her bra as assembled parents and children watched. They were widely circulated online, prompting much opprobrium. In its Thursday statement, the Ministry of Culture cited “obscene” performances in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, as well as in Handan, and pledged to crack down on such lascivious last rites.

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“This has severely polluted the local cultural life. These troupes only care about money. As for whether it’s legal, or proper, or what effect it has on local customs, they don’t think much about it.”

— China Central Television

In the Handan incident earlier this year, the ministry said, six performers had arrived to offer an erotic dance at the funeral of an elderly resident. Investigators were dispatched and the performance was found to have violated public security regulations, with the person responsible for the performing troupe in question detained administratively for 15 days and fined 70,000 yuan (about $11,300), the statement said. The government condemned such performances for corrupting the social atmosphere. Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing is Restricting How Often Residents of Neighboring Shenzhen Can Enter Hong Kong

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China Reduces Mainlander Visits to Hong Kong

Isabella Steger writes: Can a tweak to a visa arrangement for mainland Chinese tourists coming to Hong Kong help ease tensions between the two places?

“The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long.”

On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying confirmed a long-anticipated move by Beijing to address the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in recent years. The move is aimed specifically at those who come from neighboring Shenzhen to Hong Kong to engage in so-called parallel trading, the practice of buying goods ranging from toiletries to food in Hong Kong to resell at a higher price on the mainland.

“Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.” 

According to the new arrangement, Shenzhen residents applying for an individual visitor visa to Hong Kong will only be allowed to enter the city once a week, rather than multiple times. The change is effective Monday. Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.

“Since 2009, Shenzhen permanent residents have been allowed to apply for one-year, multiple entry visas to Hong Kong…”

The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long. Read the rest of this entry »


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

Hebei-WSJ

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.”

image - businessweek.com

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 »


Stampede at Shanghai New Year’s celebration kills 35

A family member (C) cries on a bench at a hospital where some of the victims of a stampede by new year's revellers were sent in Shanghai on January 1, 2015. A stampede by New Year's revellers in Shanghai's historic riverfront area killed 35 people and injured dozens more, the city government said on January 1.   CHINA OUT   AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A family member (C) cries on a bench at a hospital where some of the victims of a stampede by new year’s revellers were sent in Shanghai on January 1, 2015. A stampede by New Year’s revellers in Shanghai’s historic riverfront area killed 35 people and injured dozens more, the city government said on January 1.  AFP PHOTO STR/AFP/Getty Images

Q13 FOX News

BEIJING, China (CNN) — At least 35 people were killed in a stampede at a New Year’s celebration in Shanghai, China, state media reported.

The stampede happened at about 11:35 p.m. Wednesday in a riverfront area known as the Bund, the state-run Xinhua news agency said. At least 42 people were injured, Xinhua reported.

Authorities are investigating the cause, Xinhua said.

A witness told the government-run news agency that people started scrambling after coupons that looked like dollar bills were thrown from the third floor of a building.

Reports of the stampede appeared on Twitter and China’s Weibo social network, with posts describing a chaotic scene and rescue efforts.

[van id=”world/2014/12/31/china-shanghai-stampede.cnn”]

Photos showed massive crowds packing a street near the river and emergency medical workers treating people on the ground.

Many of the dead were young students, CCTV America reported, citing Shanghai rescue authorities. Video from the Reuters…

View original post 135 more words


Beijing Diplomacy: China’s ‘Be Splendid’ Contest Aims to Improve Manners

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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.

Daily Life in China in the 1970s (42)

“‘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.

Commuters in Beijing crowd onto a subway car during rush hour last month.Getty Images

Commuters in Beijing crowd onto a subway car during rush hour last month. Getty Images

“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 »


China’s War on Terror Goes All-Out Cuckoo Bananas on Conservative Islam in Xinjiang

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SHACHE COUNTY, China – The month of Ramadan should have been a time of fasting, charity and prayer in China’s Muslim west. But here, in many of the towns and villages of southern Xinjiang, it was a time of fear, repression, and violence.

“Throughout Ramadan, police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs…”

China’s campaign against separatism and terrorism in its mainly Muslim west has now become an all-out war on conservative Islam, residents here say.

“…women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say.”

Throughout Ramadan, police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs: women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say. Students and civil servants were forced to eat instead of fasting, and work or attend classes instead of attending Friday prayers.

A veiled Muslim Uyghur woman walks past a statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar in Xinjiang province. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

A veiled Muslim Uyghur woman walks past a statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar in Xinjiang province.                               (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The religious repression has bred resentment, and, at times, deadly protests. Reports have emerged of police firing on angry crowds in recent weeks in the towns of Elishku, and Alaqagha; since then, Chinese authorities have imposed a complete blackout on reporting from both locations, even more intense than that already in place across most of Xinjiang.

“Chinese police have cracked down on the wearing of beards and veils, in observance of Ramadan, in Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.”

A Washington Post team was turned away at the one of several checkpoints around Elishku, as army trucks rumbled past, and was subsequently detained for several hours by informers, police and Communist Party officials for reporting from villages in the surrounding district of Shache county; the following day, the team was again detained in Alaqagha in Kuqa county, and ultimately deported from the region from the nearest airport. Read the rest of this entry »


China to Mass Produce Industrial Robots

stepped-future

SHENYANG (Xinhua) — China’s first industrial robot production line is expected to start operation in the northeastern city of Shenyang this month.

“China became the world’s largest industrial robot market in 2013 with 37,000 industrial robots sold in the country, accounting for 20 percent of the global market.”

SIASUN Robot and Automation Co. Ltd. will be the first to jump start China’s industrial robot production with an annual capacity of 5,000. Their facilities will produce robots applied in welding, hauling, assembling, stacking, grinding and polishing, according to Qu Daokui, the company’s CEO.

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“Rising labor costs and aging population have prompted the application of industrial robots in China”

He said the production line is undergoing tests and the exact date of operation is yet to be announced. The application of robots has expanded from the high-end industries such as automobile and electronics manufacturing to traditional industries, including metal processing, bathroom hardware, food and drinks, said Qu, who is also director general of China Robot Industry Alliance. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Latest Food Scandal? Painted Food

Customers eat steamed buns in a steamed buns restaurant in Shanghai, east China, Aug. 14, 2014.  Zuma Press

Customers in a steamed buns restaurant in Shanghai, east China, Aug. 14, 2014.  Zuma Press

Te-Ping Chen reports: From toxic milk to pork treated with paraffin wax, China has seen its share of tainted food. Now add to the list painted food.

“Previous lows in the annals of Chinese cuisine include the discovery of pork that glowed in the dark…”

[Glowed? See more – China Struggles with Food Safety]

Even by the standards of China’s many food-safety scandals, one recently reported incident involving a cook in eastern China’s Zhejiang province is eyebrow-raising. According to Xinhua, the 27-year-old cook, surnamed Chen, is currently on trial for painting abalones and goose paws to prettify them for customers.

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“…and a boom in spontaneously exploding watermelons…”

 [You know you want to read about China’s Exploding Watermelon Scandal]

According to the state-run news agency, since last March, Mr. Chen – who was employed at a hotel in Hangzhou, a popular tourist destination famed for the beauty of its West Lake –painted with “inedible pigment” about 12 abalones and 100 goose feet, which together were worth nearly $800. Both abalones and goose paws are delicacies prized in Chinese cuisine. Read the rest of this entry »


INFOGRAPHIC: Zhou Yongkang’s Web of Power, Money, Connections

A look at the extensive business interests of Zhou Yongkang, after the former security chief was placed under formal investigation, shattering the decades-old political taboo of not prosecuting the highest ranking Communist Party officials for corruption.

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Click to view the full-size infographic in high resolution. 

South China Morning Post


[PHOTO] Earthquake Strikes China’s Southwestern Yunnan Province

Xinhua:Zuma Press

This photo taken by cellphone on Sunday shows an earthquake-hit area in Ludian county in Chinas southwestern Yunnan province. A 6.5-magnitude earthquake jolted the remote area at 4:30 p.m. local time Sunday, the China Earthquake Networks Center said…(see moreChina Real Time Report – WSJ

Xinhua/Zuma Press


Explosion at China car parts plant kills at least 69, injures more than 180

August 2, 2014: Medical staff move a severely burnt victim of an explosion at an eastern Chinese automotive parts factory from a hospital in the city of Kunshan, Jiangsu province to a Shanghai hospital which is better equipped to handle severe burns. Dozens of people were killed Saturday by the explosion at the factory that supplies General Motors, state media reported. (AP Photo)

August 2, 2014: Medical staff move a severely burned victim of an explosion at an eastern Chinese automotive parts factory from a hospital in the city of Kunshan, Jiangsu province to a Shanghai hospital . Dozens of people were killed Saturday by the explosion at the factory that supplies General Motors, state media reported. (AP Photo)

BEIJING –  A suspected dust explosion at an automotive parts factory in eastern China that supplies General Motors killed at least 69 people and injured more than 180 others, most with severe burns, state media reported Sunday.

It was China’s most serious industrial disaster since a fire at a poultry plant killed 119 people in June last year, and again highlighted workplace safety that remains a concern.

Saturday morning’s explosion occurred when more than 200 workers were on the site of the factory, which is in an industrial zone in the city of Kunshan, officials from the city said at a news conference. Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of Beijing.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of large plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the plant, and news websites posted photos of the dead or injured lifted onto the back of large trucks, their bodies black, presumably from burns or soot.

Some survivors sat on wooden cargo platforms on the road outside the factory or being carried into ambulances, their clothes apparently burned off and their skin exposed.

The explosion occurred at 7:37 a.m. at a workshop in the factory, which polishes wheel hubs. Rescuers pulled out 44 bodies at the site, while 25 other people died at a hospital, officials said. At least 187 people were injured. Read the rest of this entry »


CRACKDOWN: China Internet Censorship Escalates, Instant Messenger Services Targeted

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BEIJING (AP) —Louise Watt reports: China is targeting popular smartphone-based instant messaging services in a monthlong campaign to crack down on the spreading of rumors and what it calls infiltration of hostile forces, in the latest move restricting online freedom of expression.

 “Some people have used them to distribute illegal and harmful information, seriously undermining public interests and order in cyberspace.”

Such services incorporate social media functions that allow users to post photos and updates to their friends, or follow the feeds of companies, social groups or celebrities, and – more worryingly for the government – intellectuals, journalists and activists who comment on politics, law and society. They also post news reports shunned by mainstream media.

Some accounts attract hundreds of thousands of followers. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] China Ships Evacuate Thousands from Vietnam: Xinhua

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Policemen ask people to leave a street near the Chinese embassy in Hanoi on May 18, 2014 (AFP Photo)

Beijing (AFP) – Almost 2,000 Chinese citizens were evacuated from riot-hit Vietnam by sea on Monday, with another two ships following, as Hanoi stifled fresh protests over a territorial dispute and foreign investors counted the cost.

The passenger vessels Wuzhishan and Tongguling left the central Vietnamese port of Vung Ang, each with more than 900 evacuees on board, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported.

They were among four Chinese ships — each with a capacity of about 1,000 people — sent to Vietnam, Xinhua said, with another two on standby.

Workers voiced relief as they boarded the vessels, the agency reported, with some declaring: “Finally home.”

Relations between communist neighbours Vietnam and China have plummeted following Beijing’s move earlier this month to send a deep-water drilling rig into contested waters in the South China Sea. Read the rest of this entry »


Former Beijing Tycoon Executed for Murdering 8 People 

Former Beijing multimillionaire Xia Keming and his three companions were executed on Tuesday for killing eight people between 1999 and 2007, the Beijing Times observed on Wednesday.

Xia once served as a civil servant in Beijing. He was sentenced in 1988 to three years in prison for the illegaldealingof train tickets. After being released, Xia started a business in Shenzhen, and also owned 19 percent of shares in a Beijing-based company valued at more than 100 million yuan ($16 million).

A file photo of Xia Keming(R1) and his three companions (Photo source: people.cn)

 Xia Keming (R1) and his three companions (Photo source: people.cn)

The murder spree began when Xia asked his brother Xia Kezhi and two of his ex-cellmates to kill a business partner surnamed Liu.

In the following eight years, the four killed seven other people, including Xia Keming’s business partners, mistress and acquaintances.

To cover up their crimes, the gang bribed officials with cash, cars, luxury watches and expensive rosewood furniture. Read the rest of this entry »