Ai Weiwei on art, activisim, and human rights

Source: The China Story (1/15/18)
Ai Weiwei on Art, Activism and Human Rights
An Interview with Ai Weiwei by Zeng Jinyan
[Translated by Gloria Davies]

Human Flow by Ai Weiwei


Ai Weiwei 艾未未 is renowned for making strong aesthetic statements that resonate with timely phenomena across today’s geopolitical world. From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai uses a wide range of mediums as expressions of new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values. Recent exhibitions include: Inoculation at Fundacion Proa in Buenos Aires, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors with the Public Art Fund in New York City, Ai Weiwei on Porcelain at the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul, Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., Maybe, Maybe Not at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Law of the Journeyat the National Gallery in Prague, and Ai Weiwei. Libero at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Continue reading

How China infiltrated US classrooms

Nice article revisiting the ongoing expansion of the Confucius Institutes, though pretty much concerned with the US only–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: Politico (1/16/18)
How China Infiltrated U.S. Classrooms
Even as they face criticism, Chinese government-run educational institutes have continued their forward march on college campuses across the United States.

Last year, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte made an announcement to great fanfare: The university would soon open a branch of the Confucius Institute, the Chinese government-funded educational institutions that teach Chinese language, culture and history. The Confucius Institute would “help students be better equipped to succeed in an increasingly globalized world,” says Nancy Gutierrez, UNC Charlotte’s dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and “broaden the University’s outreach and support for language instruction and cultural opportunities in the Charlotte community,” according to a press release. Continue reading

UT-Austin rejects Chinese funding

Posted by: Magnus Fiskesjö <>
Source: Washington Post (1/14/18)
University rejects Chinese Communist Party-linked influence efforts on campus
Josh Rogin

Tung Chee-hwa, then-chief executive of Hong Kong, in 2004. (Anat Givon/AP)

As part of a broad effort to interfere in U.S. institutions, China tries to shape the discussion at American universities, stifle criticism and influence academic activity by offering funding, often through front organizations closely linked to Beijing.

Now that aspect of Beijing’s foreign influence campaign is beginning to face resistance from academics and lawmakers. A major battle in this nascent campus war played out over the past six months at the University of Texas in Austin.

After a long internal dispute, a high-level investigation and an intervention by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the university last week rejected a proposal by the leader of its new China center to accept money from the China United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). The Hong Kong-based foundation and its leader, Tung Chee-hwa, are closely linked to the branch of the Chinese Communist Party that manages influence operations abroad. Continue reading

How commercial ties make for self-censorship

Interesting article on just how China commercial ties pave the way for Chinese state cooption of foreign media into self-censorship — Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Huang, Jaw-Nian. “The China Factor in Taiwan’s Media: Outsourcing Chinese Censorship Abroad.” China Perspectives [quarterly journal of the CEFC (French Center for Research on Contemporary China) in Hong Kong] no. 3 (2017): 27-36.

ABSTRACT: To investigate how the Chinese government extends its influence to manipulate extra-jurisdictional media, this case study investigates Taiwan’s experience. It suggests that as Taiwanese media companies become embedded in the Chinese capital, advertising, and circulation markets, the Chinese authorities increase their ability to co-opt them with various economic incentives and threats, leading to self-censorship and biased news in favour of China. Using process tracing as the principal method, and archives, interviews, and secondary literature as principal data sources, the study supports the transferability of the “commercialisation of censorship” beyond China. Liberal states around China must design institutions protecting the media from inappropriate intervention by both domestic and foreign political and economic forces.
Continue reading

Controversy over textbook censorship of the Cultural Revolution

Source: The Guardian (1/11/18)
Controversy over Chinese textbook’s Cultural Revolution chapter as state publisher denies censorship
Firm says title of chapter referring to period of massive social upheaval and violence in China changed to ‘Arduous Exploration and Development Achievements’
By Mandy Zuo

Changes made to a middle-school history textbook’s chapter on the Cultural Revolution have sparked controversy in China, with its state-run publisher denying it censored the book.

The furore came after a post widely shared on Chinese social media suggested that politically sensitive content about the political movement had been removed. The post showed photographs of the old version of the textbook and a revised text. The pictures appeared to show that a chapter formerly devoted to the Cultural Revolution had been taken out. Continue reading

Jiang Zhi on censorship

Source: Sup China (1/9/18)
Chinese Artist: Censorship Stems From ‘Bizarre And Ridiculous Sort Of Fear’
Tr. Eleanor Goodman

Translator’s note: The Shenzhen-Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture — a prominent international exhibition of visual art, sculpture, murals, installations, architectural proposals, urban thought experiments, and events — opened on December 15, 2017, and was struck by controversy the following day, when organizers removed a piece of artwork by the well-known young artist Jiang Zhi 蒋志. The piece reappeared two weeks later in the main exhibition hall, only to be removed again a few days afterward in advance of a tour by local Shenzhen officials.

More than 200 exhibits under the main theme “Cities, Grow in Difference” are still offered around the city, with the primary exhibition site located in Nantou Old Town, a historic “urban village” of the kind that has been systematically demolished over the last two decades. Although an introduction to Jiang’s work can still be found on the website (in both the English and Chinese versions), his physical artwork remains unavailable to viewers. Below is a statement that Jiang wrote in response to the situation. The remaining exhibitions will be on display until March 15. Eleanor Goodman Continue reading

China wants students to inherit ‘red gene’

Source: Sixth Tone (1/4/18)
China Wants Students to Inherit ‘Red Gene’
Jiangxi to roll out school textbooks reinforcing Communist Party’s revolutionary values.
By Cai Yiwen

Children wearing Red Army uniforms sing the Chinese national anthem in Linyi, Shandong province, Sept. 1, 2017. Du Yubao/VCG)

An eastern Chinese province wants its students to learn the Communist Party’s core values from an early age: kindergarten.

In August 2018, Jiangxi province will introduce a set of “red culture” textbooks at a wide range of educational institutions, from preschools and primary schools all the way up to vocational colleges and universities, local media reported Wednesday.

“Red culture” is a phrase often used to describe the Communist Party’s revolution, leading up to establishment of the modern People’s Republic and onward. Continue reading

PG One under fire

Source: Sup China (1/4/18)
PG One Under Fire For Lyrics Glorifying Drugs, Sex, And The Pursuit Of Wealth
Rapper’s song “Christmas Eve” is denounced by the Communist Youth League for promoting drug use and insulting women.
By Jiayun Feng

Wang Hao 王昊, aka PG One, one of China’s best-known rappers, who rose to fame this year on the hit show The Rap of China, issued an apology on January 4 after one of his old songs, “Christmas Eve,” was criticized for its dark lyrics.

The backlash started when some internet users complained on Weibo that the song contains “degrading and out of line” lyrics. The Communist Youth League made a post (in Chinese) on its official Weibo account to criticize the song for “encouraging teenagers to use drugs” and “insulting women.”

Read the rest of the essay, with its many images and video clips, here.

Is HK really part of China?

Source: NYT (1/1/18)
Is Hong Kong Really Part of China?
By Yi-Zheng Lian

HONG KONG — One could say that long before 1997, the year that Britain handed Hong Kong back to China, the leaders of the city’s major pro-democracy parties had come to a tacit understanding with the Chinese government. The pan-dems, as these politicians are known here, would support the absorption of Hong Kong into a greater, unified Chinese state on the understanding that in time Beijing would grant Hong Kong genuine electoral democracy. That, at least, seemed to be the intention driving Hong Kong’s foundational legal text, the Basic Law. Continue reading

Making China great again

Source: The New Yorker (1/8/18)
Making China Great Again
As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces
By Evan Osnos

In an unfamiliar moment, China’s pursuit of a larger role in the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one. Illustration by Paul Rogers

When the Chinese action movie “Wolf Warrior II” arrived in theatres, in July, it looked like a standard shoot-’em-up, with a lonesome hero and frequent explosions. Within two weeks, however, “Wolf Warrior II” had become the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time. Some crowds gave it standing ovations; others sang the national anthem. In October, China selected it as its official entry in the foreign-language category of the Academy Awards.

The hero, Leng Feng, played by the action star Wu Jing (who also directed the film), is a veteran of the “wolf warriors,” special forces of the People’s Liberation Army. In retirement, he works as a guard in a fictional African country, on the frontier of China’s ventures abroad. A rebel army, backed by Western mercenaries, attempts to seize power, and the country is engulfed in civil war. Leng shepherds civilians to the gates of the Chinese Embassy, where the Ambassador wades into the battle and declares, “Stand down! We are Chinese! China and Africa are friends.” The rebels hold their fire, and survivors are spirited to safety aboard a Chinese battleship. Continue reading

Hakka made an official language in Taiwan

Source: Taipei Times (12/30/17)
Hakka made an official language
Townships in which half the people are Hakka are to make Hakka the primary language, while some civil servants are to take a language test
By Cheng Hung-ta and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Hakka has been made an official national language after the Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments to the Hakka Basic Act (客家基本法).

According to the amendment, townships in which Hakka people make up at least one-third of the population are to be designated key developmental areas for Hakka culture by the Hakka Affairs Council, and Hakka is to be used as one of the main languages for communication.

Such areas should strive to bolster the teaching and speaking of Hakka, as well as the preservation of Hakka culture and related industries, the amendment said. Continue reading

Dhondup Wangchen flees to US

Source: NYT (12/28/17)
Tibetan Filmmaker Flees to U.S. After ‘Arduous’ Escape from China
查看简体中文版 | 查看繁體中文版

Protesters demanding the release of the Tibetan movie director Dhondup Wangchen protest outside the Chinese embassy in Tokyo in 2009. Credit Toshifumi Kitamura/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A prominent Tibetan filmmaker, who was jailed for making a documentary about Tibetans living under Chinese rule and had been under police surveillance since his release three years ago, has fled to the United States after an “arduous and risky escape” from China, according to his supporters.

Dhondup Wangchen, 43, arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 25 and was reunited with his wife and children, who were granted political asylum in the United States in 2012, according to Filming for Tibet, a group set up by Mr. Wangchen’s cousin to push for his release. Continue reading

HK rail station to be subject to mainland laws

Source: Reuters (12/27/17)
China says part of Hong Kong rail station to be subject to mainland laws
By Christian Shepherd and Venus Wu

Laborers work in front of West Kowloon Terminus, under construction for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, in Hong Kong, China July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s parliament on Wednesday said part of a high-speed railway station being built in Hong Kong would be regarded as mainland territory governed by mainland laws, an unprecedented move that critics say further erodes the city’s autonomy.

Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, when it was granted a high degree of autonomy under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, giving it a separate police force, immigration controls, an independent judiciary and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China. Continue reading

Chinese official said 10,000 died in 1989

Source: HK Free Press (12/21/17)
Declassified: Chinese official said at least 10,000 civilians died in 1989 Tiananmen massacre, documents show
By Kris Cheng


Photo: Citizen News.

A member of the Chinese State Council estimated that at least 10,000 civilians were killed in the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989, declassified files reveal.

Alan Donald, Britain’s ambassador when the Chinese government sent tanks into Tiananmen square to quell the student-led protests, sent telegrams to the foreign office on June 5, a day after the massacre. He said a person – whose name was redacted from the document – passed along the information from an unnamed member of the State Council.

The documents from the UK National Archives in London were declassified in October and obtained by news site HK01. Continue reading

8 years for activist Wu Gan

Source: Sup China (12/26/17)
Eight years behind bars for activist Wu Gan

Super Vulgar Butcher (超级低俗屠夫 chāojí dīsú túfū) is the social media identity of rights activist Wu Gan 吴淦. On December 26, he was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Chinese court for the crime of subversion.

  • Wu is portly, and sports a goatee and shaved head. He was a soldier and has worked as a security guard. His iconic appearance and effective use of social media and creative street protests in front of government buildings gave his online work prominence. The government did not care for this.
  • Since 2008, Wu has been active in promoting human rights cases in China. In that year he advocated for Deng Yujiao, a waitress who fatally stabbed a government official who tried to sexually assault her.
  • Wu’s activism has been unbending. He called himself a “butcher who slaughtered abusers of human rights.” Critics said that his online and real world protest stunts were “vulgar,” so he appropriated the word and began calling himself Super Vulgar Butcher.
  • “Wu’s brash methods were not universally welcomed by Chinese human rights lawyers,” but Wu believed that “vocal, eye-catching actions were essential to force judges and officials to heed the voices of otherwise powerless citizens,” says (paywall) the New York Times. Continue reading