Investigative journalists ‘almost extinct’

Source: NYT (7/12/19)
‘We’re Almost Extinct’: China’s Investigative Journalists Are Silenced Under Xi
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Javier C. Hernández

Zhang Wenmin in Chengdu, China, in January. Once a widely read investigative journalist, she now has to live mostly off her savings. Credit: Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

BEIJING — She was once one of China’s most feared journalists, roaming the country uncovering stories about police brutality, wrongful convictions and environmental disasters. But these days, Zhang Wenmin struggles to be heard.

The police intimidate Ms. Zhang’s sources. The authorities shut down her social media accounts. Unable to find news outlets that will publish her work, she lives largely off her savings.

“The space for free speech has become so limited,” Ms. Zhang, 45, said. “It’s now dangerous to say you are an independent journalist.” Continue reading

Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families

Source: BBC News (7/4/19)
China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families
BBC News, Xinjiang

The BBC’s John Sudworth meets Uighur parents in Turkey who say their children are missing in China

China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language in its far western region of Xinjiang, according to new research.

At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools is under way.

Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region.

Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison. Continue reading

HK celebrities support protests with a cost

Source: NYT (7/5/19)
For Hong Kong Celebrities, Supporting Protests Comes With a Cost
By Daniel VictorAmy Qin and Tiffany May

The singer Denise Ho outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong last month. She has been blacklisted in China since throwing her celebrity behind Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement five years ago.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — As Hong Kong’s protests evolve into a struggle against the grip of authoritarian China, one of the city’s biggest pop stars has emerged as an icon of defiance. She has spoken at rallies, handed out voter registration forms at marches and stood on the front lines with demonstrators, urging the riot police not to charge.

Denise Ho, a Cantopop singer, is just one of many high-profile figures in the decentralized protest movement, but among Hong Kong’s celebrities, she is a rare breed. Ms. Ho threw her stardom behind the city’s pro-democracy movement five years ago and has since been paying the price — being barred in the lucrative mainland Chinese market. Continue reading

Surveillance app on tourists’ phones

Source: The Guardian (7/2/19)
Chinese border guards put secret surveillance app on tourists’ phones
Software extracts emails, texts and contacts and could be used to track movements
By Hilary Osborne and Sam Cutler

Irkeshtam border

The Irkeshtam border is China’s most westerly border and is used by traders and tourists, some following the historic Silk Road. Photograph: Luo Yang/Xinhua/Barcroft Media

Chinese border police are secretly installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors and downloading personal information as part of the government’s intensive scrutiny of the remote Xinjiang region, the Guardian can reveal.

The Chinese government has curbed freedoms in the province for the local Muslim population, installing facial recognition cameras on streets and in mosques and reportedly forcing residents to download software that searches their phones.

An investigation by the Guardian and international partners has found that travellers are being targeted when they attempt to enter the region from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. Continue reading

Why many in China oppose HK protests

Source: NYT (7/1/19)
Why Many in China Oppose Hong Kong’s Protests
By Li Yuan

A democracy rally in Hong Kong last week.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Cecilia Zhang is the sort of Chinese person who you might think would be sympathetic to the protesters in Hong Kong. She went to a prestigious American university, gets her news from foreign media and has no plan to move back to the mainland from Hong Kong, where she has worked in the financial industry for the past four years.

But she says she doesn’t understand why people in Hong Kong continue to take to the streets. In fact, she thinks they should go home.

After hours of protesting in Hong Kong, demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council chambers on Monday. They were later cleared out by riot police who charged the crowd and used tear gas. Continue reading

Footbinding as Fashion review

Source: Taipei Times (6/27/19)
BOOK REVIEW: Bound for better things?
With Taiwan as the centerpiece, John Robert Shepherd builds an exhaustive argument about the endurance of foot-binding in China and Taiwan despite official attempts to curb the practice
By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Footbinding as Fashion: Ethnicity, Labor, and Status in Traditional China, By John Robert Shepherd (University of Washington Press, 2018)

While Footbinding As Fashion looks at the practice in “traditional China,” much of this book is about Taiwan. The nation’s Hoklo majority brought the custom with them when they emigrated en masse across the Taiwan Strait, keeping the majority of their women’s feet tiny and their gait hobbled for centuries until the Japanese colonizers arrived and stamped out the practice.

But most importantly, it was the Japanese who produced the “only systematic accounting of the practice of footbinding that was ever produced” through the 1905 and 1915 censuses of Taiwan, where the author could cross-reference rich data sets that included languages spoken, Chinese province of origin (or Aboriginal), livelihood and whether they were “ever-bound” (currently bound or once bound and released) or “never-bound.”

As a result, researchers can obtain details as specific as the percentage of Hoklo-speaking Taiwanese with ancestry from Fujian Province between the ages of 21 and 30 who at some point stopped binding their feet. The dates are also crucial because the Japanese intensified their efforts in eradicating footbinding in the 1910s until they outright banned it in 1915.

The Japanese made such detailed records not only to keep tabs on the population and prove themselves as “model” colonizers to the international world, but also because they sought to eradicate the “three degenerate practices” among local people: footbinding, queue wearing and opium smoking. The data reveals that footbinding was almost exclusively a Hoklo practice, accounting for 99.6 percent of “ever-bound” women in Taiwan. Continue reading

A language under attack (6)

Thanks. I don’t hate Germany, or the German language, nor China or the Chinese language. Or any language.

I understand your reaction, and would like you to hear me out on this. I made a comparison which I think is very much valid: If your country organizes mass oppression on the scale of what the Chinese regime is doing now, a Hitlerian scale, it will, unfortunately and unavoidably, make a deep stain on its reputation which it will take a very long time to remove.

The Nazis did this to Rilke’s German, and the current Chinese regime is doing this to Lu Xun’s Chinese. There are other examples, of course (don’t expect a Saami person to love Swedish literature), but the Nazi comparison is apt.

As you know, the Chinese regime is carrying out a massive genocidal campaign to destroy indigenous identities, including by prohibiting native languages, and imposing Chinese at the point of a gun. Continue reading

A language under attack (2,3,4,5)

That sounds like a very unfair judgment; why taking Magnus’ remarks so personally? This is an academic platform where we at the very least should expect some respectful manners. “I do not like his articles”: this is a statement not an argument. Could you elaborate please? Besides why not addressing him directly? “Magnus, I don’t like your articles (and here is why)” sounds a bit closer to a dialogue than a public attack.

My own reading is that Magnus was trying to emphasise the traumatic experience of people who are forced to abandon their mother language and to learn the dominant language. Some chose to use this dominant language to express themselves, some radically reject that language. The current Chinese policies in the Uyghur region, rather than building bridges and harmony, are creating the same rejection process; though indeed, as in the German case, some chose to use the dominant language to express their identity (like Tibetan writer Pema Tseden for instance).

Concluding from this comparison that Magnus hates Chinese and Germans… there might be other platforms to “laver votre linge sale” as the French saying goes.

Vanessa Frangville <vanessafrangville@gmail.com> Continue reading

A language under attack (1)

Magnus Fiskesjö seems to hate China. I do not like his articles. Magnus seems to hate Germany. Please let me ask, the Nobel prize winner Elias Canetti who wrote in German was German? Kafka was German, Rilke was German? They all wrote in German, but they were not Germans at all. German is the language of Nazis? There is something else. Like me. Writing in German and in Chinese I am fighting Nazis etc. all the time.

The late Irene Eber – I loved her very much – once told me there were so many Germans who helped her… There is something else….

Wolfgang Kubin <kubin@uni-bonn.de>

A language under attack

China’s banning and suppressing of the Uyghur and other native languages of Xinjiang, and the forced teaching of Chinese there, reminds me of the Nazi occupation of Norway, when kids there were forced to learn German. My mom was one of those kids, and she never regained a respect for the German language; even I, born much later, failed to study German, just because the Nazis forced my mom to study it. Now I wonder, will the Chinese language suffer similarly, because of the vile oppression they are carrying out now? In the camps, people are starved and beaten if they don’t keep up, in singing Chinese Communist songs glorifying their Führer. With this sort of campaign, why would anyone want to study Chinese language any more — the language of the concentration camps?

Magnus Fiskesjö  <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: Hong Kong Free Press (6/18/19)
A language under attack: China’s campaign to sever the Uighur tongue
By Rustem Shir, Research Associate with the Uyghur Human Rights Project

Uighur protest in Washington, DC. Photo: Wikicommons.

Of the 7,111 languages being spoken around the world, 41 per cent can be classified as endangered, meaning that face-to-face use by speakers across generations is in decline.

At first glance, it may seem inaccurate to designate the Uighur language as endangered – more than 11 million people speak Uighur as a first language and Uighur is an official language of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (also known as East Turkestan) in China.

Yet, despite these indicators of vitality, the Uighur language is in peril because it has been targeted by the Chinese Communist Party for erasure. Continue reading

One more Xinjiang statement

Statement by the European Society for Central Asian Studies, on the detentions and deaths of Central Asian Muslims in ‘re-education centres’ in Xinjiang, China: https://escas2019.excas.net/updates/xinjiang-statement/

… this follows on the Association for Asian Studies strong statement, http://www.asian-studies.org/asia-now/entryid/209/aas-statement-on-extra-judicial-detention-of-turkic-muslims-in-xinjiang-prc

… and on the public statement signed by 700+ scholars (still open for signatures), https://concernedscholars.home.blog

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Uighur author dies in ‘re-education’ camp

Source: The Guardian (6/19/19)
Uighur author dies following detention in Chinese ‘re-education’ camp
PEN America condemns death of Nurmuhammad Tohti, who had been held in a Xinjiang internment camp, as a grave example of China’s violations of free expression
By Alison Flood

Nurmuhammad Tohti, sitting at a scholarly gathering in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, China. Photo courtesy of Abduweli Ayup.

Nurmuhammad Tohti, pictured in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Photograph: courtesy of Abduweli Ayup

The death of the prominent Uighur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti after being held in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps has been condemned as a tragic loss by human rights organisations.

Radio Free Asia reported that Tohti, who was 70, had been detained in one of the controversial “re-education” camps from November 2018 to March 2019. His granddaughter, Zorigul, who is based in Canada, said he had been denied treatment for diabetes and heart disease, and was only released once his medical condition meant he had become incapacitated. She wrote on a Facebook page for the Uighur exile community that she had only learned of his death 11 days after it happened because her family in Xinjiang had been frightened that making the information public would make them a target for detention. Continue reading

A history of gaokao essay questions

Source: Sup China (6/7)19
From Propaganda To Pollution To Smartphones: A History Of Gaokao Essay Questions
For many Chinese high school students, today marked the beginning of three days of Hell.
By Tianyu M. Fang

No other assessment test has been taken by more people than the gaokao, China’s national college entrance examination. Almost every Chinese college graduate you’ve met has at least taken it once, twice, or maybe three times (as was the case with Jack Ma, founder of tech giant Alibaba). What that means is, hundreds of millions of Chinese have gone through the experience of cramming for the test, memorizing materials (up to 60 pieces of ancient Chinese texts), and stressing about whether Lu Xun really meant what he wrote.

It’s no wonder, then, that each year’s gaokao essay questions — which are subjective and often open to interpretation, if not outright confusing — become topics of public scrutiny and debate: because everyone has experienced, to a certain extent, the bewilderment of seeing a question such as, “Write a poem about ‘circle.’” Continue reading

The Nuoso Book of Origins

The Nuosu Book of Origins: A Creation Epic from Southwest China
TRANSLATED BY MARK BENDER AND AKU WUWU FROM A TRANSCRIPTION BY JJIVOT ZOPQU (University of Washington Press, 2010). 296 pp., 17 bandw illus., 1 map, 6 x 9 in.
$30.00S PAPERBACK (9780295745695)
$95.00X HARDCOVER (9780295745688)

The Nuosu people, who were once overlords of vast tracts of farmland and forest in the uplands of southern Sichuan and neighboring provinces, are the largest division of the Yi ethnic group in southwest China. Their creation epic plots the origins of the cosmos, the sky and earth, and the living beings of land and water. This translation is a rare example in English of Indigenous ethnic literature from China. Continue reading

Rural influencers

Source: Trivium (5/28/19)
The rise of rural influencers: Understanding the popularity of China’s “tuwei” KOLs
The popularity of small-town and rural KOLs is driving new trends in China’s internet and marketing cultures.
By Kendra Schaefer

Beginning in 2016, China saw the sudden and meteoric rise of the short video social media platform Kuaishou 快手. The app had been quietly accumulating a following since its launch in 2011, focusing on half-organic, half-algorithm-driven growth and ignoring traditional media and influencer marketing altogether. The strategy worked, and as of 2018, it was sitting on a registered user base of over 700 million people, 100 million of whom visit the platform daily.

What makes it unique among Chinese apps is not its feature set, but the demographics of its user pool, which is comprised of a higher percentage of rural and small-town residents than competing short video platforms. This emerging user segment has given rise to a new type of influencer, the tuwei 土味 KOL, one that doesn’t bother with the manicured, fashion-focused gloss — aka the chaowei 潮味 style — that characterizes urban internet celebs. Continue reading