Five years after Gui Minhai was kidnapped

My article in the Toronto Star today summing up what we’ve learned five years after the kidnapping of Gui Minhai, 17 oct 2015.–Magnus Fiskesjö

Source: The Toronto Star (10/19/20)
Five years after Sweden’s Gui Minhai was kidnapped we must keep fighting for his release
By Magnus Fiskesjö, Contributor

October 17 marked five years since my fellow Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, an old friend of mine, was kidnapped from Thailand by Chinese agents, who forcibly took him to China. He had not visited for years — a precaution, since he co-owned the Causeway Bay Bookstore in Hong Kong, which specialized in books critical of the Chinese regime.

Gui’s case is highly relevant not just for Sweden and for Hong Kong, but also for Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and other countries that have also seen their citizens seized by the Chinese regime. What are the lessons we have learned?

In early 2016, Gui was forced to appear on Chinese state TV in an obviously staged confession, pretending he had returned on his own volition to help resurrect an old traffic accident. Continue reading

Prosecutor turns rights defender

Source: NYT (10/20/20)
In China, the Formidable Prosecutor Turned Lonely Rights Defender
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
After sheltering a prominent dissident, Yang Bin, a former prosecutor, is now under the scrutiny of the police. But she has no regrets.
By Amy Qin

Yang Bin, a former prosecutor in China, is now a defense lawyer. “When many people look at the system, they see its strength. When I look at it, I see only its fragility,” she says. Credit…via Yang Bin

Yang Bin was at home when two dozen Chinese police surrounded her house and entered, searching for the man she had recently taken in as a houseguest. Filing in quickly, the officers found their suspect upstairs and arrested him, ending a weekslong manhunt.

The police also detained Ms. Yang for questioning. They wanted to know how Xu Zhiyong, one of China’s most outspoken government critics, had come to find refuge with her, a Communist Party member and former government prosecutor.

For Ms. Yang, the turn of events came with no small irony. In her old job, she had escorted death row prisoners to a police station near the one in which she was being interrogated, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. This time she was regarded as a suspect, and the police had also taken her husband and 20-year-old son.

“Even though I was being questioned like a criminal, I knew in my heart I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Ms. Yang, 50, who was later released with her family, said in a recent telephone interview from her home on Seagull Island, a rural area on the outskirts of Guangzhou. “When many people look at the system, they see its strength. When I look at it, I see only its fragility.” Continue reading

Made in China 5.2: Spectral Revolutions

Dear Colleagues,

I am glad to announce the publication of the latest issue of the Made in China Journal. You can download it for free at this link:

Below you can find the editorial:

Spectral Revolutions: Occult Economies in Asia

The most Gothic description of Capital is also the most accurate. Capital is an abstract parasite, an insatiable vampire and zombie-maker; but the living flesh it converts into dead labor is ours, and the zombies it makes are us. There is a sense in which it simply is the case that the political elite are our servants; the miserable service they provide for us is to launder our libidos, to obligingly re-present for us our disavowed desires as if they had nothing to do with us.
Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism (2009) Continue reading

Open letter to Monthly Review

This is a letter the Critical China Scholars organization put together in response to a report about Xinjiang promoted on the Monthly Review website. It is posted here for the information of those on the MCLC mailing list. The letter was sent to MR on Oct 19, 2020, and is also posted to the CCS website [] and to our FB page, as well.

Rebecca E. Karl

19 October 2020

Dear friends at Monthly Review,

As scholars and activists committed to charting a course for an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist left in the midst of rising US-China tensions, we write in response to your recent republication of a “report and resource compilation” by the Qiao Collective on Xinjiang.

We fully acknowledge the need for a critique of America’s cynical and self-interested attacks on China’s domestic policies. We are committed to that task. But the left must draw a line at apologia for the campaign of harsh Islamophobic repression now taking place in Xinjiang.

Qiao’s “report” is written in a style that is sadly all too common in leftist discussions of China today. While the report “recognize[s] that there are aspects of PRC policy in Xinjiang to critique,” it finds no room for any such critique in its 15,000 words. Eschewing serious analysis, it compiles select political and biographical facts to suggestively point at, but not articulate, the intended conclusion – that claims of serious repression in Xinjiang can be dismissed. Continue reading

Online exhibit captures pandemic in HK

Source: SCMP (10/15/20)
Online art exhibition captures pandemic scenes in Hong Kong – of loneliness, fear, but also the triumph of the human spirit
Louise Soloway Chan’s virtual exhibition ‘Contactless’ is a showcase of 22 ink paintings on rice paper hosted by the Boundless Artists Collective. She hopes that when the crisis finally passes, the sketches will be a reminder not just of the horrors but of how the human spirit navigates adversity
By Kylie Knott

“Too Cool for School II” by Louise Soloway Chan. The work is one of 22 of Chan’s sketches of Hong Kong during the pandemic that form “Contactless”, a solo online exhibition that runs until December 15.

“Too Cool for School II” by Louise Soloway Chan. The work is one of 22 of Chan’s sketches of Hong Kong during the pandemic that form “Contactless”, a solo online exhibition that runs until December 15.

Today is the opening of Louise Soloway Chan’s virtual exhibition “Contactless”, a showcase of 22 ink paintings on rice paper that capture Hong Kong scenes amid the pandemic.

“I’m an obsessive sketcher and always draw from life, from what’s in front of me,” says Soloway Chan via Zoom from Britain.

The artist was born in the UK and spent time in India before moving to her adopted home of Hong Kong in 1994. She’s back in Britain temporarily to spend time with her family.

Many people in Hong Kong will have seen her work. In 2011, the MTR Corporation commissioned her to paint 12 huge bas-reliefs of Hong Kong street scenes, many depicting traditional dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls) as well as lantern and tea shops that have since fallen victim to gentrification. The works took six years to complete and are permanently installed at the Sai Ying Pun MTR station. Continue reading

China threatens to detain Americans

Source: NYT (10/18/20)
China Threatens to Detain Americans if U.S. Prosecutes Chinese Scholars
American officials said China had insisted that the Justice Department not proceed with cases against the arrested scholars, who are in the Chinese military and face charges of visa fraud.
By Edward Wong

Western officials and human rights advocates have said for years that the Chinese police and other security agencies engage in arbitrary detentions. Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Chinese officials have told the Trump administration that security officers in China might detain American citizens if the Justice Department proceeds with prosecutions of arrested scholars who are members of the Chinese military, American officials said.

The Chinese officials conveyed the messages starting this summer, when the Justice Department intensified efforts to arrest and charge the scholars, mainly with providing false information on their visa applications, the American officials said. U.S. law enforcement officials say at least five Chinese scholars who have been arrested in recent months did not disclose their military affiliations on visa applications and might have been trying to conduct industrial espionage in research centers. Continue reading

U of Toronto (Scarborough) position

The University of Toronto (Scarborough), Department of Language Studies, is hiring a new tenure-stream (research) Assistant Professorship in English and Chinese Translation. Details of the post can be found here:


The deadline for all materials to be received by the University, including letters of recommendation, is 26 November 2020.

Please share widely with your networks and my appreciation in advance.


Christopher N. Payne, PhD
Associate Chair, English and Chinese Translation
University of Toronto (Scarborough)

Film on aging debuts in Pingyao

Source: China Daily (10/14/20)
Young director’s film on China’s aging population debuts in Pingyao
By Xu Fan | |

A scene in Being Mortal. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As one of China’s most influential movie events to gather arthouse enthusiasts, the ongoing 4th Pingyao Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon International Film Festival has attracted many young talents to screen their latest directorial outings.

The annual festival, founded by award-winning director Jia Zhangke, is being held in Pingyao, an historic city in North China’s Shanxi province. It opened Saturday and ends Monday.

Liu Ze, a Shanxi native born in 1983, held the global premiere of his new movie, Being Mortal, during the festival on Saturday. Continue reading

Doc on Florence Chia-ying Yeh

Source: China Daily (10/16/20)
Documentary chronicling 96-year-old literature master opens
By Xu Fan | |

A scene in the documentary Like the Dyer’s Hand. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Like the Dyer’s Hand, a 120-minute documentary about traditional Chinese literature scholar Florence Chia-ying Yeh, opens across more than 3,000 member cinemas of China National Arthouse Film Alliance today.

As the first biographical film authorized by Yeh, who turned 96 in July, the movie looks back at her legendary life through interweaving interviews of her and scholars and literature enthusiasts.

Producers said the crew traveled to 10 areas in China, the United States and Canada, and interviewed 43 people close to Yeh, mostly her students – such as writers Pai Hsien-yung, Hsi Muren and sinologist Stephen Owen. Continue reading

More Hun than Han

Source: AAS, Asia Now blog (9/17/20)
More Hun than Han: Reading the Tabghach “Ballad of Mulan” in 2020
By James Millward

“Lady (Mulan).” 18th century, British Museum. Public domain image via Wikimedia.

Mulan is not originally a story about a patriotic Chinese woman. It is not a story about self-sacrifice to defend one’s country. It is not a thrilling tale of martial valor. It is, rather, a commentary on the fruitlessness of war against people who are more like oneself than different, delivered in the voice of a woman who does her familial duty out of necessity and then chucks her medals and goes home—a war-weary expression of truth to power.

Perhaps because of the barriers to actually seeing the new Mulan remake (thanks to the pandemic and Disney’s steep charge of $30 plus a subscription fee to its streaming service), commentary about the new film has been trickling out over a few weeks. The most recent controversy, first on Twitter and then in the New York Times and other publications, is over the credits: Disney thanks security and political authorities in Turfan (Turpan), Xinjiang, for facilitating their filming in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Disney filmed part of Mulan amidst Turfan’s desert scenery well after it was clear that just around the corner were multiple concentration camps inflicting “transformation through education” upon Uyghurs and other Xinjiang indigenous peoples. Hundreds of such camps have been built across the Uyghur region starting in 2017 and were well-reported by the time Disney started filming in 2018. Had Disney staff consulted Baidu Maps while scouting film sites, they might have seen grey tiles blacking out certain places from view: blank spaces that we now know mark the sites of camps. Having now just seen the film, I’ve been thinking about the Mulan tradition in light of Xi Jinping’s assimilationist policies and trends in China today: the atrocities in Xinjiang; CCP efforts to limit Mongolian language in schools in the Mongolian Autonomous Region, just as it has restricted Uyghur in the Uyghur Autonomous Region and Tibetan in the Tibetan Autonomous Region; pressure to reduce Cantonese use in Guangdong and denigrate it in Hong Kong; the further repression of Hong Kong democracy and near elimination of promised autonomy, accompanied by egregious police violence which the Disney Mulan actress Yifei Crystal Liu publicly supported on Weibo a year ago. Continue reading

Global Art Exchange and Modernism in Socialist China

OCTOBER 30 – 31 – Zoom Webinar (Registration Required)

This workshop focuses on the impact of global artistic exchanges on Chinese artists during the most rigid period of Socialist China. Including presentations on Latin American and Romanian influences; impressionist and modernist-inspired underground artist groups during the Cultural Revolution; and discreet international art exhibitions in revolutionary China, the speakers dismantle the simplistic, Cold War-influenced narratives of East-West dichotomy and capitalist modernism v. socialist realism. They reveal Chinese artists’ continuing thirst for alternative aesthetic inspiration, and underscore the crucial impact of human exchanges on art and creativity in the socialist period.


Date: Friday, October 30, 2020
Time: 5:00pm – 9:00pm (Pacific Standard Time)
Chair: Julia F. Andrews, Distinguished University Professor, Ohio State University Continue reading

Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kristin Stapleton’s review of Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey, by Chunmei Du. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey

By Chunmei Du

Reviewed by Kristin Stapleton

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2020)

Chunmei Du, Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey Chunmei Du. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019. 251 pgs. ISBN-9780812251203 (cloth).

Gu Hongming 辜鴻銘—the notorious Qing loyalist who spoke out for bound feet and against democracy in the midst of the May Fourth movement—was at the center of a set of cross-cultural conversations among Chinese, European, and American intellectuals during and after World War I, Chunmei Du shows in this engaging biography. She notes that he was “the first principal Chinese spokesman of Confucianism to the Western world” (p. 49), promoting it as a universal solution to the global problems of industrialization and endemic conflict. At the same time, though, Gu displayed a most un-Confucian love of shocking and provoking his fellow humans. Du’s goal is to help us understand the influences that produced such a paradoxical character. In the end, as Du acknowledges, Gu Hongming stubbornly defies analysis. Still, her account of his life is fascinating, particularly for what it reveals about global currents of thought in the early twentieth century. Continue reading

Research Chair in HK Studies

The Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, is inviting applications for an appointment to a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Hong Kong Studies with a focus on literary, visual, and/or popular culture. This tenure-track/tenured position will be at the rank of Assistant or Associate Professor and is expected to start on 1 July 2021.

Details for this position can be found on the Asian Studies website (, but please note that Tier-2 Chairs are intended for “exceptional emerging scholars” who are generally within 10 years of having received their PhD. Please note also that, for this search, we will be considering only members of the following designated groups (all to be understood within the Canadian context): women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and indigenous people.

Leo K. Shin
Chair, CRC-Hong Kong Studies Search
Associate Professor, History and Asian Studies
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Top online lit for 2019

Source: China Daily (9/30/20)
List names top Chinese online literature for 2019
By Yang Yang |

Library of Heavenly Path [Photo provided to China Daily]

The list of Top Chinese Online Literary Works in 2019 was released yesterday in Shenzhen. After three rounds of assessments and online voting by 1.79 million readers, 19 works and projects made the list, including nine novels from the China Literature Group under Tencent .

Since 2014, the China Writers Association has issued the Top Chinese Online Novels every year, which was upgraded this year to become the Top Chinese Online Literary Works, adding lists regarding the influence of online novels’ intellectual property and their international reach.

The Top 10 Chinese Online Novels include Zhaoyang Jingshi (Cases in Zhaoyang), I Am On MarsLibrary of Heavenly PathZai Zhi Tian Xia (Rule the Country) and Hao Dang (the broad world), covering genres including reality, fantasy, martial arts and science fiction. Continue reading