Critical China Scholars statement on the “lab-leak” investigation (3)

Ah, I was actually secretly hoping the statement was an aberration, a mistake, and that it would be retracted!

As I said the main problem is that we now already know the Chinese regime has made it clear there will be no further international investigation.

As with Xinjiang, they won’t allow any real inquiry — it’s who they are, it’s how their system works, especially when they are hiding too much, in the case of Covid, not just embarrassing mistakes but intentional wrongdoing — and we can compare the massive historic crimes the same men are committing in Xinjiang, where the international demands for a UN investigation also have long passed their best-before date (See my “Michelle Bachelet should not go to Xinjiang on Chinese government terms“).

We know this about China: On Covid, as elsewhere, they are protecting the set narrative of the infallible great leader who won’t be contradicted and who only allows parrots. They believe absolute thought control is priority #1, to keep the power elite in place. This is why the regime has gone so far as to humiliate the WHO, the international organisation that should have been handling this on the world’s behalf. We now know a lot about how WHO officials and professionals have been seething with frustration over this treatment.

In this situation, when the WHO has been disabled, there is no alternative to other countries opening their own investigations as best they can, and we should applaud that, for the sake of the millions who died. This is serious business that can’t wait for the Chinese regime’s approval. Continue reading

Academics continue China research while targeted by China sanctions

Source:  University World News (6/2/21)
Academics continue China research – while targeted by China sanctions
By Yojana Sharma

After China targeted academics and a research centre in Europe for its first ever sanctions against foreign researchers in March 2021, many feared it would have a wider impact on academic research on China.

But speaking some weeks after the imposition of sanctions on 22 and 26 March, imposed in part due to their work on China’s Xinjiang region, researchers said their work has hardly been impacted by Chinese sanctions as it was already hampered previously by unofficial restrictions and harassment.

However, some feared that sanctions could be widened to more academics as part of much wider geopolitical tensions, affecting China-related research globally. It could also impact on other areas where China sees it has leverage, such as sending international students to universities.

In March China sanctioned Joanne Smith Finley, a reader in Chinese studies at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, for what the Chinese foreign ministry called “maliciously spreading lies and information” about Xinjiang; Björn Jerdén, director of the Swedish National China Centre at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm; and Adrian Zenz, a German expert on Xinjiang who is currently senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the United States. Continue reading

Lab-leak theory explained

Source: NYT (5/27/21)
The Lab-Leak Theory: We have an explainer.
By David Leonhardt

Members of the World Health Organization at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in February. Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Suddenly, talk of the Wuhan lab-leak theory seems to be everywhere.

President Biden yesterday called on U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble their efforts” to determine the origin of Covid-19 and figure out whether the virus that causes it accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Major publications and social media have recently been filled with discussion of the subject.

Today, we offer an explainer.

What are the basics?

The origin of the virus remains unclear. Many scientists have long believed that the most likely explanation is that it jumped from an animal to a person, possibly at a food market in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Animal-to human transmission — known as zoonotic spillover — is a common origin story for viruses, including Ebola and some bird flus.

But some scientists have pointed to another possibility: that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As in other laboratories, researchers there sometimes modify viruses, to understand and treat them.

“It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told senators yesterday. Continue reading

HK Tiananmen museum forced to close

Source: CNN (6/2/21)
Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square museum forced to close two days ahead of memorial
By Lilit Marcus, CNN

June 4 Museum Hong Kong flowers

Some supporters have left flowers outside the museum’s closed door ahead of June 4. Courtesy June 4 Museum/Twitter

Hong Kong (CNN) — Hong Kong‘s most controversial destination has been forced to close just two days before a hugely significant date in the global pro-democracy calendar.

Located inside a nondescript high-rise building wedged between a gas station and a highway overpass in Kowloon, the June 4 Museum is the only museum in Greater China — which includes the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan — that commemorates the Beijing government’s crackdown against student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On June 1, Hong Kong officials from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) visited the museum in the working-class area of Mong Kok and accused the organizers of operating a “place of public entertainment” illegally.

“Our department recently received a complaints that someone in a unit in a commercial building on Mong Kok Road was operating an entertainment venue without the required license,” the FEHD told CNN in a statement. Continue reading

Critical China Scholars statement on the “lab-leak” investigation (1)

This statement is truly unfortunate, not least since this group has made a few sensible interventions in the past. But this one is just plain wrong.

Above all, it suffers from the kind of myopic, US-only worldview that is sometimes found on the left. Everything is about the USA: Never mind all the other countries and all the other people around the world, who are demanding an investigation of Covid’s origins — because millions of people died around the world and we do not know why. The world needs to know.

Yet the Chinese government now says the investigation is “complete” even before it has even begun, just because they have set their Party line narrative and are imposing strict censorship, as usual, allowing no-one to ask all the unanswered questions.

Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the recent WHO delegation, emphatically said their Wuhan visit was no investigation. Lots of scientists around the world have pointed out what remains to be done in the search for how Covid began. Even the WHO top director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, apparently tired of the earlier strategy of flattering the Chinese regime for its ‘transparency’, now stated clearly and seriously that it is necessary to find this out, and as part of that, the lab leak hypothesis is still on. Continue reading

Misogynistic trolls dunk on Tsinghua dancers

Source: SupChina (5/4/21)
Misogynistic trolls band together to dunk on dance-loving young women at Tsinghua University
A video of students at Tsinghua doing dancing to celebrate their university’s 110th birthday went viral. Then the haters arrived. Guess why.
By Jiayun Feng

Misogynistic trolls band together to dunk on dance-loving young women at Tsinghua University

Dance-loving women at Tsinghua

Here’s another daily reminder that internet misogynists are horrible creatures and that women face harassment and vitriol on a daily basis just for wanting to have some fun by themselves. A group of female college students in China have found themselves confronting a barrage of obscenities and hateful comments online after a mobile phone video of them dancing in public went viral.

In the video, an all-girls dance troupe at the prestigious Tsinghua University delivers a nearly two-minute dance routine in celebration of the 110th anniversary of the school. With a marching band playing trumpets in the background, the nine students — wearing tight, gold mini dresses decorated with tassels — pull off a choreographed performance featuring body rolls, formation changes, and synchronized moves.

The dance was undoubtedly amateurish, but it was intended to be performed for a small audience on the Tsinghua campus, not for an enormous internet audience, and nothing about it was offensive. However, soon after the footage appeared on social media, commenters jumped on the video, saying the dance was an “inappropriate exhibit” at a birthday event. Continue reading

The ‘brainwashing’ of HK begins

Source: Washington Post (4/19/21)
The ‘brainwashing’ of Hong Kong begins
By Shibani Mahtani

Hong Kong police officers perform a new goose-stepping march, the same style used by police and troops on the Chinese mainland, during National Security Education Day on Thursday. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

HONG KONG — For a place that has been stripped of its democratic rights during a pandemic, some days in Hong Kong still feel routine.

Finance workers gather for happy-hour beers. Hipsters photograph latte art in tiny cafes designed for Instagram. Masked commuters pack the subway at rush hour, and on weekends, trails are jammed with hikers scrambling up hills to catch the sunset.

April 15, however, was not a normal Thursday. That occasion, the first “National Security Education Day” since China imposed a tough security law in June, was the most visible display of Hong Kong’s fall from a relatively free, boisterous territory to an Orwellian place that resembles the repressive mainland.

The propaganda scenes were a contrast to 2019, when reporters documented Hong Kong’s largest revolt against Chinese rule since the 1997 handover by Britain. Directed at children and designed to rehabilitate the image of the Hong Kong Police Force, last week’s campaign showed how the authorities are enforcing a single narrative of the protests — meddlesome foreign forces stirring up trouble — and how no expense will be spared to fully integrate the financial center into China’s authoritarian system. Continue reading

Statement of support for targeted academics

Below a new statement in support of all the scholars sanctioned by China, circulating as of this morning March 30. This one is truly international — Please sign.–Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Dear All:

Members of the academic and research community are invited to express their solidarity with colleagues affected by the Chinese government’s recent sanctions by signing this statement. For questions about this statement, please contact solidarity.scholar@gmail.com

Please consider signing – thank you.

Support for targeted academics

Many people are coming out in support of Newcastle University social anthropologist Jo Smith Finley who’s just been sanctioned by the Chinese regime for … doing her research, and for voicing her opinion, on the oppression of the Uyghurs in China.

Chinese Sanctions on Newcastle academic ‘counter-productive,” BBC NEWS (March 26, 2021).

China imposes sanctions on UK MPs, lawyers and academic in Xinjiang row.” The Guardian (March 26, 2021).

Her university officially tweeted their support for her, together with Universities UK, and the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities. ( … though they stopped short of outright condemning the Chinese government’s outrage). Continue reading

Westerners fear traveling to China

Source: CNN (3/9/21)
Westerners are increasingly scared of traveling to China as threat of detention rises
By Jenni Marsh, CNN

Image

(CNN)Jeff Wasserstrom is a self-proclaimed China specialist who is seriously considering never returning to China — at least, he says, not while President Xi Jinping is in power.

The American professor, who for decades made multiple trips a year to China and was last there in 2018, hasn’t focused his career on Tibet or Taiwan — lightning-rod issues which attract Beijing’s ire at lightning-quick speed — but he has written about cultural diversity and student protests in mainland China, and appeared on panels with people he says the Communist Party is “clearly upset with.”

Three years ago, that made the California-based academic wonder if his visa application to China might be rejected.

Today, it makes him consider whether crossing the border risks his indefinite arbitrary detention. The chance of that outcome, Wasserstrom says, might be “pretty minimal,” but the consequences are so grave — those detained can be locked up for years without contact with their families or a trial date — he is not willing to gamble.

And he is not alone. Continue reading

XJTLU China Studies MA info session

Dear Colleagues,

Below find information on the session we are organizing to introduce MA China Studies at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in Suzhou, China. The online information will take place on March 10, Wednesday 10 am (CET). The Zoom link is as follows: https://zoom.us/j/91399242861?pwd=VGVaMXYvdjBKaVRQUjFtbzRhR3FBQT09

XJTLU is a joint-venture university that grants the University of Liverpool (UK) diploma. The MA China Studies graduate program is an interdisciplinary program with academic and professional components. The degree can be completed online during the pandemic era and scholarships are available.

Ceren Ergenc Continue reading

HK rewrites history

Editors at the New York Times are incrementally making more accurate the headline to this story. The first online edition on Tues read, astonishingly, “Curates History”; yesterday’s print edition read, inadequately, “Edits History.” This one at least says “Rewrites History.” For its next appearance, perhaps they will use the more direct “Distorts History.”–Eva S. Chou

Source: NYT (2/24/21)
To Build Loyalty to China, Hong Kong Rewrites History
Through new lesson plans and expensive publishing projects, the government hopes to teach future generations a curated lesson about Hong Kong’s past.
By Vivian Wang

Golden Bauhinia Square, a symbol of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The orders seemed innocuous, even obvious: Primary school students in Hong Kong should read picture books about Chinese traditions and learn about famous sites such as the Forbidden City in Beijing or the Great Wall.

But the goal was only partially to nurture an interest in the past. The central aim of the new curriculum guidelines, unveiled by the Hong Kong government this month, was much more ambitious: to use those historical stories to instill in the city’s youngest residents a deep-rooted affinity for mainland China — and, with it, an unwavering loyalty to its leaders and their strong-arm tactics.

Students, the guidelines said, should develop “a sense of belonging to the country, an affection for the Chinese people, a sense of national identity, as well as an awareness of and a sense of responsibility for safeguarding national security.”

The Chinese government, in its efforts to quash dissent, has imposed a strict set of restrictions on Hong Kong, including new rules this week to bar any candidates deemed disloyal to the Community Party from elected office. Continue reading

Pyramids were poured in concrete to spite China (1)

[The author of this response to Magnus Fiskesjö’s post of yesterday would prefer to remain anonyomous.–Kirk]

This is a very common phenomenon, I would say. A guy named Du Jiangang even argued that ancient Greece and England were created by different waves of Chinese immigrants. And Du Jiangang also was a Chief Professor of Shantou University and a faculty of the Hunan University law school.

Chinese cultural chauvinism is also present in some serious archaeology and history studies, for example, Su Bingqi, an archaeologist at Peking University and a senior researcher of the Academy of Social Sciences, once declared that Chinese civilization has cultural roots that go beyond one million years. In his《中华文明起源新探》, he wrote that”世界上没有哪一个像中国如此之大的国家有始自百万年前至今不衰不断的文化发展大系……从超百万年的文化根系,到万年前的文明起步,从五千年前氏族到国家的“古文化、古城、古国”的发展,再由早期古国发展为各霸一方的方国,最终发展为多源一统的帝国,这样一条中国国家形成的典型发展道路,以及与之同步发展的中华民族祖先的无数次组合与重组,再到秦汉时代以后几次北方民族入主中原所形成的中华民族多元一体的结构,这一有准确时间、空间框架和丰富内涵的中国历史的主体结构,在世界上是举世无双的。它所提供的对在如此广阔的国土上丰富多彩而又相互联系的文化,作出纵、横发展的“庖丁解牛”式的辩证统一的研究的条件,在全世界也没有哪个国家具备。所以,中国史在世界历史发展进程中是大头。’’ And this book has become one of the most basic and required reading for all students of Chinese archaeology in the past two decades. Continue reading

Pyramids were poured in concrete to spite China

Years ago people laughed at fringe theories about space alien gods building the pyramids and all that — the argument was that the Egyptians, Maya etc. could not possibly have built them… so it must have been space aliens.

Now, in a sign of the times, there’s a Chinese scholar telling us that it was really Westerners who built those pyramids in the 19th century, pouring them in concrete, to spite China: faking them to look like there was something earlier than Chinese Civilization. Professor Huang Heqing 黃河清 of Zhejiang University says he’s proven this by looking at photos in old books, where he can see no Sphinx and no pyramids (!). And so now he’s out to restore the glory, of Chinese civilization:

浙江大學教授稱有圖有真相金字塔是現代偽造 19世紀用混凝土所建. HK01, 2021-02-04 16:55.

After you stop laughing, consider that this sort of megalomania is not uncommon in China nowadays, and often gets government approval. For the regime in power, archaeology and history are but tools of their power politics, especially when it comes to “proving” that China owns everything it set its foot on, as in the South China Seas, or in Xinjiang — or, proving that China was earlier than everybody, and more glorious than everybody.

One example of the latter that comes to mind, is when the then-Chinese president traveled to Australia a few years ago and exclaimed that “we were here first” (before the Europeans) – something he had learned from the fake “history” book “1421” by Gavin Menzies, one of the greatest and most elaborate money-making scholarly frauds around, which stroked the ego of the Communist regime in China (since nowadays communism is lip service only, facts also don’t matter, and naked nationalism is all that counts).

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>