China tries to brush off HK election results

Source: SCMP (11/25/19)
China tries to brush off pro-democrat victory in Hong Kong election and blames ‘foreign forces’ for interfering
State news agency Xinhua refuses even to report pro-establishment side’s heavy losses and reports only that the elections have taken place. Official outlets say government supporters were harassed on the campaign trail and accuse Western countries of fuelling unrest
By William Zheng and Echo Xie

Pro-democracy supporters celebrate the defeat of Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, one of the most high-profile victims of Sunday’s vote. Photo: AFP

Pro-democracy supporters celebrate the defeat of Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, one of the most high-profile victims of Sunday’s vote. Photo: AFP

Mainland China on Monday tried to brush aside the landslide defeat for the pro-establishment camp in Hong Kong’s district council elections with news of the results being heavily censored.

State media preferred to focus on calls for law and order to be preserved and the accusation that Western countries had been instigating unrest.

Many official media outlets only ran brief reports on the vote, with state news agency Xinhua declining to report the results, in which the pro-democracy camp took control of 17 out of 18 councils.

“According to the announcement by the Electoral Affairs Commission, all 452 district councillors of 18 districts have been elected,” it said. Continue reading

External forces and black hands

Source: China Media Project (11/19/19)

External Forces and Black Hands

Featured image above by Studio Incendo under CC license.

The front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper featured an official commentary yet again today that sent a stern warning over violent standoffs between protesters and police in Hong Kong.

The commentary, like yesterday’s attributed to “a commentator from this paper,” or benbao pinglunyuan (本报评论员), marking it as a staff-written piece representing views in the senior leadership, was a stern warning to so-called “external forces” accused of fomenting discord in order to “impede the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.”

The commentary says that Xi Jinping’s speech at the 11th BRICS summit of leaders in Brazil — also referenced in yesterday’s commentary — had “sent a severe warning to the radical Hong Kong rioters and their behind-the-scenes supporters.” Continue reading

Making political mythology

Source: China Media Project (10/24/19)

Making Political Mythology

For generations in China, the status of self-effacing soldier Lei Feng as the pre-eminent model of the ideal citizen has seemed unassailable. The myth of Lei Feng has been dusted off and recycled periodically over the decades, the last peak coming in 2013 to mark fifty years since Mao Zedong’s formal launch of the “Learn from Comrade Lei Feng” campaign — which came in 1963 with the widespread publication of the hero’s greatly embellished diary.

The tales and imagery surrounding this hero of the people, with overwrought messages of self-sacrifice, seem absurdly theatrical today. Lei Feng weeps as he resolves to donate his mooncakes during Autumn Festival to a hospital where those injured in the struggle to build a socialist society are recuperating. We are told how, with devoted hands-on study, he teaches himself how best to throw a hand grenade — without any apparent recognition on the part of myth-makers or military commanders of the total folly this involves. He takes smiling joy in basic acts like shoveling manure and darning his own socks. Continue reading

China sharpens hacking to hound its minorities

Source: NYT (10/22/19)
China Sharpens Hacking to Hound Its Minorities, Far and Wide
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Nicole Perlroth, Kate Conger, Paul Mozur

Uighur teenagers on their phones in Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region. Chinese hackers have secretly monitored the cellphones of Uighurs and Tibetans around the globe. Credit: Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — China’s state-sponsored hackers have drastically changed how they operate over the last three years, substituting selectivity for what had been a scattershot approach to their targets and showing a new determination by Beijing to push its surveillance state beyond its borders.

The government has poured considerable resources into the change, which is part of a reorganization of the national People’s Liberation Army that President Xi Jinping initiated in 2016, security researchers and intelligence officials said.

China’s hackers have since built up a new arsenal of techniques, such as elaborate hacks of iPhone and Android software, pushing them beyond email attacks and the other, more basic tactics that they had previously employed. Continue reading

Digitally erasing scandal-plagued actors

Source: Sixth Tone (10/9/19)
A Chinese Drama Is Digitally Erasing Its Scandal-Plagued Actors
The producers of ‘Win the World’ say they’re replacing Fan Bingbing and Gao Yunxiang with stars who have yet to fall from grace.
By Kenrick Davis

A promotional image for the costume drama “Win the World.” From Douban.

Two scandal-struck megastars in the long-delayed costume drama “Win the World” are being digitally scrubbed from the show, according to its producers.

In a statement Tuesday, Talent Television and Film Co. Ltd. said it had enlisted Tmall Technology, a company under e-commerce giant Alibaba, to replace Gao Yunxiang and Fan Bingbing with as-yet-unnamed “top-tier actors” by means of “scene refilming, technological tools, audio re-recording, etc.” The studio also assured potential viewers that the estimated 60 million yuan ($8.4 million) in changes, slated to be completed by the end of this year, would not adversely affect the quality or integrity of the show. Continue reading

One country, no arguments

Source: NYT (10/11/19)
China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The Communist Party has spent decades preparing the people to defend a united homeland. Hong Kong’s protests show it has paid off.
By Li Yuan

A military parade honoring the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China was held in Beijing in October.CreditCreditWu Hong/EPA, via Shutterstock

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators. Continue reading

Media attacks on Apple, NBA inflame nationalism

Source: NYT (10/9/19)
Chinese Media’s Attacks on Apple and N.B.A. Help Inflame Nationalism
Outlets are trying to intimidate multinational companies into toeing the party line while Beijing tries to rein in the Hong Kong protests.
By Javier C. Hernández

An Apple store in Hong Kong. The company has previously shown a willingness to block apps in China. Credit: Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

BEIJING — The editorial was scathing.

People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, was taking aim at Apple, accusing it of serving as an “escort” for “rioters” in Hong Kong by providing an app that allows protesters to track police movements.

“Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” warned the article, which appeared this week and was written under a pseudonym, “Calming the Waves.”

As China seeks to contain pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, state-run news outlets are increasingly lashing out at foreign companies, accusing them of enabling the protest movement. Continue reading

South Park creators offer fake apology

Source: NYT (10/8/19)
‘South Park’ Creators Offer Fake Apology After Show Is Erased in China
“Like the N.B.A., we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” the show’s creators said in a tongue-in-cheek response. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”
By Daniel Victor

Last week’s episode of “South Park,” titled “Band in China,” mocked Chinese censors and American businesses that bend over backwards to appease them. Credit: Comedy Central

HONG KONG — “South Park,” the long-running Comedy Central cartoon whose mockery has spared few touchy topics, was erased from major platforms in China after an episode last week taunted Chinese censors and the far-reaching effect they often have on American entertainment.

The government’s censors, who routinely quash news and commentary deemed undesirable by the ruling Communist Party, wiped out video clips and discussions of the show, which premiered in 1997 and has lasted 23 seasons. Once known mostly for the raunchy humor coming from the mouths of its elementary-school-age main characters, the show has in recent seasons focused on political and cultural satire, without abandoning its boundary-pushing ways. Continue reading

China censorship problem creeps into geek culture

Source: The Geekiary (10/8/19)
The China Censorship Problem Creeps Into Geek Culture
By Angel Wilson

The China censorship issue isn’t new – it’s been creeping into geek culture topics for quite a while – but the recent Hong Kong protests have made their reach much more noticeable.

China Censorship Blitzchung

The most recent example of China’s censorship in geek circles comes from the Esports community.  Hong Kong based Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai was banned from a Blizzard tournament after making pro Hong Kong protest statements in an interview.  He has now been suspended for one year from participating in Hearthstone tournaments and was forced to give up his Grandmaster prize money as a result of his comments. Blizzard states his comments violated Section 6.1 of the tournament’s rules, which prevents players from making statements that “offends a portion or group of the public.” Continue reading

China wants the world to stay silent on camps

Source: NYT (9/25/19)
China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding
By Jane Perlez

Near the banks of a river in Hotan, China, the low building in the background, shown last month, has housed a re-education camp. It was unclear if the camp, in the Xinjiang region, was still operating. Credit: Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

BEIJING — When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government. Continue reading

Strangers in China podcast

The Sinica Podcast Network is proud to introduce the latest member of our family, Strangers in China. It features the voices of an emergent new China. Dissident voices, outspoken voices, marginalized voices, queer voices. Some are people who just find one aspect of living in China unreasonable, others are people who are rebellious. Some want to push the boundaries creatively, while others are just fighting to be seen. All are uniquely Chinese.

You may already know of the Network’s flagship show, the Sinica Podcast, but if this is your first time hearing about our other podcasts, we recommend a recent episode from each below. Take a look and – more importantly – take a listen, and give us any feedback at!

Kaiser Kuo
Founder, Sinica Podcast Network
Editor-at-large, SupChina

13th Special Book Awards of China (1)

Here’s more information on the book awards.

“Translators from Australia, Canada and Russia were among the winners of the Special Book Award of China, which is the highest honour given to international publishing professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of Chinese literature and culture overseas.  The award was established in 2005, and has been presented 12 times so far. Over the past years, 123 winners from 49 countries and regions have received the accolade. This year’s awards were made to:

• Bonnie Suzanne McDougall from Australia, Laureate Professor of the University of Sydney and translator who has been instrumental in developing young Chinese translators overseas as well as the publication of such books as Letters Between Two: Correspondence Between Lu Xun and Xu Guangping.
• Daniel Bell from Canada, who has pursued an academic career at Shandong University as well as producing monographs about Confucius culture and Chinese politics including The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy. Continue reading

The Party is Struggling

Source: China Media Project (9/6/19)
The Party is Struggling

In his address to a training session for young leaders at the Central Party School on September 3, Xi Jinping spoke of the immense challenges facing the country and the Chinese Communist Party. The language he chose, however, was not “challenge,” “test” or “obstacle.” He spoke instead of “struggle,” or douzheng (斗争), a word that bears the weight of a painful political history — recalling the internal “struggles against the enemy” that tore Chinese society apart in the 1960s and 1970s.

For many still, douzheng invokes not just the need for unity toward common goals, or a can-do attitude, but warns instead of deep and potentially traumatizing division.

A passage from the Xinhua News Agency release on Xi Jinping’s September 3 speech, with the word “struggle” highlighted. Continue reading

Face-swapping app censured over privacy concerns

Source: Sixth Tone (0/2/19)
Chinese ‘Deepfake’ App Censured Over Privacy Concerns
Netizens demanded that the Zao face-swapping app be removed from app stores after noticing that it had reserved the right to sell user-generated content to third parties.
By Tang Fanxi

A promotional photo for the Zao “deepfake” app. IC)

A newly released face-swapping app has come under fire for a clause in its terms and conditions allowing it to sell users’ photos and videos, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported Sunday.

Zao — meaning “make,” “build,” or “fabricate” in Mandarin — turns users into “stars” by digitally grafting their faces onto the bodies of celebrities in scenes from movies, TV shows, and music videos to create what is known as a “deepfake,” a technological portmanteau combining “deep learning” and “fake.”

After downloading the app, users are asked to upload photos of themselves that can be used to make a face-flipped clip of their choice. Each video takes less than 10 seconds to generate, with enhanced quality if users agree to let their cellphone’s camera film their face from various angles, and while blinking their eyes or opening their mouths. Continue reading