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
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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

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

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

Distrust of China jumps to new highs

Source: NYT (10/6/20)
Distrust of China Jumps to New Highs in Democratic Nations
The sharpest rise in negative views was in Australia, while unfavorable opinions jumped in the United States and Europe, a Pew survey found.
By Chris Buckley

In many Western countries, public distrust of China and its leader, Xi Jinping, has soared in the past year. Credit…Wu Hong/EPA, via Shutterstock

SYDNEY, Australia — Xi Jinping celebrates China’s battle against the coronavirus as a success. But in the United States and other wealthy democracies, the pandemic has driven negative views of China to new heights, a survey published on Tuesday showed.

The illness, deaths and disruption caused by the coronavirus in those countries have intensified already strong public distrust of China, where the virus emerged late last year, the results from the Pew Research Center’s survey indicated.

“Unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year,” said the survey on views of China taken this year in 14 countries including Japan, South Korea, Canada and Germany, Italy and other European nations. “Today, a majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China.” Continue reading

Blogger loses status after extreme post

Source: China Media Project (10/2/20)

Blogger Zhao Shengye

Last month, CMP reported on the firestorm surrounding well-known blogger and amateur scientist Zhao Shengye (赵盛烨), who in a post to his more than three million social media followers appeared to advocate a Chinese policy of earth-wide destruction should the Trump administration be “bent on fighting against China.” Posts expressing extreme nationalism on Chinese social media are often afforded great latitude from censors, but Zhao’s violent advocacy of global destruction to spite the US was too much for many Chinese, and after Zhao was widely criticized the post was finally taken down.

In a rare case of public backlash having consequences for extreme nationalist views online, the China Computer Federation (CCF) issued a notice on September 24 saying it had revoked Zhao Shengye’s membership in the organization after his “extreme comments” on his official WeChat account had had a “huge negative impact” on the organization. The CCF said in its notice that it had received numerous official complaints from other members. Continue reading

Four types of Chinese nationalism

Source: China Channel, LARB (10/2/20)
Four Types of Chinese Nationalism
How nationalism in today’s China is far from monolithic
By Chang Che

71 years ago, at 3pm on October 1 1949, Mao Zedong stood at a podium above Tiananmen square to found the People’s Republic of China. Soldiers in pine-green tunics marched across the square in triumphant celebration of victory in the Chinese civil war, four years after Japanese occupation ended. Now the anniversary is commemorated with a military parade, nighttime firework displays, and an extended national holiday called “Golden week.” Yet October 1, National Day, is not fully analogous to a day of independence. It commemorates not a nation’s birth, but a nation under new management — that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

After seven decades, the Party has undergone a marked transformation. Once a fledgling faction with revolutionary ambitions, it is now a ruling party that detests radicalism and claims exclusive representation over the interests of the Chinese people. National Day is an occasion for patriotic festivities, yet hides within it a hidden premise: by presenting an anniversary for the Party as one for the country, it implies the nation and the Party are one and the same.

That assumption is becoming more plausible now. Due to Party reforms that have reduced barriers to membership, the CCP is now made up of a large cross-section of civil society. Today, the 92 million members in the Party include such diverse groups as entrepreneurs, doctors, academics, tech employees and scientists; many are not ideologues. Moreover, a decade-long opinion poll released in July by the Harvard Ash Center concluded that 93% of Chinese citizens were “satisfied” with their central government in 2016. Regardless of the forces behind such support – which, apart from performance, could include censorship, propaganda and even fear – the fact of the matter remains the same: the Party is intricately bound to the life of the country, and projections of a popular upheaval remain illusory. Continue reading

Politburo takes charge of archaeology

Massimo Introvigne writes on the latest chapter in the political mobilization of Chinese archaeology, which follows on earlier instructions from Global Times to make the archaeology of Xinjiang serve the purpose of Chinese colonialism there, as I discussed in an earlier post about how the repurposed nationalistic Chinese archaeology is exported abroad. Now, the regime doubles down on this front, too, and Chinese archaeology is openly politicized throughout–and, anyone who believed studying ancient China could somehow remain a-political, will have to be re-thinking.

Magnus Fiskesjö,

Source: Bitter Winter (10/2/20)
While the World Confronts China, Xi Jinping Calls a Meeting of the Politburo—on Archeology
Faithful to Chairman Mao’s teaching “to use the past in service of the present,” the CCP hopes that archeologists, of all people, can solve some of its problems.
by Massimo Introvigne

The Terracotta Army of Shaanxi, China’s most famous archeological finding

The Terracotta Army of Shaanxi, China’s most famous archeological finding (credits)

These are difficult times for the CCP. Criticism of its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and crackdown on all forms of dissent and all kinds of religion is growing. Even the usually cautious President Macron of France has decided to speak out, while economic and other retaliation against China is at the center of the electoral campaign in the United States.

It comes as no surprise that President Xi Jinping has called for a group study session, on September 28, of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee. The theme of the meeting? Not international criticism, foreign policy, or human rights. No, the subject discussed was—archeology. Continue reading

China sets sights on ‘the Taiwan problem’

Source: The Guardian (10/2/20)
After Hong Kong: China sets sights on solving ‘the Taiwan problem’
An invasion may not be imminent but experts say armed forces could have capacity to mount one by the end of the decade
by  and 

Taiwanese soldiers raise the flag of Taiwan in Taipei.

Taiwanese soldiers raise the flag of Taiwan in Taipei. Photograph: David Chang/EPA

Soon after China imposed the new national security law that effectively ended Hong Kong’s limited autonomy, a hawkish legal academic in Beijing spelt out a warning to Taiwan.

The law was not just about ending a year of protests in Hong Kong, Tian Feilong said in an interview with DW News, it was also sending a message to Taipei – and to Washington, which has recently approved new arms sales and high-level visits by US officials to self-rule Taiwan.

The provisions being used to crush dissent across Hong Kong could provide a template, he argued, for tackling “the Taiwan problem”.

“I believe that in the future, you could just change the name of the Hong Kong national security law, and substitute instead ‘Taiwan national security law’,” said Tian. Continue reading

History repeats for HK freedom swimmers

Source: The Guardian (9/27/20)
‘Back where we were’: history repeats for Hong Kong’s freedom swimmers
They risked their lives in search of liberty in the British colony – now the system they were desperate to escape is at the door
By  in Hong Kong

Four ‘freedom swimmers' from China are led away by Hong Kong police for questioning at Tai Po Kau on May 31, 1971.

Four ‘freedom swimmers’ from China are led away by Hong Kong police for questioning at Tai Po Kau on May 31, 1971. Photograph: SCMP

They came one by one, dragging themselves from the sea on to the shores of Hong Kong over oyster beds, their bodies bleeding. Some had swum for miles, braving choppy, treacherous seas, tied together by ropes. Others made the desperate journey in makeshift boats.

They were known as freedom swimmers – hundreds of thousands of young men and women who fled mainland China and risked their lives in search of freedom in the British colony amid the oppressive political movements in China between 1950 and 1980, which targeted “class enemies”.

Those who survived to tell their tales were the lucky ones. Many more never made it. Some were shot dead by border guards, or arrested and sent to labour camps. Others drowned or were attacked by sharks. Some were executed – the act of defection was considered treason. Continue reading

Chinese govt continuing with Xinjiang genocide

Following on Buzzfeed’s August scoop on how the Chinese govt has been expanding its Xinjiang concentration camps, while insisting they were closed, with no more detainees, yesterday’s damning new ASPI report details 380 sites built or expanded since 2017, — including in 2019 and 2020, while the government already insisted the camps were done, and the “trainees” let go.

This is now “the most comprehensive dataset on Xinjiang’s carceral system in the world”:

Project Launch – ASPI ‘Xinjiang Data Project‘ new website mapping Xinjiang’s detention system,
Interactive map,
Explanatory Twitter thread:
Documenting Xinjiang’s detention system – Our key research findings. By Nathan Ruser, ASPI, September 24, 2020.

Various news media have been following up today, incl.: BBC News; The Guardian; NYT; Japan Times  Continue reading

Night images reveal new detention sites in Xinjiang

Source: NYT (9/24/20)
Night Images Reveal Many New Detention Sites in China’s Xinjiang Region
China said it was winding down its “re-education” camps for Uighurs and other minorities, but researchers found evidence that incarceration is on the rise.
By Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy


A video based on satellite images depicts construction between 2014 and 2020 at a high-security detention facility in Karakax, a county in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Credit…By Australian Strategic Policy Institute

As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

Rather than being released, many detainees were likely being sent to prisons and perhaps other facilities, the investigation found, citing satellite images of new and expanded incarceration sites.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher who led the project at the institute, also called ASPI, said the findings undercut Chinese officials’ claims that inmates from the camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — had “graduated.” Continue reading

Ren Zhiqiang sentenced to 18 years

Source: NYT (9/22/20)
China Sentences Tycoon Who Criticized Xi to 18 Years in Prison
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The Communist Party had accused Ren Zhiqiang of being disloyal. His heavy sentence underscores Xi Jinping’s crackdown on dissent among the elite.
By Chris Buckley

A Beijing court said Ren Zhiqiang had used his former posts to take bribes and embezzle public funds. Credit…Color Photo China, via Associated Press

A Chinese court on Tuesday sentenced an outspoken Chinese property tycoon who had denounced the Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, to 18 years in prison for corruption, a harsh punishment that appeared aimed at deterring dissent.

The court in Beijing said that the tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, had used his former posts to take bribes and embezzle public funds, and accused him of illegally enriching himself by about $2.9 million. But Mr. Ren’s supporters are sure to see the long sentence as punishment for his cutting comments about Mr. Xi — and as a warning to other potential critics of Mr. Xi’s rule.

“Cracking down on Ren Zhiqiang, using economic crimes to punish him, is a warning to others — killing one to warn a hundred,” Cai Xia, a friend of Mr. Ren’s who formerly taught at the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, said in a telephone interview before the court’s judgment.

“It’s a warning to the whole party and especially to red offspring,” Ms. Cai said, referring to the children of party officials. Continue reading

Violinist blames China for losing his job

Source: NYT (9/13/20)
A Violinist Lost His Seat and His Job. He Blames China.
In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey, a former member of the well-known Shanghai Quartet said he had been dumped after a remark he made on social media was misinterpreted as an ethnic slur.
By Melena Ryzik

Yi-Wen Jiang, a violinist formerly with the Shanghai Quartet, says in a recently filed lawsuit that he was unfairly forced from the group after a remark he made on social media was mischaracterized. Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Yi-Wen Jiang, a violinist who was, until recently, billed as a member of the Shanghai Quartet, an internationally known chamber group with roots in China, says he didn’t give the pig emoji a second thought.

Responding to a post on social media about Chinese-American relations a few months ago, he typed in the image of the smiley pig face — “the cute one,” he said — and went about his day. But his posting soon caused an outcry and he was called a bigot for what his critics said was his effort to deride the Chinese people as pigs.

Within days, Mr. Jiang had lost his job and, he said, his reputation.

Now Mr. Jiang, who has been a U.S. citizen for over two decades, has brought a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court, contending his offhand remark on social media was purposely distorted by those who object to his longstanding criticism of the Chinese government. Continue reading