Library officials are burning books

Source: Washington Post (12/9/19)
China’s library officials are burning books that diverge from Communist Party ideology
By Gerry Shih

A portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping passes by a screen showing video of him speaking during a parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing on Oct. 1. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

A portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping passes by a screen showing video of him speaking during a parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing on Oct. 1. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

BEIJING — Library officials in northwest China recently hoped to demonstrate their ideological fervor and loyalty to the Communist Party by purging politically incorrect books and religious materials in emphatic fashion: They burned them.

The book-burning incident, with all its dark historical precedents from this country and Nazi-era Germany, has heightened alarm at a time when Chinese intellectuals see their society tipping further into authoritarianism.

The incident attracted widespread attention Sunday after Chinese social media users noticed a report on the Library Society of China’s website from a library in Zhenyuan county. The library declared it had removed “illegal publications, religious publications and deviant papers and books, picture books and photographs” in an effort to “fully exert the library’s role in broadcasting mainstream ideology.” Continue reading

China uses DNA to map faces

Source: NYT (12/4/19)
China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West
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Beijing’s pursuit of control over a Muslim ethnic group pushes the rules of science and raises questions about consent.
By Sui-Lee Wee and 

Images from a study in 2013 on 3-D human facial images. Credit…BMC Bioinformatics

TUMXUK, China — In a dusty city in the Xinjiang region on China’s western frontier, the authorities are testing the rules of science.

With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used.

In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face. Continue reading

Inside the Solomon Islands switch

Source: The Guardian (12/7/19)
When China came calling: inside the Solomon Islands switch
The Pacific nation’s decision to sever ties with Taiwan reverberated around the world and has had far-reaching consequences inside the country
by  in Honiara

Children swim in the Nggela islands, part of the Solomon Islands, which in September made the decision to sever ties with Taiwan and recognise China. Photograph: Edward Cavanough/The Guardian

The market in Auki is a hive of activity. Fisherman offer fresh yellowfin tuna, mackerel and parrot fish, swatting away flies with banana leaves. Stalls are coloured by tropical fruits and the floral dresses of Solomon Islands women who have arrived from villages to sell their produce.

Some of the best produce found in the market, which is located in the capital of the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands, comes from Adaliua Taiwanese Farm, situated three kilometres away. There, plump pawpaw and watermelon grow, surrounded by coconut palms. When the Guardian visits, one man uses his machete to slice a pineapple, using banana leaves as a plate to share the fruit.

But the future of the farm and the jobs it creates was thrown into doubt overnight in September when Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands announced Honiara would end its 36-year relationship with Taiwan, and officially recognise Beijing. Continue reading

Literary reference backfires

Source: China Media Project (12/5/19)
by  | Dec 5, 2019

A Literary Reference Backfires

Xianglin Sao in the 1956 film adaptation of Lu Xun’s story.

On December 3, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hu Chunying (华春莹) held a press conference at which a journalist asked about a recent op-ed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published through the US news site POLITICO, in which he said that in light of security concerns over 5G technology “it’s critical that European countries not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants like Huawei, or ZTE.”

Pompeo’s remarks included a range of accusations against Huawei in particular, noting its links to the Chinese military, charges that it engaged in espionage in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Poland, and allegations that it stole intellectual property from countries such as Germany and Israel. Pompeo also pointed to Chinese state subsidies for Huawei as evidence of unfair practices that “undercut prices offered by market-based rivals.” Continue reading

Claims of meddling roil Taiwan elections

Source: NYT (12/6/19)
Claims of China’s Meddling Roil Taiwan Ahead of Elections
A would-be Chinese defector named two Hong Kong executives as acting as a front for Chinese intelligence agencies. The authorities in Taiwan had started tracking them in 2016.
By Steven Lee Myers and Chris Horton

Soldiers at a flag-lowering ceremony at Liberty Square in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, last month. The self-governing island will vote for a new president in January. Credit…Henry Lin/EPA, via Shutterstock

TAIPEI, Taiwan — In December 2016, Xiang Xin, a businessman based in Hong Kong, and his wife asked the government in Taiwan for permission to invest in real estate, as foreigners must do. After a four-month investigation, officials rejected their application.

“Their relationship with China’s People’s Liberation Army was extraordinarily close,” Chang Ming-pin, executive secretary of the commission at Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs that reviews foreign investments, said in an interview. “That complicated things.”

Now Mr. Xiang’s name has surfaced again in a possibly related intrigue. Last month, he was identified at the center of an extraordinary — if still largely unverified — tale of covert operations by China’s military intelligence agencies to undermine democracy in Taiwan. Continue reading

How Prague’s relations with Beijing soured

Source: NYT (11/23/19)
The Broken Promise of a Panda: How Prague’s Relations With Beijing Soured
When a new mayor of the Czech capital refused to toe the line on Taiwan, Beijing severed its sister-city relationship. Broader repercussions followed.
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By Marc Santora

Chanji and Ding Cha, Shanghai natives who are studying in Europe, visited Prague for a wedding photo session and a few days in the city last month. China has threatened to reduce tourism to the city. Credit…Kasia Strek for The New York Times

PRAGUE — On the top floor of an opulent Art Deco building in the heart of old Prague, the new lord mayor was standing with a glass of sparkling wine in hand, greeting diplomats as they made their way into his official residence for a New Year’s gathering.

But when the Chinese ambassador reached Mayor Zdenek Hrib, the diplomat was not in a celebratory mood.

“He demanded that I kick out the representative of Taiwan,’’ Mr. Hrib recalled of the confrontation last January. “I said, ‘We do not kick out our guests.’”

As the line of people backed up, with other ambassadors urging the Chinese representative to move on, he grew more and more incensed until, finally, he stormed out. Continue reading

The Myth of Political Brainwashing (4)

In an October 11 (The Myth of Political Brainwashing [1]) reply to my recent piece on the genealogy of “brainwashing,” Professor Magnus Fiskesjö of Cornell takes issue with my critique of the term’s Cold War misappropriation. He asks, in particular, “if you don’t like the term ‘brainwashing,’ then what will you call the violent conversion therapy currently practiced on hundreds of thousands of concentration camp detainees in Xinjiang?”

At several points in his reply, Dr. Fiskesjö seems to imply, inaccurately, that my tracing of the origins of the Chinese term xinao was intended as a commentary on current events—specifically, as some kind of defense of ongoing Chinese state practices in Xinjiang and elsewhere. “I would have thought that it should be impossible,” he writes, “for any scholar … to touch on this topic of brainwashing today without touching on these dramatic current developments.” This leads into a subsequent charge of “intellectual dishonesty.”

In this brief response, I will not dwell on the question whether it is fair to raise such weighty charges over a piece focusing on the origins of a Chinese word, written under space constraints, and beginning with events in Hunan in the 1890s, solely because it does not go on to extensively discuss 21st century events in Xinjiang that many describe by using that word. Continue reading

China’s growing threat to academic freedom

Source: Japan Times (11/25/19)
China’s growing threat to academic freedom

In “The Scholars,” the classic 18th century Chinese novel on the lives and misadventures of Ming Dynasty literati, there is an episode that departs unnervingly from the book’s satirical, moralizing tone. One day the Nanjing scholar Chuang reluctantly obeys a summons to consult with the emperor in Beijing. On the way to Beijing he meets a fellow scholar, Lu, who excitedly tells him of a banned book he has just purchased, written by a scholar unjustly executed 160 years before. Chuang praises Lu for his “respect for learning”, but warns his new friend to avoid “forbidden books.” Nevertheless, he invites Lu to stay with him when he returns to Nanjing.

Back in Nanjing, Chuang keeps his promise to host Lu. But not long after Lu’s arrival, hundreds of soldiers arrive and swarm over Chuang’s estate; their commander orders Chuang to tell him if a scholar possessing a forbidden book is staying there. Lu surrenders himself, but in the following days Chuang works his Beijing connections to get Lu released. This story conveys vividly the vulnerability of scholars to a state authority that spares no expense to hunt them down if they stray from its narrow orthodoxy.

Chinese academics now struggling under what the Scholars at Risk Network describes as systematic Chinese government policies intended “to constrict academic activity and to intimidate, silence, and punish outspoken academics and students” might find much to relate to in Wu’s story. Continue reading

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

HK democracy backers win big

Source: NYT (11/24/19)
Hong Kong Democracy Backers Win Big as Voters Flock to Polls
A surge in voting, especially by young people, allowed democracy advocates to win many more seats on local councils.
By Keith BradsherAustin Ramzy and 

Democracy supporters celebrating in Hong Kong on Sunday night outside a polling station. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — Pro-democracy candidates buoyed by months of street protests in Hong Kong were headed to a stunning victory in local elections on Sunday, as record numbers voted in a vivid expression of the city’s aspirations and its anger with the Chinese government.

It was a pointed rebuke for Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong, and the turnout — nearly seven in 10 eligible voters — suggested that the public continues to back the democracy movement, even as the protests have grown increasingly violent. The surge was driven especially by young voters, a major force behind the demonstrations of the past six months.

With three million voters casting ballots, pro-democracy parties captured at least 216 of 452 elected seats, up from 124, and perhaps many more, according to early official results. 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

Parents of HK protesters come to the front lines

Source: NYT (11/19/19)
Parents of Besieged Hong Kong Protesters Come to the Front Lines
The parents of young people under siege at a university emerged as a call for compromise.
By Tiffany May and 

Teachers and relatives waited for student protesters to surrender at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Tuesday. Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

HONG KONG — One mother fell to her knees before riot police officers and begged for her daughter’s release. Another promised she would boil soup for a trapped son before he made a desperate escape across police lines. From a distance, a father got his first glimpse of his son in days — as the son was led away in handcuffs.

As the police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University trapped more than 1,000 pro-democracy protesters this week, another group entangled in the city’s crisis has turned conspicuously outspoken: their parents.

The voices of mothers and fathers, racked by fear and anger, emerged as a call for compromise in the standoff on the campus, where on Tuesday several dozen holdouts remained. Continue reading

Why Chinese rappers don’t fight the power

Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö <>
Source: BBC (11/6/19)
Why Chinese rappers don’t fight the power
Many of China’s best-known rappers have decided to voice their politics, but in contrast to rap’s anti-establishment roots, these artists are asserting a distinctly nationalist tone.
By Yi-Ling Liu. BBC Music

The Higher Brothers are one of a new breed of Chinese hip-hop acts eyeing international success (Credit; Getty Images)

In 2015, Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers learned something the hard way: be very careful when your songs turn political.

The source of controversy was an anti-Uber song. “I don’t write political hip-hop,” spat out by the group’s rapper Melo. “But if any politicians try to shut me up, I’ll cut off their heads and lay them at their corpses’ feet. This time it’s Uber that’s investigated. Next time it will be you.” It led to the song being blocked by Chinese censors, and Melo called in for questioning by the local Public Security Bureau.

Since then, Higher Brothers have garnered widespread success both at home and abroad, partly thanks to landing their first American tour to promote their album Journey To The West. Alongside many of China’s rising crop of hip-hop artists, they’ve stormed onto both the local and global stage – and largely steered clear of politics. Continue reading

China thinks it can defeat HK protesters; it can’t

Source: Washington Post (11/15/19)
China thinks it can defeat Hong Kong’s protesters. It can’t.
The mighty behemoth will have to make concessions to end the conflict.
By Keith B. Richburg 

A rally at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on Thursday. (Justin Chin/Bloomberg)

A rally at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on Thursday. (Justin Chin/Bloomberg)

Protracted conflicts typically end in one of two ways: Either the party with overwhelming force subjugates the other and declares a complete victory, or the two sides get tired of fighting and make a deal.

In Hong Kong — now in its sixth month of an increasingly violent, seemingly intractable conflict — China’s communist rulers and their handpicked chief executive, Carrie Lam, seem intent on achieving a total victory over a leaderless, loosely organized, youth-driven protest movement that has paralyzed the city and plunged the economy into recession. The protesters “will never win,” Lam has vowed, and it’s “wishful thinking” to believe that the government will ever yield. And there’s no doubt China has the overwhelming power in this dispute, as well as the will to dominate.

But Beijing is not going to get its way. Continue reading

The Xinjiang Papers

Source: NYT (11/16/19)
THE XINJIANG PAPERS: ‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims
More than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents provide an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

HONG KONG — The students booked their tickets home at the end of the semester, hoping for a relaxing break after exams and a summer of happy reunions with family in China’s far west.

Instead, they would soon be told that their parents were gone, relatives had vanished and neighbors were missing — all of them locked up in an expanding network of detention camps built to hold Muslim ethnic minorities.
The authorities in the Xinjiang region worried the situation was a powder keg. And so they prepared.

The leadership distributed a classified directive advising local officials to corner returning students as soon as they arrived and keep them quiet. It included a chillingly bureaucratic guide for how to handle their anguished questions, beginning with the most obvious: Where is my family?

They’re in a training school set up by the government,” the prescribed answer began. If pressed, officials were to tell students that their relatives were not criminals — yet could not leave these “schools.” Continue reading