U of Minnesota student jailed in China over tweets

Source: Axios (1/23/20)
University of Minnesota student jailed in China over tweets
By Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Images of a cartoon villain

The images Luo allegedly posted.

A Chinese student at the University of Minnesota has been arrested in China and sentenced to six months in prison for tweets he posted while in the United States, according to a Chinese court document viewed by Axios. Some of the tweets contained images deemed to be unflattering portrayals of a “national leader.”

Why it matters: The case represents a dramatic escalation of the Chinese government’s attempts to shut down free speech abroad and a global expansion of a Chinese police campaign to track down Twitter users in China who posted content critical of the Chinese government.

What’s happening: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called on China to release the student. “This is what ruthless and paranoid totalitarianism looks like,” said Sasse. Continue reading

Meng Hongwei sentenced to 13 years

Source: BBC News (1/21/20)
Meng Hongwei: China sentences ex-Interpol chief to 13 years in jail

This handout photo taken on January 21, 2020 and released by the Tianjin First Intermediate People"s Court shows former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei in court

AFP. This handout photo taken on January 21, 2020 and released by the Tianjin First Intermediate People”s Court shows former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei in court

A former Interpol chief accused of bribery was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in jail by a Chinese court on Tuesday. Meng Hongwei, who was the first Chinese head of Interpol, vanished on a trip back to the country from France in September 2018.

China later confirmed he had been detained as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive against corruption.

Meng has admitted to taking more than $2m (£1.6m) in bribes. The 56-year-old was also ordered by the Tianjin No 1 Intermediate People’s Court to pay a fine of two million yuan ($289,540; £222,711).

The court statement said Meng would not appeal against the verdict. Continue reading

How gay art survives in Beijing

Source: NYT (1/17/20)
How Gay Art Survives in Beijing, as Censors Tighten Grip
An art gallery in China’s capital provides a lens into the city’s quietly present gay community.
By Marjorie Perry

The artist Gao Jianxiang at his Beijing studio, foreground, with his gallerist, Pierre Alivon, whose gallery ART.Des in the Chinese capital shows gay-themed work.

The artist Gao Jianxiang at his Beijing studio, foreground, with his gallerist, Pierre Alivon, whose gallery ART.Des in the Chinese capital shows gay-themed work. Credit…Pierre Alivon

From the outside, the facade of Destination (a prominent Beijing venue that expressly welcomes gay people) is downright drab. But inside this four-story cultural center on the east side of the city, the works in the nonprofit art gallery can push boundaries.

This is no easy feat as censorship restrictions have been tightening in China under President Xi Jinping. And, although same-sex relations were decriminalized in 1997, gay Beijingers say they continue to face discrimination.

They look longingly to Taiwan, where a recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage on the self-ruled island of 24 million is being celebrated throughout the world. Taiwan has long been the heart of gay Asia.

In mainland China, acceptance of same-sex couples has progressed at a glacial rate. Many gay Chinese will never come out to their family, and there are still gay conversion centers around the country.

However, there is a quietly present gay community in Beijing. Destination, which opened 15 years ago as a nightclub and has since expanded to become a cultural center, is one of the few places where gay men can be open about their sexual orientation, according to observers. Continue reading

Do coercive reeducation technologies actually work

Source: LA Review of Books (1/6/20)
Do Coercive Reeducation Technologies Actually Work?
By Darren Byler

Photo by the author. A People’s Convenience Police Station in Ürümchi in 2018

For the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of the Future: The Ethics and Implications of AI” conference.

Sometime in mid-2019 a police officer tapped a student who had been studying at a university on the West Coast of the United States on the shoulder. The student, who asked me to call her Anni (安妮), after the famous Dutch-Jewish diarist Anne Frank, didn’t notice the tapping at first because she was listening to music through her ear buds. Speaking in Chinese, Anni’s native language, the police officer motioned her into a nearby People’s Convenience Police Station. On a monitor in the boxy gray building, she saw her face surrounded by a yellow square. On other screens she saw pedestrians walking down the street, their faces surrounded by green squares. Beside the high definition video still of her face, her personal data appeared in a black text box. It said that she was Hui, a member of a Chinese Muslim group, and that she was a “converted” or rehabilitated former detainee. The yellow square indicated that she had once again been deemed a “pre-criminal.” Anni said at that moment she felt as though she could hardly breathe. Continue reading

Tsai Ing-wen re-elected

Source: NYT (1/11/20)
In Blow to Beijing, Taiwan Re-elects Tsai Ing-wen as President
The victory was a remarkable comeback for Ms. Tsai and suggested that Beijing’s pressure campaign had backfired.
By Steven Myers and Chris Horton

China’s efforts to isolate President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration and to punish Taiwan economically failed to deliver the desired outcome. Credit…Carl Court/Getty Images

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s voters delivered a stinging rebuke of China’s rising authoritarianism on Saturday by re-electing President Tsai Ing-wen, who vowed to preserve the island’s sovereignty in the face of Beijing’s intensifying efforts to bring it under its control.

Ms. Tsai’s victory highlighted how successfully her campaign had tapped into an electorate that is increasingly wary of China’s intentions. It also found momentum from months of protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s encroachment on the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s freedoms.

For China’s ruling Communist Party, the outcome is a dramatic display of the power of Hong Kong’s antigovernment protest movement to influence attitudes toward the mainland in other regions the party deems critical to its interests.

China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, has warned Taiwan that unification between the sides was inevitable. His party has sought to court Taiwanese with opportunities to work in the mainland while isolating Ms. Tsai’s administration and said that China would use force, if necessary, to prevent the island from taking steps toward formal independence. Continue reading

China Independent Film Fest closes

Source: Reuters (1/11/20)
Independent film festival in China shuts, says ‘impossible’ to pursue independence

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – One of China’s longest-running and largest independent film festivals has suspended operations “indefinitely”, with the organisers saying it was now “impossible” to organise a festival with a “purely independent spirit”.

The China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), which was established in the eastern city of Nanjing in 2003 and has held 14 sessions so far, made the announcement late on Thursday.

It did not provide more details of what pushed it to such a decision, but the move comes amid growing media censorship in China, which has seen regulators crack down on content they believe to violate “socialist core values”.

“We believe, that under current local organisational conditions, that it is impossible to organise a film festival that truly has a purely independent spirit and which is effective,” the CIFF said on its official WeChat account.

“Of course, to those grassroots film festivals that under the mask of security still try to encourage independence, we express our respect.”

CIFF showed around 1,000 films and documentaries since its founding, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper. A number of them touched on topics considered sensitive in China, such as homosexuality and the relocation of residents under the Three Gorges dam project.

Zhang Xianmin, a professor from Beijing Film Academy who has been the CIFF’s core organiser, told the SCMP on Friday that the closure was “normal”.

“We are just back to the usual rule under the Party. We just went back to 20 years ago, when there was no room and opportunity for independent films.”

“If we had promoted the commercialisation of CIFF, that might have made it safer and we could have had the chance to survive.”

Taiwan Studies Revisited

Source: Taipei Time (1/9/20)
Book review: Authors assess their writing on Taiwan
‘Taiwan Studies Revisited’ provides a personal touch on Taiwan’s modern history and the country’s place in academia
By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Studies Revisited, edited by Dafydd Fell and Hsin-huang Michael Hsiao. 238 pp. Routledge.

As writers, it’s often cringeworthy to read and review one’s old work, especially works that were written decades ago. As Davidson College political scientist Shelly Rigger writes in Taiwan Studies Revisited: “Rereading one’s own previous work is a painful process, at least for me. I focus on the mistakes, the erroneous predictions, the word choices that I never would have made had I not been exhausted and on a deadline.”

But fortunately for the readers, this exercise in asking authors to revisit their books provides an illuminating account of how international academics viewed Taiwan back then and whether things developed according to their predictions. Although still academic in nature, it’s a rare personal look at what Taiwan meant and still means to these experts.

While some chapters are drier than others, the information and ruminations are still invaluable to interested parties, although something contemplative and autobiographical like this could have been a chance for some of these academics to try their hand at livelier writing. An example of this would be the late Bruce Jacobs’ The Kaohsiung Incident in Taiwan and Memoirs of a Foreign Big Beard, which is informative and engaging at the same time. Continue reading

At ‘sacred lake,’ Chinese declare love for Xi and CCP

Source: NYT (1/8/20)
At ‘Sacred’ Lake, Chinese Declare Love for Xi and Communist Party
Some come to seek an emotional lift, others to sing patriotic tunes. But they all raise a fist and say an oath, a rite meant to show China’s strength in the 21st century.
By Javier Hernandez

Reciting the Chinese Communist Party oath outside the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall museum in Jiaxing, China. Credit…Yan Cong for The New York Times

NANHU LAKE, China — He was anxious about China’s trade war with the United States. He was worried about the rise of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. So Liu Yuanrong, a lifelong member of the Chinese Communist Party, followed the advice of a friend: Go to the lake.

That would be Nanhu Lake, a cradle of Chinese communism in eastern China that in recent years has become a spiritual retreat for the party’s more than 90 million members.

There, near a forest of pine trees one recent day, Mr. Liu straightened his back, furrowed his brow and threw his fist triumphantly into the air.

“I vow to devote my life to defending communism,” said Mr. Liu, a 57-year-old electronics trader from southern China, reciting a party oath. “I vow to sacrifice everything for the party.” Continue reading

How should Western universities respond

Excellent observations and concrete suggestions for Western universities below, in this article by John Fitzgerald.–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: Journal of Political Risk 8, no. 1 (Jan. 2, 2020)
Chinese Scholars Are Calling For Freedom And Autonomy – How Should Western Universities Respond?
By John Fitzgerald, Swinburne University of Technology [1]

Red Guard political slogan on Fudan University campus, Shanghai, China, toward the close of the Cultural Revolution (Spring 1976). ‘Defend party central with blood and life! Defend Chairman Mao with blood and life!’ Source: Wikimedia

In stifling free and open inquiry, China’s universities are being faithful to the party’s Marxist values and authoritarian principles. Universities in the West could display similar backbone by standing up for the values and principles of their own communities, including academic freedom and institutional autonomy, when they deal with education authorities in China. People in China who value freedom and critical inquiry expect nothing less of us.

On December 18, 2019, China’s Ministry of Education announced the latest in a series of revisions of national university constitutions to ensure that the party takes pride of place in their management, curriculum, and international engagements. Public attention was drawn to changes in the charter of Fudan University when footage went viral of students singing their school anthem in protest at the damage done to their school constitution. The Ministry of Education had deleted two phrases from the Fudan charter still preserved in the old school anthem: ‘academic independence and freedom of thought.’[2]

Clearly students in China think academic independence and freedom of thought are worth preserving.  Do scholars in the West agree? If so, how can they help to  defend the fundamental principles and values under assault in Xi Jinping’s China? Continue reading

Mass line internet control

Source: China Media Project (1/6/20))

Mass Line Internet Control

On December 20, 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top body for internet control and regulation, released new rules governing online information, setting out both generally encouraged content types and content that would be regarded as unacceptable — and making clear that all members of Chinese society have a responsibility to take part in internet governance.

The “Provisions on the Governance of the Online Information Content Ecosystem” (网络信息内容生态治理规定), available in translation at China Law Translate, were released in draft form back in September as the CAC formally solicited feedback on the regulations from other departments and the public. The final regulations show little substantive change based on a comparison of the texts, although fines for serious content violations that were specified in the draft version at “100,000 yuan or above, not exceeding 500,000 yuan” were apparently removed in the final version, leaving the question of fines ambiguous. Continue reading

Censorship of ‘One Child Nation’

Source: Daily Beast (1/3/20)
How the Truth Disappears: Chinese Censorship and My Film ‘One Child Nation’
By Nanfu Wang
Nanfu Wang, who co-directed the doc “One Child Nation” exploring China’s one-child policy, writes about how state media has scrubbed mentions of her film.

Courtesy Amazon Studios

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an experience I had as a 13-year-old vocational school student in China. Each night, every class in the school would have to watch Xinwen Lianbo, a daily news program produced by the state-run broadcaster, China Central Television. The same program was broadcast in every city in China, and in schools like mine, it was required viewing for everyone.

To ensure that each student actually paid attention to the broadcast, we were required to write down 20 of the news stories mentioned during the program—10 domestic and 10 international. At the end of the week, every student’s news notebook would be carefully inspected, and anyone who failed to properly record the news reports would be publicly shamed on “Notice of Criticism” billboards positioned around main pathways throughout the campus. I remember being very afraid of seeing my name on those billboards. Continue reading

HK protests multimedia infographic

List members might find this SCMP multimedia infographic report on the Hong Kong protests useful–Kirk


Hong Kong protests: The full story in infographics

Our collection of visual stories sheds light on the events behind the protests gripping Hong Kong. Months of mass demonstrations veering between peaceful rallies and brutal violence has some residents wondering if the city can ever be the same again

China replaces its top HK representative with enforcer

Source: NYT (1/4/20)
China Replaces Its Top Representative in Hong Kong With an Enforcer
After months of protests and an electoral defeat for pro-Beijing political parties, an official with a record of difficult assignments is on the way.

A news broadcast showing Wang Zhimin, then the Chinese government’s top representative in Hong Kong, at a mall in the city in July. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

BEIJING — The Chinese government abruptly replaced its top representative in Hong Kong on Saturday evening, installing a senior Communist Party official with a record of difficult assignments in inland provinces that involved working closely with the security services.

The top representative, Wang Zhimin, was replaced as the head of the powerful Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong by Luo Huining, the official Xinhua news service said. The move came two months after the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee called for measures to “safeguard national security” in Hong Kong, although few details have been released. Continue reading

Pastor sentenced to 9 years

Source: NYT (12/30/19)
China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison
The founder of one of China’s largest unregistered churches was given a lengthy sentence for what the government called subversion of state power.
By Paul Mozur and Ian Johnson

HONG KONG — A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention. Continue reading