Dodging censorship on WeChat

Source: Quartz (8/15/18)
Researchers have figured out ways to dodge censorship on WeChat
By Echo Huang

WeChat users in China have come up with creative ways to circumvent censorship, and one of the more effective methods they’ve discovered seems to be sharing images instead of text, which can be easily caught by censors. In the case of China’s #MeToo movement, which authorities tried to shut down, social-media users decided to share a university student’s censored letter by posting images of it upside down in hopes of dodging the country’s filters.

It’s an ongoing mystery how censorship works on WeChat, which appears to affect only those accounts that are linked to mainland phone numbers. But new research from Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto, is offering some clues on getting around it. Continue reading

Xu Zhangrun essay

Here’s an essay by Xu Zhangrun 許章潤, “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes” (我們當下的恐懼與期待), as translated and introduced by Geremie Barmé.

Barmé introduces the essay as follows:

Xu Zhangrun’s essay ‘Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes’ 我們當下的恐懼與期待, offers words of warning to China’s leaders, as well as a series of practical (although unimaginable) policy suggestions. Xu’s style is a heady admix of the most dense kind of writing combining the vernacular with the literary registers of written Chinese. Despite the sometimes knotty circumlocutions, it is an incisive, amusing and sarcasm-laden work. It does not spare its reader literary references, quotations from important traditional and modern works, the use of historical analogy, or indeed contemporary jokes and vulgarities.

Although the author’s message is clear, his layered and nuanced prose may well be overlooked by the careless reader or dismissed by those ignorant of Chinese discourse as mere affectation, nothing more than an effort to appeal to sanctified tradition, a kind of pedantic footnoting or a flashy display of scholarship. However, for those familiar with modern Chinese prose more generally, such devices are par for the course. This kind of literary-historical-intellectual 文史哲 usage adds both literary validation and strength to prose that appeals both to the heart and the mind of the Chinese world. Merely to mine this kind of writing for transient and ill-conceived political purposes, or to fail to appreciate the broader cultural, social and political ambience that it reflects — one far beyond the limited purview of the Communists and their immediate critics — is to overlook an essential part of Chinese cultural expression.

Xu’s original article may be found via this link:

Communist Youth League explains Xinjiang camps

RFA has a translation of an official Communist Youth League explanation of the camps in Xinjiang. It makes for truly chilling reading–discourses of disease, malignant tumors, and eradication are particularly disturbing in this context.–Kevin Carrico <>

Source: Radio Free Asia (8/8/18)
Xinjiang Political ‘Re-Education Camps’ Treat Uyghurs ‘Infected by Religious Extremism’: CCP Youth League

An official Chinese Communist Party recording recently obtained by RFA’s Uyghur Service characterizes Uyghurs who have been sent for political “re-education” as “infected by an ideological illness”—not unlike a disease that must be treated at a hospital. The 12-minute Uyghur language audio recording issued in October 2017 offers a rare glimpse into Beijing’s justification for its network of political “re-education camps” used since April 2017 to jail or detain Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The XUAR’s Party Youth League recording, entitled ‘What Kind of Place is the Educational Transformation Center,’ was published Oct. 11, 2017 on the WeChat social media network by Talap/Tagdim [Request/Offer] Salon and addressed to Uyghur youth as part of a bid to assuage concerns over the camps, which credible reports suggest have held upwards of 1.1 million people, or 10-11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the XUAR. Aside from a brief mention in a recent article carried by state media, China’s central government authorities have not publicly acknowledged the existence of the camps, and the number of inmates kept in each facility remains a closely guarded secret. The following are excerpts from the recording: Continue reading

China defends controls in Xinjiang

Source: The Guardian (8/13/18)
China defends ‘intense controls’ in Xinjiang amid detention claims
UN panel says 1m ethnic Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps in region
By Lily Kuo in Beijing

Police patrol a Uighur neighbourhood in Ürümqi, China

Police patrol a Uighur neighbourhood in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang, home to about 12 million Muslims. Photograph: Tom Phillips/Guardian

Chinese state media have defended the country’s “intense controls” in Xinjiang, a western territory where human rights advocates claim thousands of Muslim minorities are being routinely detained in mass internment camps.

On Friday, a UN human rights panel said it had received credible reports that as many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs were being held in camps, where they can be kept indefinitely, without due process. Continue reading

Chinese Feminist and Activism summer camp

There will be a summer camp on Chinese Feminist and Activism in the great NYC area this August (24-26).

Goal and topic:

This camp aims to raise awareness and build capacity related to “Chinese feminist activism”. It’s goals are:

1/Creating the feminist community network in North America centered on great NYC area.
2/Improving the collective capability to analyze the current social issues from the gender perspective.
3/Developing the future action plan based on activism. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei’s studio demolished

Source: Artnet News (8/6/18)
‘Farewell’: Ai Weiwei’s Beijing Studio Is Demolished by Chinese Authorities Without Warning
The rental contract on the studio expired last fall.
By Naomi Rea

A jackhammer is seen beside rubble at artist Ai Weiwei’s “Left and Right Art Studio” in Beijing on August 3, 2018. Photo by Pak Yiu/AFP/Getty Images.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio was razed to the ground by authorities on Friday afternoon.

The 61-year-old artist revealed the news on Instagram, writing, “Today, they started to demolish my studio ‘zuo you’ in Beijing with no precaution.” The expansive space in the ZuoYou (Left Right) Art District, a former car part factory that the artist describes as an “East German style socialist factory building,” has served as the artist’s main studio since 2006. “Farewell,” Ai wrote on Instagram. Continue reading

Xinjiang camps biblio

Someone asked me for readings on the Xinjiang camps, and I compiled this biblio to keep track; cleaned it up to share here. Unfortunately will have to be updated–feel free to send me more. –This is huge, historic, horrible.–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

China’s ‘re-education’/concentration camps in Xinjiang – Select news reports & academic works

Comp. by Magnus Fiskesjö []. Last rev. August 3, 2018

First: News reports from 2018; then, a section with more academic studies on Xinjiang

News and reports in chronological order (from 2018):

China: Massive Numbers of Uyghurs & Other Ethnic Minorities Forced into Re-education Programs. CHRD, August 3, 2018.

Ethnic cleansing makes a comeback — in China. By Josh Rogin, Columnist, Washington Post, August 2, 2018.–in-china/2018/08/02/55f73fa2-9691-11e8-810c-5fa705927d54_story.html Continue reading

Rare glimpse of Xinjiang concentration camps

Below, a rare direct witness account from inside the horror of China’s concentration camps in Xinjiang. This is the brief witness of a Kazach Chinese citizen, Sayragul Sauytbay of Xinjiang, who was forced to serve as a reeducation camp Mandarin teacher, and saw the horrors there. She fled to Kazachstan and was jailed and tried there, but let go by the Kazachstan court which chose to not deport her back to China. She had said to the court, she’d accept any punishment for her illegal crossing, but not to be sent back to China. (Also see her brief TV interview here:

As the interview below mentions, she has now been punished again the usual way, by remote control, by sending her remaining family to the camps, as has been done with many Xinjiang citizens both in China, and in foreign countries. Continue reading

Xi faces rare rebuke at home

Source: NYT (7/31/18)
As China’s Woes Mount, Xi Jinping Faces Rare Rebuke at Home
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Chris Buckley

Xi Jinping, center, during the National People’s Congress in Beijing in March.CreditFred Dufour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, seemed indomitable when lawmakers abolished a term limit on his power early this year. But months later, China has been struck by economic headwinds, a vaccine scandal and trade battles with Washington, emboldening critics in Beijing who are questioning Mr. Xi’s sweeping control.

Censorship and punishment have muted dissent in China since Mr. Xi came to power. So Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, took a big risk last week when he delivered the fiercest denunciation yet from a Chinese academic of Mr. Xi’s hard-line policies, revival of Communist orthodoxies and adulatory propaganda image. Continue reading

Dissident in his 80s arrested

Posted by: Joe Allen <>
Source: The Guardian (8/2/18)
Chinese dissident in his 80s arrested at home during live TV interview
Sun Wenguang just had time to say ‘I am entitled to freedom of speech’ before being cut off
By Emma Graham-Harrison

Sun Wenguang

Sun Wenguang, who is a retired professor, during a telephone interview with Voice of America. Photograph: Voice of America

Chinese security forces broke into the home of a dissident academic during a live television interview and detained him on air in the latest sign of China’s deteriorating human rights situation.

“I am entitled to freedom of speech,” were Sun Wenguang’s last words before the line was cut.

The octogenarian, a retired physics and economics professor, lives in the eastern city of Jinan. He has been a rights activist and thorn in the government’s side for decades, most recently penning an open letter criticising President Xi Jinping. Continue reading

Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware and Cold Warfare

Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö <> (I agree: how could these institutions do this to themselves?)

Source: Inside Higher Education (7/26/18)
Opinion: Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware and Cold Warfare
Confucius Institutes and classrooms installed in colleges and K-12 schools the world around function as propaganda branches of the Chinese government, writes Marshall Sahlins.
By Marshall Sahlins

There are presently upward of 100 Confucius Institutes embedded in American colleges and universities, and many more Confucius classrooms in American K-12 schools. Funded by the Chinese government, their activities commonly include courses in Chinese language and culture taught by personnel likewise supplied by the People’s Republic.

Although Hanban, the Beijing headquarters of the Confucius Institutes, commonly advertises itself as a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education, the instructional activities of which are devoted to promoting a harmonious multicultural world order, this is a benign disguise. Hanban is in fact controlled by high officials of the Chinese party-state implementing the policies of the PRC propaganda apparatus. The governing council of Hanban, which annually sets its agenda, has long been headed by a member of the Politburo. A number of its ranking officials, beside their high status in such ministries as foreign affairs, finance and national development, are members of so-called small leading groups of the Party’s propaganda and ideology sections — which thus function as conduits for the realization of Politburo policies in the operations of Confucius Institutes. And insofar as Confucius Institutes and classrooms are installed in colleges and K-12 schools the world around, these educational institutions function as peripheral propaganda branches of the Chinese party-state. Continue reading

New anti-corruption agency

Source: Sup China (7/19/18)
Is China’s new anti-corruption agency abusing its power?
By Jiayun Feng

To expand the scope of its anti-graft campaigns, China established a super-sized anti-corruption agency called the National Supervision Commission (NSC) in March. Operating alongside the central government and above the judiciary, the new body was designed to oversee the use of power by all public personnel in the country, as a supplement to the Party’s own powerful anti-corruption body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). In theory, the new commission is supposed to work outside the court system and can only deny its own detainees’ access to a lawyer, but signs have emerged that its exercise of power is alarmingly unchecked.

  • A recent case in Hunan Province raised concerns about the agency’s “bloated power.” The South China Morning Post reports that Chen Jieren, an outspoken political commentator and former journalist, was detained by police after publishing two articles critical of senior local officials. While in custody, he was denied access to his lawyer and was told by the police that the commission had launched a bribery investigation into him and his family.
  • In May, a former government contract worker died in custody after being held the local office of the commision in Fujian Province, according to Caixin Global (paywall).
  • Some legal analysts and human rights experts are concerned about the agency’s abuses of power. “Mistreating suspects is likely to hinder, rather than help, the purported campaign to fight corruption,” Sophie Richardson from Human Rights Watch told Business Insider, adding that the way the NSC deals with suspects might cause disillusionment with the anti-graft crackdown.
  • A long-standing question still remains unanswered: Who will, ultimately, supervise the supervisors? Jamie P. Horsley wrote, “For two decades, the CCP has been promoting legal restraints on the exercise of state power — in part, to counter corruption — through such mechanisms as official transparency, civic participation, and government accountability enforced by more-professional courts. However, the National Supervision Commission appears to be exempted from those restraints.”

War on variety shows

Source: SupChina (7/16/18)
China Is Escalating Its War On Variety Shows, Including Saturday Night Live
By Jiayun Feng

The Chinese version of Saturday Night Live (周六夜现场 zhōu liù yè xiànchǎng) and 真相吧!花花万物 (zhēnxiàng ba! huāhuā wànwù — roughly, “Tell me the truth! Spending money on everything”), two variety shows exclusively on the video streaming platform Youku, have recently been taken down for no apparent reason.

真相吧!花花万物, a talk show hosted by Taiwanese celebrities Kevin Tsai 蔡康永 and Dee Hsu 徐熙娣, was found unavailable on July 13. The Beijing News reports (in Chinese) that Chinese SNL disappeared the next day. A Youku spokesperson did not respond to the paper’s request for comment. Continue reading

China Studies between Censorship and Self-censorship

Dear Colleagues,

The following hard-hitting op-ed by Kevin Carrico, forthcoming in the next issue of Made in China, should be of broad interest for this group.


Ivan Franceschini (

China Studies between Censorship and Self-censorship
Kevin Carrico, Macquarie University

It has not been a very auspicious year for freedom of expression in China Studies.

In August 2017, Cambridge University Press (CUP) removed over three hundred articles published in The China Quarterly from its Chinese website. The articles had been chosen for censorship by very haphazard searches based on ‘sensitive’ keywords: Tiananmen, Cultural Revolution, Taiwan, Tibet. After a rare vocal backlash, CUP reversed its decision.

Just a few months later in November, news broke that Springer Nature had done the same. Unlike Cambridge, Springer cravenly stood by its decision to censor as a matter of complying with ‘local distribution laws’, ironically portraying its two-tier system granting China-based scholars second-class access as a matter of maintaining access. Continue reading

Brother Nut gets results

Source: NYT (7/13/18)
With 9,000 Bottles of Dirty ‘Spring Water,’ a Chinese Artist Gets Results
查看本文中文版 | 查看本文繁體中文版
By Olivia Mitchell Ryan and Zoe Mou

“The things I’m concerned about are all related to people’s survival experience,” said Brother Nut, an artist and activist in Beijing. He filled thousands of Nongfu Spring water bottles with filthy groundwater from a village in central China to draw attention to its pollution problem. CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

BEIJING — The 9,000 bottles of water on display at an art gallery in Beijing last month appeared identical to those of Nongfu Spring, one of China’s most popular spring water brands, with one jarring difference. Inside each bottle was brown, murky groundwater collected from a Chinese village.

The water from the village, Xiaohaotu, in the central province of Shaanxi, is polluted with heavy metals, the likely result of nearby coal mining and gas exploration operations, residents and officials say. Continue reading