Chen Qiushi silenced

Source: CNN (2/9/20)
He spoke out about the Wuhan virus. Now his family and friends fear he’s been silenced
By Nectar Gan, Natalie Thomas and David Culver, CNN

Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who had been reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, could no longer be reached by friends and family since Thursday.

Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who had been reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, could no longer be reached by friends and family since Thursday.

(CNN)As people across China mourned the death of a whistleblower doctor in an almost unprecedented outpouring of grief and anger on Thursday, little did they know that another truth-teller of the coronavirus outbreak was being silenced, according to friends and family.

Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who had been doing critical reporting from Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak, went missing on Thursday evening, just as hundreds of thousands of people in China began demanding freedom of speech online. Continue reading

Three views of ‘One Child Nation’

Source: China File (2/6/20)
What a Picture of China’s One-Child Policy Leaves Out
Three Views of Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s ‘One Child Nation’
By Jie Li, Susan Greenhalgh, and Karen Thornber

Kevin Frayer—Getty Images. A student performs eye exercises in her classroom in Beijing, December 18, 2015.


Brainwashed? Reflections on Propaganda in One Child Nation
By Jie Li

One Child Nation, a documentary distributed by Amazon Studios which was shortlisted for an Academy Award, is becoming one of the most influential films about China in the United States. Marketed as “the truth beyond the propaganda,” the film’s opening credits juxtapose luminous jars of aborted and abandoned fetuses against a military parade of robotic marching soldiers. Equating propaganda with lies, violence, and farce, One Child Nation at once reveals and recycles the logic, power, and aesthetics of propaganda.

Born in 1985, six years after the one-child policy was launched, filmmaker Nanfu Wang grew up seeing its omnipresent reminders “painted on the walls, printed on playing cards, calendars, matches, snack boxes, posters, all of them blended into the background of life in China.” She brings her American-born baby son back to her village in rural Jiangxi province, and describes herself as starting to “remember” the propaganda about the policy in textbooks, plaques on people’s doors, opera and dance performances, TV, and children’s songs. The film includes a photo of her as a teenager in a choir: “This was me performing propaganda songs. We all had the same makeup, the same dresses, and the same mentality.” This makes her wonder “if the thoughts I had were really my own, or if they were simply learned.” The film’s agenda, then, is to expose and unlearn propaganda. . . [click here to read all three essays in full]

Coronavirus a disaster for China’s nationalism

Source: Commonwealth 天下 (2/5/20)
Coronavirus Outbreak is a Disaster of China’s Nationalism: Academia Sinica Scholar
By Yi-Shan Chen

Coronavirus Outbreak is a Disaster of China's Nationalism: Academia Sinica Scholar

Source:Kuo-Tai Liu

Shao-Hua Liu (劉紹華) has studied the prevention of infectious diseases in post-1949 China. She believed that so long as China refuses to disclose information and face the full judgment of history, China, the world, and neighboring Taiwan will just have to get used to an unending stream of new epidemics and crises coming from China.

“Following categorical denial and the outbreak of the epidemic, the government is compelled to confess; large-scale forced evacuations; panic and stigmatization spreading faster than the disease itself; lack of a cohesive plan for citizens’ livelihood, medical staff pushed to the front line without any backup policies; mass fear and public anger.”

These are the words used by Shao-Hua Liu (劉紹華), Research Fellow and resident anthropologist at the Academia Sinica, to describe China’s past response to HIV and leprosy outbreaks. If one tries to write about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, one won’t have to change a word.

Liu has studied the prevention of infectious diseases in post-1949 China. She authored books such as “Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China” (我的涼山兄弟:毒品、愛滋與流動青年) and “Leprosy Doctors in China’s Post-Imperial Experimentation: Metaphors of a Disease and Its Control” (麻風醫生與巨變中國). The former was banned after publication in China; the latter was never allowed to publish. Her prediction about the Wuhan coronavirus is pessimistic. Continue reading

Online revolt over death of whistle-blower

Source: NYT (2/7/20)
A Rare Online Revolt Emerges in China Over Death of Coronavirus Whistle-Blower
The doctor, Li Wenliang, had been silenced by the police after warning about the new coronavirus that has killed hundreds in China and sickened thousands.
By Li Yuan

A makeshift memorial for Dr. Li Wenliang at Wuhan City Central Hospital on Friday. Credit…Chris Buckley/The New York Times

They posted videos of the Les Misérables song, “Do You Hear the People Sing.” They invoked article No. 35 of China’s Constitution, which stipulates freedom of speech. They tweeted a phrase from the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

The Chinese public have staged what amounts to an online revolt after the death of a doctor, Li Wenliang, who tried to warn of a mysterious virus that has since killed hundreds of people in China, infected tens of thousands and forced the government to corral many of the country’s 1.4 billion people.

Since late Thursday, people from different backgrounds, including government officials, prominent business figures and ordinary online users, have posted numerous messages expressing their grief at the doctor’s death and their anger over his silencing by the police after sharing his knowledge about the new coronavirus. It has prompted a nationwide soul-searching under an authoritarian government that allows for little dissent. Continue reading

Digital radicals of Wuhan

Source: Center on Digital Culture and Society (2/3/20)
The Digital Radicals of Wuhan
Guobin Yang

woman and others exiting building with armed guards


Since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, social media have become a particularly important means of communication for people in Wuhan and other Chinese cities. The multi-function instant-messaging platform WeChat is crucial for relatively private communication among family members and acquaintances, as well as for public dissemination and discussion of outbreak-related information. In recent years, the microblogging platform Sina Weibo has been cleansed of its critical sentiments amidst state-sponsored campaigns of civilizing the web. Now it seems that Weibo has recovered from its reluctant docility, if only temporarily. It is filled with angry tweets about the scandalously inept responses of bureaucrats and government institutions to the public health crisis. Touching stories about ordinary people’s livelihood in Wuhan also abound. Continue reading

Subtle muckrakers of the coronavirus epidemic

Source: NYT (2/5/20)
The Subtle Muckrakers of the Coronavirus Epidemic
Reporters and citizen-journalists in China are asking hard questions about the crisis. Why is the government letting them?
By Maria Repnikova (the author of “Media Politics in China: Improvising Power Under Authoritarianism.”)

Journalists at a press conference about the coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, last month. Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

The outbreak of the coronavirus has brought international scrutiny down on China’s political system. Again. A few commentators have applauded the efficiency of the Chinese Communist Party’s response, but most have zoomed in on its weaknesses. Some have even blamed the party itself for the outbreak, calling the disease a “Communist coronavirus” or “the Belt and Road Pandemic.”

Once again, China is largely being depicted as a monolith, and the party as though it exercises near-complete control, “crushing almost every wisp of freedom and oversight,” according to one columnist. But the party’s authority isn’t absolute. And to suggest that it might be is to obscure the dynamism that Chinese society has managed to preserve over the years despite the government’s tightening restrictions. Continue reading

Technology theft

Source: The Guardian (2/6/20)
China theft of technology is biggest law enforcement threat to US, FBI says
Christopher Wray says China using ‘any means necessary’. Chinese theft of US trade secrets costing ‘$300bn-$600bn a year’.
By Reuters

A lamp post outside the White House is adorned with Chinese and US national flags in Washington.

A lamp post outside the White House is adorned with Chinese and US national flags in Washington. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI on Thursday identified China as the biggest law enforcement threat to the United States, and its director said Beijing was seeking to steal American technology by “any means necessary”.

The FBI director, Christopher Wray, told a conference the bureau currently had about 1,000 investigations open into Chinese technology theft across its 56 regional offices.

The agency’s counterintelligence chief, John Brown, said the bureau arrested 24 people in 2019 in China-related cases and had already arrested 19 people in 2020. Continue reading

Coronavirus and the panic epidemic

Source: NYT (2/2/20)
Coronavirus and the Panic Epidemic
The Chinese government is going all-out because it knows the people don’t entirely trust it.
By Ian Johnson

Riding the nearly deserted Beijing subway this week. Credit…Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

BEIJING — The absurdity of the situation hit me on Wednesday when I was coming home from a local bar at 8 p.m. I had ridden my bike a few hours earlier to a park for a walk and then to meet a friend — my first human contact in five days, excluding the cashier at the grocery store.

But the side gate I’d used to leave the enormous Communist-era compound was now chained shut. What? A notice in Chinese said it was locked to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

So I headed toward the north entrance. That one is for pedestrians and has two barriers set slightly apart, just wide enough to get through on foot. That’s O.K., I thought, I can squeeze by with my bike and be home in a few minutes. Continue reading

Wrestling back the agenda

Source: China Media Project (2/5/20)

Wrestling Back the Agenda

Cover image by Nicolo Lazzati available at under CC license.

Anotice released to Chinese media this week concerning the coronavirus outbreak suggests that in terms of information and media policy we have now entered a new phase in which propaganda authorities are making a renewed push to secure the source of information and wrestle back control of public opinion.

Over the past two weeks, as the scale of the epidemic and the attempted cover-up became clear, Chinese commercial media and “self-media” (自媒体) led the charge in reporting and commentary, and authorities found it difficult to restrain information — particularly in the face of public anger and insatiable demand. This pattern is very similar to what we saw in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the 2011 Wenzhou train collision, providing a narrow window of opportunity to more enterprising media.

That window now seems to be closing. The focus of the authorities is on controlling the source and then pushing reporting and framing by trusted Party-state media as “authoritative” information. The instructions are as follows:

Reports concerning the epidemic must take [information from] authoritative departments as the standard. Sources of articles must be strictly regulated (严格规范), independent reporting (自采) is strictly prohibited, and the use of non-regulated (非规范) article sources, particularly self-media (自媒体) is strictly prohibited. Without joint arrangements [with authorities], daring to use outside media reports is strictly prohibited. When distributing authoritative reports, the original meaning of the news must not be twisted, such as through “misleading headlines” (标题党). Pop-up means must not be used to push unregulated articles or information, unverified information and information that might have a negative influence. Do not render commentary on our global mobilization to purchase prevention and control materials, in order to avoid interference with our overseas purchasing work. Do not render commentary on the economic impact of the epidemic, resolutely preventing talk of the Chinese economy being undermined by the epidemic. On the extension of the Spring Festival holiday in various locales, do not collect [information], do not make comparisons, and do not relate this with hyping or commentary to the impact on economic development.

Kazakh family caught in Xinjiang vortex

Source: Global Voices (1/22/20)
Kazakh family of writers and musicians caught in the Xinjiang vortex
Three siblings in camps and nobody to care for their elderly mother
By Mehmet Volkan and Chris Rickleton

The Oralbais — another family destroyed by China’s crackdown in Xinjiang. Photo used with permission

When they were children, Bagila and Baktygul Oralbai frequently went swimming. Their village was on the shores of the Ili river and their childhood memories were shaped by that great body of water that flows from the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Xinjiang region to Almaty province in neighboring Kazakhstan.

Their older brother, Dilshat, often joined them. In the warmer months, Dilshat would fish on the river, and in the winter, when it froze over, he would snowboard there. All six Oralbai children loved music, but it was Bagila and Baktygul that sang and danced whenever Dilshat played his dombra, a traditional Kazakh stringed instrument.

Their idyllic childhood, recalled by the trio’s sister Gulaisha Oralbai, finds echoes in the family histories of many other ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang. But this way of life, along with those of other Turkic and majority-Muslim groups living in the region (Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Hui and Tatars) is fast vanishing under a crackdown directed by the Communist Party of China (CCP) that many argue amounts to cultural genocide. Continue reading

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