Prosecutor turns rights defender

Source: NYT (10/20/20)
In China, the Formidable Prosecutor Turned Lonely Rights Defender
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
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

Made in China 5.2: Spectral Revolutions

Dear Colleagues,

I am glad to announce the publication of the latest issue of the Made in China Journal. You can download it for free at this link:

Below you can find the editorial:

Spectral Revolutions: Occult Economies in Asia

The most Gothic description of Capital is also the most accurate. Capital is an abstract parasite, an insatiable vampire and zombie-maker; but the living flesh it converts into dead labor is ours, and the zombies it makes are us. There is a sense in which it simply is the case that the political elite are our servants; the miserable service they provide for us is to launder our libidos, to obligingly re-present for us our disavowed desires as if they had nothing to do with us.
Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism (2009) Continue reading

Film on aging debuts in Pingyao

Source: China Daily (10/14/20)
Young director’s film on China’s aging population debuts in Pingyao
By Xu Fan | |

A scene in Being Mortal. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As one of China’s most influential movie events to gather arthouse enthusiasts, the ongoing 4th Pingyao Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon International Film Festival has attracted many young talents to screen their latest directorial outings.

The annual festival, founded by award-winning director Jia Zhangke, is being held in Pingyao, an historic city in North China’s Shanxi province. It opened Saturday and ends Monday.

Liu Ze, a Shanxi native born in 1983, held the global premiere of his new movie, Being Mortal, during the festival on Saturday. 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

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

Vlogger set on fire by ex during live stream

Source: BBC News (10/2/20)
Chinese vlogger dies after ‘set on fire by ex during live stream’

GETTY IMAGES: A phone using the Douyin app. Lamu was allegedly live streaming when she was attacked

A Chinese influencer has died after her ex-husband allegedly doused her in petrol and set fire to her as she was attempting to live stream, said local media reports.

Lamu was popular on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, where she had hundreds of thousands of followers.

Lamu suffered burns on 90% of her body and died two weeks after the attack.

The case has prompted conversation on social media about violence against women in China.

Lamu, 30, from China’s Sichuan province, was known for her happy posts on rural life and was praised for not using make up in her videos, which had millions of likes. 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

Sex education controversy

Source: SupChina (9/22/20)
Sex education advocates push back after Chinese parent denounces reproductive anatomy lesson in primary school
Although the State Council, China’s Cabinet, urged all schools to make sexual and reproductive health education part of their compulsory curriculums in 2011, lessons covering sex-related topics are still limited and not offered at all in many Chinese schools.
By Jiayun Feng

sex education china

A Chinese mother of a nine-year-old girl recently shared her indignation over how her child was taught about human anatomy and reproduction at school, accusing her daughter’s teacher of providing sex education too early.

Her complaint, however, was swiftly dismissed as prudish and backward by an overwhelming number of people on social media, who leveraged the situation to call for more candid conversations about sex in Chinese classrooms.

According to a series of screenshots of WeChat messages shared by the parent, she decided to reach out to the teacher after her daughter came home from school one day, telling her what she learned about “pregnancy” and “anatomical differences between men and women.” Continue reading

Our Time Machine

This documentary film, Our Time Machine (dirs.  Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang), looks really interesting. It will be screening on PBS over the next couple of weeks in the POV series. Check your local listings, as they say. Not sure if it’s available online, for those of you outside the US.–Kirk

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

Combating stigma around mental health

Source: SupChina (9/16/20)
China orders depression screenings for college students and pregnant women
A positive step toward combating stigma around mental health in China.
By Jiayun Feng

In a major step to combat stigma around mental health and raise public awareness around the issue, China has announced a new set of policies aimed at enhancing early interventions to prevent depression and providing better treatment for people with depressive thoughts.

The guidelines (in Chinese), issued by China’s National Health Commission on September 14, specifically orders a wider implementation of depression screenings for people susceptible to high stress and anxiety, including teenagers, pregnant and postpartum women, and people with high-pressure jobs.

According to the document, Chinese high schools and universities are required to make depression screenings part of their regular medical check-ups for students. The directive also instructs educational institutions to give “special attention” to students who appear to have depressive symptoms during their checks. Continue reading

Covid TV drama draws ire over depiction of women

Source: NYT (9/20/20)
A TV Drama on China’s Fight With Covid-19 Draws Ire Over Its Depiction of Women
A scene from a state-sponsored show extolled men who volunteered but played down women’s contributions. Internet users are calling for the show to be pulled from the air.
By Vivian Wang

Nurses during a ceremony marking International Nurses Day at a hospital in Wuhan, China. More than 90 percent of the nurses deployed to Wuhan at the height of the coronavirus outbreak were women. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The scene came seven minutes into a new Chinese-government-sponsored television drama, so short that it would have been easy to miss: The head of a bus company in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, asks his drivers if they are willing to make emergency runs during the city’s lockdown. A line of volunteers forms. None are women.

That roughly minute-long clip has set off a furor on Chinese social media. Users have called the scene — in which the official then asks why no women have stepped up — a flagrant example of sexism in Chinese society and an attempt to erase women’s contributions to the fight against the virus. In reality, women made up the majority of front-line workers during the crisis, according to the official news media.

By Sunday, a hashtag about that segment, which aired on Thursday, had been viewed more than 140 million times. Tens of thousands of people had called for the show to be taken off the air. 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