Five demands

Posted by: Magnus Fiskesjö <>
Source: Chinascope (2/12/20)
Public Opinion: Intellectuals in China Started Raising Their “Five Demands”

The night of February 6, 2020, saw the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, a Wuhan physician who alerted others about novel coronavirus a month ago. He then contracted the virus when working on the front-line treating patients. There was an outcry among intellectuals within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) establishment. They cried out for freedom of speech.

Citizen News, a social diversity advocate news outlet based in Hong Kong, published an open letter signed by leading Chinese intellectuals with five demands:

  1. The Designation of February 6 as National Freedom of Speech Day (Dr. Li Wenliang Day).
  2. Starting now, fully implement the Chinese people’s right to freedom of speech granted by Article 35 of the Constitution.
  3. Starting now, no political forces or state machine should infringe on the Chinese people when they form associations or communicate among each other. The state organs must immediately stop censoring or blocking the content of social media.
  4. Grant equal rights to citizens in Wuhan city and Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus. All coronavirus patients should be able to receive timely, proper, and effective treatment.
  5. Call for the National People’s Congress to convene an emergency assembly to discuss how to protect citizens’ freedom of speech and do not allow any police force to stop the planned meeting (China holds the National People’s Congress in early March every year).

Continue reading

What history teaches about the coronavirus

Posted by: Wah Guan Lim <>
Source: The Diplomat (2/12/20)
What History Teaches About the Coronavirus Emergency
Lessons of transparency and transnational cooperation from the 1910-11 Manchurian Plague are still relevant to China and the world today.
By Wayne Soon and Ja Ian Chong

Accounts about the disease started sporadically. Somewhere in China people were getting sick in unusual numbers. Then press reports started appearing. Large numbers of people were getting seriously ill along main transport axes. News of deaths soon followed. In a few months 60,000 people would die before the disease came under control. This was not Wuhan in December 2019 and January 2020; it was northeastern China from late 1910 to early 1911. The Manchurian Plague, as the incident came to be known, was the first instance of modern techniques being applied to a public health crisis in China. Lessons of transparency and transnational cooperation from that event more than a century ago are still relevant to China and the world today. Continue reading

Xu Zhangrun ‘Viral Alarm’

Source: China File (2/10/20)
Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear
An Essay by Xu Zhangrun, Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

Translator’s Note

My thanks to Warren Sun who read over the draft translation of this essay and offered a number of insightful suggestions and to two other unnamed friends who helped me rid the text of various infelicities. I blame my obduracy for those that remain. For more essays by Xu Zhangrun in English, and for an account of his persecution by Tsinghua University, see the Xu Zhangrun Archive published by China Heritage.—Geremie Barmé. Subheadings have been added by the translator. The rule of Xi Jinping is officially hailed as China’s “New Era.“

Translator’s Introduction

In July 2018, the Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun published an unsparing critique of the Chinese Communist Party and its Chairman of Everything, Xi Jinping. Xu warned of the dangers of one-man rule, a sycophantic bureaucracy, putting politics ahead of professionalism and the myriad other problems that the system would encounter if it rejected further reforms. That philippic was one of a cycle of works that Xu wrote during a year in which he alerted his readers to pressing issues related to China’s momentous struggle with modernity, the state of the nation under Xi Jinping and the mixed prospects for its future. Those essays will be published in a collection titled Six Chapters from the 2018 Year of the Dog by Hong Kong City University Press in May this year.

Although he was demoted by Tsinghua University in March 2019 and banned from teaching, writing and publishing, Xu has remained defiant. His latest polemical work—“When Fury Overcomes Fear”—translated below, appeared online on February 4, 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic swept China and infections overseas sparked concern around the world. Continue reading

New strain of resistance

Source: SCMP (2/10/20)
A new strain of resistance? How the coronavirus crisis is changing Hong Kong’s protest movement
Hard-core activists back off but contagion helping to maintain momentum of city’s anti-government movement. Mass strikes threat as new unions emerge ready to wreak havoc during this crisis, or the next.
By Natalie Wong and Tony Cheung

Hard-core activists back off but coronavirus helping to maintain momentum of city’s anti-government movement. Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen

Hard-core activists back off but coronavirus helping to maintain momentum of city’s anti-government movement. Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen

When about 9,000 medical workers went on strike for five days early this month, it signalled not only their dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong government’s handling of the new coronavirus outbreak, but also a change in the city’s protest movement.

After more than eight months of anti-government street marches, violence and vandalism, with riot police responding by firing tear gas and other crowd-dispersal weapons, the health crisis led to protests being called off.

New police tactics since the new year, with officers intervening earlier at demonstrations to end violence and arrest protesters, also had the effect of keeping protesters away. Continue reading

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.

What you need to know about the coronavirus

Source: Sup China (2/3/20)
What You Need To Know About The Coronavirus Epidemic


Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng.

After the World Health Organization’s declaration last Thursday that the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China, is a public health emergency, it feels like the entire world is preparing for a pandemic.

  • As much as 80 percent of China’s economy remains shut this week, as at least 24 provinces, cities, and regional governments in China have extended the Lunar New Year holiday through February 10, according to CNBC.
  • The first coronavirus death outside of China was reported in the Philippines, per the New York Times, as the total fatality count within China surged to 361, surpassing the 2003 SARS outbreak.
  • “Dozens of countries” have put up travel bans, many following the lead of the U.S., limiting immigration across their borders to citizens only to contain the spread of the virus, Bloomberg reports via the SCMP. Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, India, the Maldives, North Korea, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, and Israel are among those with the strictest bans on entry by non-citizens.
  • Many more countries have put in place severe restrictions that fall short of a total ban, and nearly 10,000 flights from more than 20 airlines have been canceled in the past month, slowing cross-border migration with China to a trickle.
  • No one is listening to the World Health Organization, which has repeatedly advised against extreme travel bans to deal with the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Chinese financial markets saw a marked drop on Monday as they reopened after the Lunar New Year holiday break.
  • “Officials of some of the world’s largest oil producers are scrambling to stem a sharp fall in prices over concerns that the growing coronavirus epidemic will hit demand from China, the biggest importer,” the New York Times reports.

Continue reading

Coronavirus is a greater menace than SARS

Source: NYT (2/3/20)
SARS Stung the Global Economy. The Coronavirus Is a Greater Menace.
In the nearly 20 years since SARS, China’s importance in the global economy has grown exponentially.
By Peter S. Goodman

Apple said on Saturday that it was temporarily closing all its stores in China, including this one in Beijing, because of the coronavirus outbreak. Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

In 2002, when a lethal, pneumonialike virus known as SARS emerged in China, the country’s factories were mostly churning out low-cost goods like T-shirts and sneakers for customers around the world.

Seventeen years later, another deadly virus is spreading rapidly through the world’s most populous country. But China has evolved into a principal element of the global economy, making the epidemic a substantially more potent threat to fortunes.

International companies that rely on Chinese factories to make their products and depend on Chinese consumers for sales are already warning of costly problems.

Apple, Starbucks and Ikea have temporarily closed stores in China. Shopping malls are deserted, threatening sales of Nike sneakers, Under Armour clothing and McDonald’s hamburgers. Factories making cars for General Motors and Toyota are delaying production as they wait for workers to return from the Lunar New Year holiday, which has been extended by the government to halt the spread of the virus. International airlines, including American, Delta, United, Lufthansa and British Airways, have canceled flights to China. Continue reading