New developments on Xinjiang genocide

Several major new developments as regards the ongoing Chinese genocide against the Uyghur people.

1) A major conference held in Newcastle, England was held 1-3 Sept, 2021, “The #Xinjiang Crisis: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Justice” – full set of session recordings now available as online videos, here. ( … my own paper, on the cultural destruction, was in panel 5).

2) The Uyghur Tribunal concluded its 2nd and final round of hearings in London September 10-13 and has also published the entire hearings online.

The Tribunal is a private pro-bono initiative to interview witnesses (survivors, experts, and more) and accumulate documentation, as an encouragement to world governments who have largely failed to go from expressing “concern” to action against China. The tribunal will publish its conclusions in December. A summary report on the tribunal (and China’s government lashing out against it) is here.

3) Meanwhile, right at the same time, the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a momentous 2 sentences statement declaring that (after 4 years of trying), she is giving up on her efforts to send an inspection team to China. Continue reading

Ghost cities stirring to life

Source: Bloomberg (9/1/21)
China’s Ghost Cities Are Finally Stirring to Life After Years of Empty Streets
By Bloomberg News

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On a bridge in Zhengdong New District, Zhengzhou.. PHOTOGRAPHER: YUFAN LU FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

Conjured out of nothing and lived in by seemingly no one, China’s so-called ghost cities became the subject of Western media fascination a decade ago. Photos of these huge urban developments went viral online, presenting scenes of compelling weirdness: empty apartment towers stranded in a sea of mud; broad boulevards devoid of cars or people; over-the-top architectural showpieces with no apparent function.

“In places called ghost cities you find massive, ambitious urbanizing projects that spark investment but don’t draw population all at once,” says Max Woodworth, an associate professor of geography at Ohio State University who’s written extensively on the topic. “The result is a landscape that appears very citylike but without much action in it.” China was underurbanized for many years, Woodworth says, and has raced to correct that. But the pace of building often outstrips the rate at which newcomers move in, even with investors snapping up apartments as Chinese home prices rise.

As the economy continues its long shift away from agriculture, urbanization and construction have become twin catalysts of China’s unparalleled growth. In 1978 just 18% of its population lived in cities; by last year that figure had reached 64%. The country now has at least 10 megacities with more than 10 million residents each, and more than one-tenth of the world’s population resides in Chinese cities. Continue reading

China increasingly rejects English

Source: NYT (9/9/21)
‘Reversing Gears’: China Increasingly Rejects English, and the World
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A movement against Western influence threatens to close off a nation that succeeded in part by welcoming new ideas.
By Li Yuan

Credit…Jialun Deng

As a student at Peking University law school in 1978, Li Keqiang kept both pockets of his jacket stuffed with handwritten paper slips. An English word was written on one side, a former classmate recalled, and the matching Chinese version was written on the other.

Mr. Li, now China’s premier, was part of China’s English-learning craze. A magazine called Learning English sold half a million subscriptions that year. In 1982, about 10 million Chinese households — almost equivalent to Chinese TV ownership at the time — watched “Follow Me,” a BBC English-learning program with lines like: “What’s your name?” “My name is Jane.”

It’s hard to exaggerate the role English has played in changing China’s social, cultural, economic and political landscape. English is almost synonymous with China’s reform and opening-up policies, which transformed an impoverished and hermetic nation into the world’s second-biggest economy.

That’s why it came as a shock to many when the education authorities in Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city in the country, last month forbade local elementary schools to hold final exams on the English language. Continue reading

Weibo suspends 22 K-pop accounts

Source: BBC News (9/7/21)
Chinese social media site Weibo suspends 22 K-pop accounts
By Mark Savage, BBC music reporter

Park Ji-Min from the K-pop band BTS

GETTY IMAGE: Park Ji-Min from the K-pop band BTS. Fans of BTS star Jimin were among those who had their accounts banned

A group of K-pop fans in China have become the latest victims of a crackdown on celebrity culture.

Twenty-two fan accounts have been suspended by Chinese social media site Sina Weibo for what it called “irrational star-chasing behaviour”. They include fans of Korean pop band BTS who crowdfunded on the platform to customise an aeroplane for singer Park Ji-Min’s 26th birthday.

Weibo accused one fan account of “illegal fundraising” for the stunt.

In a statement, the company said it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behaviour and will deal with it seriously”.

It also pledged to “purify” online discussions and “regulate community order” on its platform. Continue reading

Japanese-themed complex closes over online backlash

Source: SCMP (9/3/21)
China shuts Japanese-themed complex after just 2 weeks over online backlash, ‘sensitive’ date concerns
The Tang Little Kyoto project, which is located in Dalian’s Jinpu New Area, was opened two weeks ago and had proved popular with domestic tourists. In October 2020, the local government in Guangdong closed a similar project as it needed to be ‘corrected and renamed’.
By He Huifeng in Guangdong

Tang Little Kyoto is located in the city of Dalian in northeast China. Photo: Weibo

Tang Little Kyoto is located in the city of Dalian in northeast China. Photo: Weibo

A Japanese-themed cultural and residential project in the city of Dalian in northeast China has been closed after just two weeks, with suggestions it is related to a sensitive date in history prior to the second Sino-Japanese war.

Videos and images have emerged on social media in China of the Tang Little Kyoto project being closed as of Thursday following instructions from local authorities.

It recreates a Kyoto-style townscape and had proved popular among domestic tourists who are unable to travel due to ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions. But the project, which is part of a 600,000-square-metre (6.5 million sq ft) complex which began construction in 2019 at a cost of 6 billion yuan (US$928 million) and is expected to be completed in 2024, also drew criticism from the online community in China who accused it of being a Japanese cultural “invasion”.

“The Japan-themed shopping street will not reopen until after September 18. The date is very sensitive to some Chinese … But Japanese-style villas are normal,” said a local property agent, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. The Manchurian Incident, also known as the Mukden Incident, occurred on September 18, 1931, and saw Japanese troops blow up a railway in northeastern China as an excuse to take over Manchuria. It is remembered in China every year as an act of Japanese aggression. Continue reading

Xi tells tycoons to share wealth

Source: NYT (9/7/21)
Warning of Income Gap, Xi Tells China’s Tycoons to Share Wealth
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As the country’s leader prepares for a likely third term, he is promising “common prosperity” to lift farmers and working families into the middle class.
By Chris BuckleyAlexandra Stevenson and 

Xi Jinping has declared that China’s Communist Party will work toward “common prosperity,” and he has pressed businesses and entrepreneurs to give back more to society. Credit…Ju Peng/Xinhua, via Associated Press

Four decades ago, Deng Xiaoping declared that China would “let some people get rich first” in its race for growth. Now, Xi Jinping has put China’s tycoons on notice that it is time for them to share more wealth with the rest of the country.

Mr. Xi says the Communist Party will pursue “common prosperity,” pressing businesses and entrepreneurs to help narrow the stubborn wealth gap that could hold back the country’s rise and erode public confidence in the leadership. Supporters say China’s next phase of growth demands the shift.

“A powerful China should also be a fair and just China,” Yao Yang, a professor of economics at Peking University who endorses the shift in priorities, said by email. “China is one of the worst countries in terms of redistribution, despite being a socialist country. Public spending is overly concentrated in cities, elite schools and so on.” Continue reading

Alibaba faces reckoning over harassment

Source: NYT (9/1/21)
After Proudly Celebrating Women, Alibaba Faces Reckoning Over Harassment
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A rape accusation at the Chinese e-commerce giant has shed light on a work culture that some former employees say is humiliating and toxic.
By Sui-Lee Wee and 

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma told a conference in Geneva that one secret to the company’s success was that 49 percent of employees were women. Credit…SOPA Images Limited/Alamy

At an employee dinner, women were told to rank the attractiveness of the men at the table. During a team-building exercise, a woman was pressured to straddle her male co-worker in front of colleagues. Top executives traded lewd comments about male virility at company events and online.

The e-commerce giant Alibaba, one of China’s most globalized internet companies, has often celebrated the number of women in its senior ranks. In 2018, the company’s billionaire co-founder, Jack Ma, told a conference in Geneva that one secret to Alibaba’s success was that 49 percent of employees were women.

But that message of female empowerment is now being called into question after an Alibaba employee accused her boss of raping her after an alcohol-fueled business dinner. The woman, who has been identified by the police and her lawyers only by her surname, Zhou, said bosses and human resources had shrugged off her complaints. She eventually resorted to screaming about the assault in a company cafeteria last month. Continue reading

China seeks to ‘rectify chaos in the fan community’

Source: The Guardian (8/27/21)
China bans celebrity rankings in bid to ‘rectify chaos in the fan community’
Authorities increase regulation of fame and fan culture that they say will tackle online bullying and protect children
By Helen Davidson

Actress Zheng Shuang and her boyfriend Zhang Heng. China has cracked down on celebrity rankings in a bid to ‘clean up’ fan culture. Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

Chinese authorities have banned online lists ranking celebrities by popularity, as regulators continue a drive to “clean up” fame and fandom culture.

According to regulations published in state media, all existing lists that rank Chinese stars must also be removed from the internet.

Only lists that rank works such as songs, films and TV shows can be published but they must reduce the emphasis on likes and comments, and instead “increase the weight of indicators like work orientation and professional evaluation”.

In June the office of the central cyberspace affairs commission announced a two-month special operation targeting fanclub culture, known as fan quan, which it said negatively affected the mental health of children. Continue reading

Graffiti confessions

Source: NeoCha (8/12/21)
Graffiti Confessions

“I’m innocent for loving country, but I am guilty of loving you.”

In today’s world, we’ve learned to close ourselves off. We’re always guarded, terrified of wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s simply no place for emotional vulnerability in modern society. But unspoken thoughts can only remain muted for so long. Across China, candid confessions are appearing on the least likely of places—atop half-toppled walls and dilapidated structures. These off-the-cuff missives, though hardly pleasing in any aesthetic sense, are endearingly candor. They’re mysterious, leaving passersby who stumble across them intrigued about the life and fate of the vandal.

These spraypainted musings are the focus of Chinese Graffiti Hub, an Instagram and Weibo account that aggregates photos of amateur graffiti from across the Middle Kingdom. Chinese Graffiti Hub is operated by Yaya, who says he prefers his real name withheld. While studying art history overseas, he discovered the works of Li Xiangwei and Murong Yaming, both of whom frequently photographed Chinese graffiti along with other absurd observations. Upon coming across their photography, Yaya quickly became fascinated by Chinese graffiti. He believes the written word holds a certain power, but at the same time, graffiti as a medium is undeniably ephemeral. What others saw as acts of vandalism, he saw as art that deserved preservation. Continue reading

How factory workers express their views

Source: The Economist (8/14/31)
How Chinese factory-workers express their views on life
Poems, videos and fashion all speak to migrants’ alienation
By Stephanie Studer

Reuters

As trendsetters go, Luo Fuxing was an implausible one. A school drop-out, Mr Luo spent his days catching fish and herding goats in a village in southern Guangdong province. Eating pork was a once-weekly treat. At the age of 14, he left home to earn a wage in the province’s sweatshops. He hated the tedium of the work. He read that American criminals had tattoos of spiders’ webs inked onto their elbows to show time spent behind bars. Mr Luo got one too, because “the factory was just a bigger prison.”

He quit for a job in a hair salon. Inspired by Japanese manga and punk fashion, he dyed his hair and styled it into dramatic, gravity-defying spikes. Dark lipstick and eyeliner completed the look. He posted selfies to qq, a messaging service—and soon hundreds of thousands of factory-town youth were copying his style. Mr Luo called its adopters the shamate, from a Chinese rendering of “smart”. It was “a wild-growing art form among workers”, he says. The trend, which peaked around a decade ago, helped newly arrived migrants from the countryside to bond. They met in parks, roller-skating rinks and online groups, where they shared not just sartorial cues but gripes about migrant life, from low pay and poor conditions to divorcing parents…. [you must register to read the whole article on The Economist website]

Mirror, the joy that HK needs

Source: NYT (8/12/21)
This Boy Band Is the Joy That Hong Kong Needs Right Now
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The popularity of the group, called Mirror, has offered the city a rare burst of unity and pleasure after years of political upheaval.
By Vivian Wang and 

Jer Lau, a member of Mirror, the Cantopop group, during a promotional event in Hong Kong last month. Credit…Anthony Kwan for The New York Times

HONG KONG — They swarm public squares, crowd shopping malls and form lines that stretch several city blocks. They lean over barricades that strain to hold them and ignore police officers who try to corral them.

The crowds filling Hong Kong in recent weeks aren’t protesters fighting for democracy. They are devotees of the city’s hottest boy band.

For more than two years, Hong Kong has badly needed a source of uplift. First there were the mass protests of 2019, then the coronavirus pandemic, then a sweeping national security law. The city has been politically polarized and economically battered.

Enter Mirror, a group of 12 singing and dancing young men who seemingly overnight have taken over the city — and, in doing so, infused it with a burst of joy.

Their faces are plastered on billboards, buses and subway ads for everything from granola to air-conditioners to probiotic supplements. They have sold out concert halls, accounting for some of the city’s only large-scale events during the pandemic. Hardly a weekend goes by without one of the band’s (many) fan clubs devising a flashy new form of tribute: renting an enormous LED screen to celebrate one member, decking out a cruise ship for another. Continue reading

Chinese sports machine

Source: NYT (7/29/21)
The Chinese Sports Machine’s Single Goal: The Most Golds, at Any Cost
China relies on a system that puts tens of thousands of children in government-run training schools. Many of the young athletes are funneled into less prominent sports that Beijing hopes to dominate.
By Hannah Beech

Hou Zhihui of China won weight lifting gold in the women’s 49-kilogram division in Tokyo and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.

Hou Zhihui of China won weight lifting gold in the women’s 49-kilogram division in Tokyo and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

TOKYO — Six days a week since she was 12 years old, with only a few days of time away each year, Hou Zhihui has been driven by one mission: heaving more than double her body weight into the air.

On Saturday, at the Tokyo Olympics, Hou’s dedication — sequestered from her family, dogged by near constant pain — paid off. She won gold in the 49-kilogram division and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese women’s weight lifting squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.

“The Chinese weight lifting team is very cohesive, and the support from the entire team is very good,” Hou, 24, said after winning gold. “The only thing we athletes think about is focusing on training.”

China’s sports assembly line is designed for one purpose: churning out gold medals for the glory of the nation. Silver and bronze barely count. By fielding 413 athletes in Tokyo, its largest ever delegation, China aims to land at the top of the gold medal count — even if the Chinese public is increasingly wary of the sacrifices made by individual athletes.

“We must resolutely ensure we are first in gold medals,” Gou Zhongwen, the head of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics. Continue reading

Latest target of HK crackdown: children’s books

Source: NYT (7/22/21)
The Latest Target of Hong Kong’s Crackdown: Children’s Books
A story that portrayed the police as wolves helped lead to the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union.
By Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May

A hooded suspect led by a police officer during the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union in Hong Kong on Thursday. Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep were constantly harassed by wolves, who tore down their houses, ate their food and even sprayed poison gas. It became too much, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village were forced to flee by boat. But they were captured and sent to prison.

That story was told in a children’s book published last year in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea while trying to escape to Taiwan. The wolves were the Hong Kong police.

On Thursday, the police arrested five leaders of the group behind the book, a speech therapists’ union, accusing them of instilling hatred of the government in children.

With the arrests, the authorities expanded, to the most elementary level of printed materials, a crackdown on political speech aimed at stamping out the dissent expressed during mass protests in 2019. Continue reading

What China scholars can do about Xinjiang crisis

Source: University of Westminster Contemporary China Blog (7/21/21)
What China Studies Scholars Can Do about the Xinjiang Crisis
By Guldana Salimjan

In 2019, at a dinner conversation with several established China scholars, I mentioned that it is dangerous for me to return to China and do further research because of the dire situation in Xinjiang. A professor from China was puzzled, ‘Why is that? I go back to my field site every year!’ I sighed but quickly explained to her, ‘Because right now the government has campaigns targeting Turkic Muslim people, and I am from one of these communities.’ She still expressed disbelief and continued, ‘But you are not Uyghur—they are outrageous.’ I was utterly shocked this time and my mind went blank. A friend and colleague overheard us and intervened, which prompted the professor to defend her remarks: ‘normal Chinese people’ think that Uyghurs ‘are outrageous,’ she added. She offered the excuse that because she conducted fieldwork in eastern China and predominantly Han areas, her knowledge of Xinjiang was based on the ideas of people there. This, she thought, justified her bigoted pronouncements that Uyghurs ‘are outrageous’ and not ‘normal Chinese people.’ In the end, she deferred by saying that she was actually not very informed about Xinjiang and was simply quoting her interlocutors’ opinions. Continue reading

Jin Xing, transgender star

Source: NYT (7/16/21)
She’s One of China’s Biggest Stars. She’s Also Transgender.
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Jin Xing, the first person in China to openly undergo transition surgery, is a household name. But she says she’s no standard-bearer for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
By Vivian Wang and Joy Dong

“Stick whatever label on me, male or female, I’m still a very luminous person,” says Jin Xing, a well-known Chinese television personality. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Jin Xing, a 53-year-old television host often called China’s Oprah Winfrey, holds strong views about what it means to be a woman. She has hounded female guests to hurry up and get married, and she has pressed others to give birth. When it comes to men, she has recommended that women act helpless to get their way.

That might not be so unusual in China, where traditional gender norms are still deeply embedded, especially among older people. Except Ms. Jin is no typical Chinese star.

As China’s first — and even today, only — major transgender celebrity, Ms. Jin is in many ways regarded as a progressive icon. She underwent transition surgery in 1995, the first person in the country to do so openly. She went on to host one of China’s most popular talk shows, even as stigmas against L.G.B.T.Q. people remained — and still remain — widespread.

China’s best-known personalities appeared on her program, “The Jin Xing Show.” Brad Pitt once bumbled through some Mandarin with her to promote a film. Continue reading