Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Communist Party’

Vatican urged not to sign ‘devil’s pact’ with China

April 14, 2018

‘IMMORAL’: China follows ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ a Chung Hua University professor told a Taipei forum, while a researcher said China still persecutes because of religion

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer
Taipei Times

Academics attending a forum in Taipei yesterday urged the Pope not to choose a “devil’s pact” with the “modern theocratic government” that is China.

A “modern theocracy” has already formed in China, Chung Hua University Department of Public Administration associate professor Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元) told the forum hosted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses so-called “Xi Jinping Thought” (習近平思想) to command the psychology of Chinese and anyone who might challenge the party-state’s authority is kept under strict control, he said.

According to China’s newly amended Regulations on Religious Affairs (宗教事務條例), any religious groups unwilling to register would receive “unsystematic” treatment, he said.

The standard for the CCP’s so-called “Sinicization of religion” would be set by the CCP, he said.

By making a “devil’s deal” with the CCP, Pope Francis would be betraying the Catholics and advocates of religious freedom who have been persecuted by the CCP, he added.

The key to religious persecution by the CCP today does not lie in a dispute between theism and atheism, but rather in the CCP’s view of faith groups as potentially hostile forces, said Wu Renhua (吳仁華), a visiting academic at Soochow University’s Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights who also attended the forum.

If these believers were to become political opposition groups, it would have a considerable impact on the CCP regime, he said, adding that the CCP has therefore always persecuted religious groups since its founding.

Catholics aside, the number of Christians in China has in recent years increased to more than 100 million, Wu said, adding that this has made them key targets of CCP attacks.

If the Vatican gives up on a free Taiwan and establishes diplomatic relations with China, the church would be making a “foolish” move, Wu said.

Moreover, such a move would not be in line with the interests of Chinese Catholics, but would be an abandonment of their sense of morality, Wu said.

The Vatican would be making an immoral decision, he added.

China-Vatican relations are at times real and at times fake, Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) said.

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Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen, right, speaks at a forum organized by the Cross-Strait Policy Association in Taipei

It is true that the Vatican wants to establish diplomatic relations with China because it cannot overlook the potential number of believers in China, Tung said.

However, the two states have been unable to establish diplomatic relations because the CCP fears religious freedom, he said.

The CCP was originally atheist, but in recent years it has loosened its grip and allowed religious belief while still maintaining a high level of control over the staffing, organization and property of religious groups, Tung said.

However, after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took office, he further clamped down on religion, Tung said.

Citing observations made by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Tung said the CCP was not soft in its curtailment of religious belief last year.

The CCP’s persecution of church members included arrests, house arrests and limitations on the participation of underaged people in churches, he said, adding that there were more than 100 victims last year.

It also forcibly removed crosses, forced churches to relocate and cut off churches’ power and water supply, Tung said, adding that more than 100 churches were affected.

If the Roman Curia wants to establish diplomatic relations with China, it must submit to the CCP, Tung said.

“If it does, how will Catholics around the world view the Vatican?” Tung asked.


Who Made Xi Jinping Pope?

A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006.
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006. PHOTO: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table.

As this newspaper reported Feb. 1, the pope “has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government.” This means the pope will no longer have full control over his bishops. The power will go instead to atheist bureaucrats determined to suppress religion, with the pope’s role in appointing bishops reduced to a veto over their selection. The pope got almost nothing in return from his Chinese counterparts, and he is also being mocked. News reports allege that at least two of the seven excommunicated bishops selected by China have had relationships with women and even fathered children.

This appalls Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was born in Shanghai in 1932 and was bishop of Hong Kong from 2002-09. He has plenty of firsthand experience tussling with Chinese communists. He has negotiated the release of priests and bishops imprisoned in China, while raising funds abroad for the families of the persecuted. He was also under constant surveillance for his role in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Few understand the true nature of a communist regime as well as he does.

Late last year, the cardinal told me of the Vatican’s effort to compel two good and faithful bishops to retire to make way for men chosen by Beijing. “Imagine what the communists think?” he asked. “They must be laughing at us.” Last month Cardinal Zen flew to Rome to make a personal appeal to the pope. He was ignored.

The pope’s dealings with similar regimes, notably Cuba and Venezuela, do not inspire confidence. Perhaps he dreams of becoming the first pope to celebrate Mass in Tiananmen Square. That would make for a powerful image. But the hard-liners in Beijing are not naive. They are very conscious of the church’s role in communism’s fall, especially in Poland.

Because the Vatican wants a deal more than Beijing does, the Holy See has negotiated from a weak position. “If the Holy Father gives up enough, they will take it, but the communists will offer nothing of substance in return,” Cardinal Zen says. If there is a deal, it will no doubt be the first of many surrenders. Perhaps the churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan will be next.

Do the pope and his diplomats really think Mr. Xi is merely going through the motions when he imprisons priests and bishops? Consider that China is in the midst of a military buildup, a multitrillion-dollar economic expansion across Asia and Africa, and a revival of aggressive communist ideology at home. No one should expect a resurgent China to honor a deal with the Vatican.

The proposed deal also needlessly deepens pre-existing divisions. Catholics in China currently belong to either the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—a government-controlled church—or the underground church. The deal requires all underground bishops to join the government church, though not necessarily with their current title, or resign. It also forces all the priests and faithful in the underground church to join the CPCA. Anyone who doesn’t comply could face arrest for illegal activity, all while being declared disobedient by the Vatican.

Knowing that the Holy Father was on their side helped millions of Chinese Catholics—including Cardinal Zen—through their darkest days. But now they have to wonder about the Holy See’s judgment. Perhaps the only real hope for the Catholic faithful in China is that an aggressive and emboldened Beijing will insist on further capitulations. Maybe that would finally get the pope to walk from a deal.

Mr. Simon is an executive with Next Digital in Hong Kong.


A crane winching a large red cross from one Guantou’s three domes

A crane winches a large red cross from one of three domes on the Guantou church in Wenzhou



China ‘not afraid’ of trade war with Trump — If China “wins” does the world live under “Made in China 2025”?

April 6, 2018

Beijing condemns new US tariff threat and warns of ‘comprehensive countermeasures’

By Yuan Yang in Beijing, Emily Feng in Sanya and Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong 

Financial Times (FT)

Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky and foodUS soyabean industry groups have warned that a trade war would have “devastating” effects © AP

Beijing has condemned Donald Trump’s threat of an additional $100bn in tariffs on imports from China, as Chinese experts warned the US it stood more to lose politically from a worsening tit-for-tat trade dispute that has unnerved global markets.

On Friday, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman said China was prepared to adopt “comprehensive countermeasures” in its dispute with the US, adding: “China doesn’t want a trade war, but we’re not afraid to fight a trade war”.

Lu Kang, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, echoed the commerce ministry’s statement, adding: “We will accompany [the US] until the end, we will not hesitate in paying any price.”

After the US and China exchanged threats earlier this week to impose tariffs over roughly $50bn worth of imports each, on Thursday evening Mr Trump instructed the US trade representative’s office “to consider whether $100bn of additional tariffs would be appropriate . . . and if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs”.

Beijing would likely follow suit in ramping up its own tariff threats if the US government implemented Mr Trump’s suggestion of additional penalties. “When someone uses a big stick, the response is to use yours in return,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.

Former commerce ministry official He Weiwen, now a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing think-tank, warned that China would almost certainly be pushed to pursue tit-for-tat measures in retaliation if the additional tariffs materialised.

Mr Trump slammed China’s response to the tariffs proposed by his administration on Tuesday. On Wednesday, China announced plans to raise 25 per cent duties on 106 products, including soyabeans, cars and chemicals, on a date to be decided — depending on when the US implements its own tariffs.

Chu Shulong, professor of international strategy at Tsinghua University, said: “China will follow what the US does: if the US wants to threaten, it will threaten, if the US wants to talk, China will talk.”

But, Mr Chu cautioned, “This is a strategy, not the start of a trade war. As with previous China-US disputes, the initial threats are very high but will be lowered when both sides start talking.”

Chinese analysts said an escalation of tariffs was likely to cause more political trouble for Mr Trump than for the Chinese Communist party because of the differences in the two countries’ governance structures.

“American industry groups have differing views on Mr Trump’s plan of raising tariffs, which will be likely to influence the final policy,” said Zhang Yingchao, financial analyst at investment bank Everbright SHK in Beijing. “But voices in China have been unified in supporting the government’s decisions.”

The head of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers told domestic media earlier this week that carmakers in China “should not fear” a trade war. But US soyabean industry groups warned that a conflict over trade would have “devastating” effects.

“Wall Street is not happy, and this is damaging for Mr Trump at home,” added Mr Shi. “A trade war will hurt both countries, but in the US, this could hurt the Republican party in the November midterm elections. China does not have this problem.”

On Thursday, Beijing had indicated it was willing to escalate its fight with Mr Trump by opening a World Trade Organization challenge to the US’s proposed tariffs.

Additional reporting by Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong

  (Wall Street Journal)

 (The New York Times)

Taiwan Tells China: We Have Democracy, Free Speech, Independence, Term Limits and Good Human Rights — “Mainland China must face up to the reality of two separate governments — One very happy and one dedicated to intimidation”

April 4, 2018

Taipei Times

April 4, 2018

Premier William Lai (賴清德) yesterday reiterated his position on Taiwanese independence and called on China to respect freedom of speech, as Beijing ramped up its rhetoric.

Democracy signifies freedom to express one’s opinion on the direction that the country’s development should take and to advocate Taiwanese independence if they wish to, Lai said.

Free speech is valued all over the world and should therefore be protected in China as well, the premier added.

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Premier William Lai speaks at a forum on free speech held by the Ministry of the Interior in Taipei yesterday, ahead of Freedom of Expression Day on Saturday.Apr 04, 2018. Taipei Times photo

The latest verbal sparring was prompted by Lai’s comment on Friday at the Legislative Yuan that he was a “Taiwan independence worker” and that Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country, sparking a call by the Chinese tabloid Global Times for his prosecution under China’s 2005 “Anti-Secession” Law.

“If evidence of his crimes are cast iron, then a global wanted notice can be issued for him,” the paper, published by the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, wrote on Saturday.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office weighed in late on Monday, saying Lai’s comments were “dangerous and presumptuous,” harming peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and that Taiwan would never be separated from China.

Lai yesterday stressed the importance of free speech at a forum organized by the Ministry of the Interior ahead of Freedom of Expression Day on Saturday.

“I absolutely am a ‘Taiwan independence worker,’” he said in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese). “But it is out of respect for [late democracy pioneer] Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) that I do not say ‘I advocate Taiwanese independence.’ I am a follower, which is why I do this work.”

Lai said Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took a cue from former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) in abolishing presidential term limits, and the abduction of Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) by Chinese authorities in March last year is evidence of the current state of Chinese society.

China now is like Taiwan during the Martial Law era when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) held a monopoly on power, he said.

Separately, the Mainland Affairs Council said the Global Times’ and Chinese government’s comments were “intimidating and irrational.”

“Taiwan is a democratic, pluralistic society,” the council said, adding that Lai had consistently followed President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) policy of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

China “has repeatedly manipulated the media and so-called ‘Internet users’ to threaten and repress Taiwan’s government and people, trying to use military blows and legal threats to violate our dignity and interests,” the council said.

“This is not what a responsible party should be doing. It will only increase cross-strait antagonism and damage relations,” it added.

“Over the past two years, our government has not ‘felt animosity toward China,’” it said.

“But mainland China must face up to the reality of the separate governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and respect Taiwan’s democracy and the will of its people,” the council said.

Xi’s scam will not fool democratic Taiwanese

March 30, 2018
By James Wang 王景弘

Because of their political system and disposition, Chinese love to do business that requires no capital investment — especially the most wicked scams. Beijing’s 31 “deceptions” for Taiwanese announced last month is one such trick with the purpose of defrauding Taiwan of its sovereignty.

Scams that are disguised as incentives are the easiest to deal with, but the most difficult to eliminate completely. Taiwanese enjoy democracy and freedom — as long as they open their eyes and refuse to be seduced by these incentives, the scam will fail.

However, unless we adopt former president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) “three-noes” policy — no contact, no negotiation and no compromise — when dealing with the Chinese Communist Party, it is inevitable that some people looking for petty advantages will be hooked.

Fraudsters are fraudsters because they do not offer honest, fair and open choices, but disguise scrap metal as gold to fool the greedy. They do not expect everyone to be deceived — as long as a few people are hooked, they will get their payoff.

“What the emperor gives, the emperor can take back,” but the tricks China is employing to annex Taiwan, from big ones down to the smallest, do not appear to be very powerful.

After Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) won the US’ recognition of “orthodox China,” he used every trick and strategy he could think of to make Chiang surrender. He made all sorts of exaggerated offers — there were even reports that he offered Chiang the first presidency of China following “reunification.”

All Beijing needed to do to annex Taiwan was to entice one man: Chiang. However, Chiang saw through its tricks and had sufficient self-control to suppress his personal greed, so his answer was: “No, no, no.”

Even with the persuasive efforts of former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) and Chinese politician and “united front” expert Liao Chengzhi (廖承志), the offer was still rejected by Chiang.

Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who accepts the “one China” concept, was all talk and said that he was “selling fruit” when trying to sell out Taiwan, but he has been washed away by the younger generations who see Taiwanese independence as something natural.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is so eager to become emperor of China, certainly cannot be so stupid as to think that he can entice President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) into unification by offering her the position of emperor. Xi’s eunuchs therefore have to come up with a strategy to entice those who take a dimmer view of democracy.

It will be difficult for those who are accustomed to democracy to adapt to life in a birdcage without freedom of speech, academic freedom or justice. It would all end in tragedy.

It is indeed ironic that the Chinese government’s announcement of 31 “deceptions” took place at the same time that the constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits was announced. Does China’s Taiwan Affairs Office really believe it will be easier for Emperor Xi to deceive Taiwan’s younger generations?

James Wang is a media commentator.

Translated by Lin Lee-Kai

Pakistanis distressed as Uighur wives vanish in China dragnet — Reeducation plus some slow motion genocide…

March 25, 2018


© AFP/File / by Gohar Abbas with Ben Dooley in Beijing | In recent years, China has heavily pushed its relationship with Pakistan, investing in border infrastructure projects

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Every autumn on the mountainous Karakoram Highway, part of the ancient Silk Road, groups of Pakistani merchants living in China’s far west would wave goodbye to their Chinese wives and cross the border to spend winter in their home country.

As the snow piled high, the men would stay in touch with their families by phone, longing for the spring thaw that would allow them to be reunited in Xinjiang.

But last year many of their calls suddenly went unanswered.

Their families, they learned, had disappeared into a growing network of shadowy “reeducation centres” that have swept up the region’s Uighur Muslim minority over fears of Islamic militancy crossing the border from Pakistan.

“My wife and kids were taken away by the Chinese authorities in March last year and I haven’t heard from them since,” said Iqbal, a Pakistani businessman who declined to give his surname over concern about his family’s safety.

Last July, he headed to China to find them, but was turned away at the border. Authorities “said my wife was in ‘training’ and the government was taking care of my kids”, he told AFP.

“I begged them to let me talk to my daughters, but they refused.”

Iqbal is one of dozens of merchants from Gilgit-Baltistan who return to Pakistan for visa reasons or to run their businesses and have been unable to contact their Uighur families living in China, according to Javed Hussain, a member of the local assembly for the Pakistani region that borders Xinjiang.

Earlier this month, the delegates passed a unanimous resolution protesting the “illegal detention” of the men’s families.

“The Chinese authorities should at least allow the men to meet their wives and children,” Hussain said.

“China is our friend and this incident will leave a bad taste.”

China’s foreign ministry said that the “two sides are maintaining communication about problems related to interactions between both countries’ people”, while Pakistan’s said the issue was being “actively discussed with the government of China”.

– ‘Eliminating extremism’ –

Like many of the men, Iqbal’s family lived in Kashgar, an ancient city along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a trade route connecting China’s far west to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.

In recent years, China has heavily pushed its relationship with Pakistan, investing tens of billions of dollars in CPEC infrastructure projects in the country, and Beijing has upgraded the treacherous mountain road connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Xinjiang.

But China has had difficulty reconciling its desire for development with fears that Uighur separatists will import violence from Pakistan.

Chinese authorities have long linked their crackdown on Xinjiang’s Muslims to international counter-terrorism, arguing that separatists are bent on joining foreign extremists like Al-Qaeda.

Uighurs have been tied to mass stabbings and bombings that left dozens dead in recent years across the country. Riots and clashes with the government killed hundreds more.

Over the past year, China has turned to increasingly drastic methods to eliminate what it describes as the “three forces”: terrorists, religious extremists and separatists.

In 2017, the government flooded Xinjiang with tens of thousands of security personnel, with police stations on nearly every block in urban areas and tough regulations to “eliminate extremism”.

This included the increased use of compulsory “reeducation” for anyone suspected of harbouring separatist sympathies.

– ‘Threat’ from Pakistan –

Iqbal and the other Pakistani men believe their wives — and even business associates — have been targeted because they received calls and messages from Pakistan.

“Any communication from Pakistan is considered a threat,” said Qurban, a businessman who has worked in Kashgar for over 30 years.

“One of my employees, a Uighur, was picked up two years back just because he was in touch with me when I went to Pakistan.”

Chinese authorities have denied the existence of reeducation centres.

But regulations against extremism adopted by Xinjiang last March call for authorities to step up political reeducation.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

In Kashgar alone, more than 120,000 people — about three percent of the area’s population — were being held in the facilities in January, according to Radio Free Asia.

An AFP review of state media reports and government documents verified the existence of at least 30 such centres and almost 4,000 cases of people being sent to them.

Regulations posted on a local website in Xinjiang’s Hejing county explained that even minor transgressions of strict religious regulations can be punished with up to three months in a centre.

Ali, a businessman who lost contact with his wife in December, said she had been taken by authorities to do a “sort of training where they teach them about Communism and prepare them to be patriotic citizens”.

“My wife told me that Chinese police had come to her house and asked her about the calls from Pakistan and asked her to explain her links with ETIM,” said Ali, referring to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group China has accused of attempting to foment Uighur separatism.

He plans to cross the border in May to find his family, but has been told his children are in the custody of the Chinese government and doesn’t know if he will see them again.

“They never tell you anything, they just say your family will come back to you when they finish their training.”

by Gohar Abbas with Ben Dooley in Beijing

China activists fear high-tech crackdown in Xi’s ‘new era’ — “Beijing Analytica” — “Monitoring of the behaviour and thoughts of the people.” — “The new emperor is a tyrant.”

March 21, 2018


© AFP / by Joanna CHIU | Some Chinese police have been using high-tech sunglasses that use facial recognition technology to spot suspects in crowded areas

BEIJING (AFP) – As Xi Jinping embarks on a potentially lifelong presidency, activists fear that the Chinese leader’s promise of a “new era” sounds the death knell for human rights under an increasingly digital-savvy police state.The Chinese government has severely reduced space for civil liberties since Xi took power in 2012, and authorities are developing new technologies to keep the vast population in check.

They include include facial recognition software as well as a “social credit” system for good behaviour — eerily similar to an episode of Netflix’s sci-fi hit “Black Mirror” that depicted a dystopian society governed by such scores.

Ye Du, a poet and activist who lives in southern Guangdong province, warned that China is entering a stage of “high-tech totalitarianism” in which most citizens will feel the psychological impact.

“The Chinese Communist Party has begun to pay more and more attention to cloud technology, monitoring technology and other tools, trying to integrate the most cutting-edge technology for the monitoring of the behaviour and thoughts of the people,” Ye told AFP.

Xi’s move to stay in office beyond the end of his second term in 2023, rubber-stamped this week when parliament abolished term limits, triggered a rare bout of criticism on social media.

Censors blocked dozens of phrases such as “I disagree” or “emperor”, in an illustration of their resolve to maintain stability, backed by a massive increase in domestic security spending in recent years.

– High-tech specs –

Last month, some police began to don high-tech sunglasses that can spot suspects in crowded areas, the newest use of facial recognition technology that has drawn concerns among human rights groups.

The glasses send people’s images to a database that checks their personal information.

It is part of China’s efforts to build a digital surveillance system able to use a variety of biometric data — from photos and iris scans to fingerprints — to keep close tabs on the movements of the entire population.

A group of legislators suggested during the parliament session that iris recognition be added to the country’s national identity system, including for passports, according to state-run media.

On the web, China has further tightened its “Great Firewall” with new restrictions on what can be said and shared on social media — all in the name of protecting national security.

Some 13,000 websites have been shut down or stripped of their licenses since 2015 for violating the rules.

Dozens of Chinese internet users have been imprisoned for crimes linked to their social media posts including “inciting subversion of state power” or “provoking quarrels and stirring up trouble” in recent years.

– ‘Digitised people’ –

The Chinese state is also experimenting with pilot “social credit” systems to evaluate the trustworthiness of citizens based on a wide range of behavioural data, and reward or penalise people accordingly.

According to a State Council document introducing the initiative in 2014, the system will “forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious” and will go national by the year 2020.

Ye called the policy a “new type of totalitarian society control” that completely “digitises” people, from their shopping habits and criminal records to social networks and private lives to “judge their position in society from the perspective of those in power.”

Private internet companies including Tencent and Alibaba have also rolled out social credit systems to score users and give out perks to frequent online shoppers.

While it is unclear whether companies are handing over users’ information to the government, authorities are likely to make “highly subjective” judgements based on blanket data collection, said Shazeda Ahmed, a Berkeley doctoral candidate who researches China’s social credit system.

Earlier this month, government agencies published a notice on the establishment of a social credit system to prevent “untrustworthy persons” from boarding civil aircraft.

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon told AFP the new measures mean that “nobody can really enjoy their freedom of movement as they are de facto under surveillance anywhere in China.”

“It will haunt everyone with the fear that you don’t really have any privacy and you can be accused of anything silly at any time as the government wishes,” he said.

Authorities are also using old fashioned methods to keep dissenting voices in check.

Pro-democracy activist Hu Jia was placed on a “forced vacation” thousands of kilometres from Beijing during the two-week National People’s Congress session.

He has been under house arrest and constant police surveillance since 2013. Hundreds of lawyers and activists have been detained in the past five years.

“The new emperor is a tyrant. The five years we’ve been through have been brutal for human rights,” Hu told AFP after being allowed back to his home in Beijing on Tuesday.

by Joanna CHIU

Policing tactics, detendions of the Chinese Communist Party have only a “veneer of legal legitimacy,” Human Rights Watch says

March 18, 2018


Millions of Chinese public sector workers will be exposed to the harsh policing tactics of the Communist Party as President Xi Jinping brings his corruption crackdown to China’s sprawling bureaucracy.

The campaign to clean up the party’s pervasive corruption has arguably been Xi’s most popular initiative, pressuring its 89 million members to toe the line — with more than 1.5 million officials punished in the past five years.

Legislators are finalizing the creation of a new anti-graft apparatus that will also watch over non-party members — everyone from managers at state-owned companies to people in administrative roles at schools and hospitals.

In Beijing alone, one of the areas where the new system was established on a pilot basis, the number of people under scrutiny quadrupled to 1 million, or about 5 percent of the city’s population, officials said.

New national and local “supervision commissions” — investigative agencies focused on corruption — will operate alongside the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), sharing offices, personnel and perhaps leadership.

Image result for Justice, with scales, blindfold slipping, photos

Further blurring the line between the state and party bodies, the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Sunday named CCDI Deputy Secretary Yang Xiaodu as head of the National Supervision Commission.

The “anti-corruption powers are dispersed,” explained one party leader during the NPC, saying the new body will harness and unify anti-graft efforts.

The congress also appointed Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 leader of the Communist Party, to a second five-year term Sunday. The premier traditionally is China’s top economic official but Xi has stripped Li of many of the post’s most prominent duties by appointing himself to lead party bodies that oversee economic reform and state industry.

Rights groups worry the new body will institutionalize some of the problems that have led to abuses and even torture of suspects, while vastly expanding the number of people under its purview.

The system has a “veneer of legal legitimacy,” said Maya Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), without “any meaningful improvements to guarantee due process.”

Legislators wrote the new supervision commissions into the country’s constitution last week and are set to approve a law laying out their powers on Tuesday.

China’s war on corruption has relied heavily on a shadowy, often brutal extralegal justice system known as shuanggui, allowing investigators to hold party members in unofficial detention facilities until they “confess” to graft.

At least 11 individuals died while in shanggui custody between 2010 and 2015, according to a 2016 HRW report.

Xi said last year that the shuanggui system will be phased out and replaced.

But the new law provides for a form of detention called liuzhi, which rights groups say is a “legal” reincarnation of the shuanggui system and allows graft suspects to be held for up to six months with no provision for legal counsel.

In eastern Zhejiang province, shuanggui detention facilities are now being used as liuzhi centers, officials there said.

Under liuzhi suspects’ family members must be notified within 24 hours of their detention — except when they may “impede the investigation.”

“Liuzhi provides no fair trial protections, not even the basic ones that exist under China’s criminal procedures,” said Wang.

Chen Qian, 58, a researcher at Yangquan city’s national development and reform commission in northern Shanxi province, was one of the first public servants to face investigation by a new supervision commission.

Last year, he was held for almost two months as investigators probed two bribery cases against him.

But when Chen was formally arrested and transferred into China’s criminal law system, the number of cases had ballooned to 38.

“The other 36 cases Chen Qian confessed to on his own during detention,” his lawyer said while pleading for leniency, according to court documents.

Liu Jianchao, head of the Zhejiang supervision commission, told state media that suspects averaged 42.5 days in detention before being transferred into the criminal justice system.

“We place special emphasis on persuading those under investigation to write their own confessions,” Liu said.

Xi’s original anti-graft drive brought down party apparatchiks at all levels, from low-level “flies” to high-ranking “tigers.”

Previously led by his right-hand man Wang Qishan, who was named vice president on Saturday, critics say the CCDI also served as a weapon to eliminate Xi’s adversaries.

The new supervision commissions will institutionalize that setup, with the investigative organs written into the constitution as independent bodies overseen by the party-led people’s congresses.

Rights groups and lawyers warn that it will put the bodies beyond judicial scrutiny, but in China’s capital, officials say such independence is necessary to take down powerful officials.

Zhang Shuofu, who leads the Beijing commission, said the new bodies were modeled on an ancient system, dispelling concerns by citing “internal and external oversight.”

That oversight relies on the people’s congresses which are technically charged with supervising most of China’s bureaucracy, but in practice do little.

“Our oversight work has some problems,” admitted Zhou Chengkui, a former deputy general secretary of the National People’s Congress, in a recent interview with China Law Review.

“Namely the people’s congress doesn’t dare supervise!”

In China, an eye-roll goes viral, censors put a lid on it — National People’s Congress gets an unscripted moment — Call out the police

March 14, 2018


© AFP / by Becky Davis | China keeps tight control over any negative headlines during party gatherings

BEIJING (AFP) – It was the eye-roll that launched a thousand gifs.China’s censors are scrambling to put a lid on a social media frenzy unleashed by a journalist’s reaction to a softball question during the mostly scripted annual parliament session.

Impeccably coiffed and sporting a bright blue suit jacket, Yicai financial news service reporter Liang Xiangyi sighed and raised a sceptical eyebrow at another journalist’s query to a delegate at a National People’s Congress press event Tuesday.

Image result for china, eye roll, photos

As the question about China’s Belt and Road infrastructure project dragged on for 45 seconds, Liang grimaced, glanced sideways to give the woman dressed in red a disbelieving once-over, and concluded with a majestic, head-turning eye-roll.

Caught on camera by state broadcaster CCTV, the moment at the usually staid Great Hall of the People went viral and turned Liang into an instant online celebrity.

Social media platforms were flooded with gifs, cartoons and parody reenactments, with people dressed in red and blue. Some began superimposing footage of her eye-roll on clips of celebrities spouting nonsense.

Liang’s image was plastered onto T-shirts and cellphone cases sold on Taobao, China’s ever-reactive eBay equivalent.

But China maintains tight control of its internet and is extremely wary of viral stories about politically sensitive subjects like the NPC.

By evening, Liang’s name had become the most-censored term on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

And on Wednesday, authorities released an “urgent notice” prohibiting all discussion of her in all mainland media outlets.

“Anything already posted must be deleted. Without exception, websites must not hype the episode,” according to the US-based China Digital Times, which posted the leaked directive.

– ‘In the hearts of the nation’ –

This year’s NPC gathering has been historic.

A vote Sunday abolished rules limiting heads of state to 10 years in power, setting President Xi Jinping on a course to potentially rule the country for life.

On Tuesday, the congress also unveiled plans for the biggest shakeup of government structures in at least a decade, including the merger of its banking and insurance regulators to better handle financial risks.

But Liang’s epic eye-roll has now grabbed the limelight.

“With this outfit and your meaningful expression, you’ve left a deep impression in the hearts of the whole nation’s people,” wrote one of thousands of commenters on her Weibo account, which had soared to over 200,000 followers.

Zhang Huijun, the reporter who posed the long-winded question, works for American Multimedia Television (AMTV), a Los Angeles-based company whose website describes itself as a CCTV partner.

Reporters from media outlets based abroad but with ties back to China’s state media apparatus are often called on at government events so that Beijing can appear to cede the floor to “foreign” journalists — who will nonetheless toe the party line.

– Unknown fate –

A leaked screenshot of an Yicai group chat showed Liang explaining herself.

“Her question was even longer than the answer,” she said, using a colourful obscenity to describe Zhang and calling her “stupid”.

Yicai Media declined to comment and the NPC press office said they did not know anything about rumours that Liang’s press credentials were revoked.

AFP journalists did not see Liang or Zhang during a session on Wednesday of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory board that holds its annual session at the same time as the NPC.

Online commenters were sympathetic to Liang.

“Sister, if you’ve lost your job,” one fan told her, “you can always work in social media”.

by Becky Davis

Reporter’s eye-roll steals spotlight at Chinese parliament — Suck up Chinese media aghast — She could not be reached for comment — We were told she is not being tortured…

March 14, 2018


BEIJING (Reuters) – A TV reporter’s theatrical eye-roll during another journalist’s question at a news conference stole the show this week during China’s annual parliament session, exploding on Chinese social media before censors intervened.

Image result for Liang Xiangyi, eye roll, china, photos

The incident unfolded on live television during a media session on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC), where high-level officials field often pre-approved questions, mostly from domestic media.

Liang Xiangyi, a TV reporter from financial news outlet Yicai, seemed to find a fellow journalist’s long-winded question on China’s state asset management too much to bear.

 Image result for Liang Xiangyi, eye roll, china, photos

Liang, standing next to the questioner, Zhang Huijun, rolled her eyes, looked Zhang up and down then turned away with another dismissive raising of the eyes.

Zhang works for American Multimedia Television USA, a Los Angeles-based organization which, according to its website, previously had ties to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Televised nationwide, the incident was seen by millions and quickly spawned GIFs, video clips and parodies across China’s vibrant but tightly controlled social media before many of the postings were removed.

Many netizens declared it the most interesting moment of the tightly orchestrated and largely rubber-stamp NPC session, which has been the most significant in years as parliament voted to remove presidential term limits, enabling President Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely.

Image result for Liang Xiangyi, eye roll, china, photos

Some social media commentators praised the apparent spontaneity of Liang’s show of frustration.

“Good job. A reporter who comes to the Great Hall of the People unscripted,” cheered one commentator on Weibo.

An official at Yicai who was not authorized to speak to media, said Liang had been temporarily pulled from the channel’s parliamentary coverage team.

Neither Liang nor Zhang could be reached for comment on Wednesday, and emailed inquiries to both reporters’ employers went unanswered.

Reporting by Pei Li and Tony Munroe; Editing by Robert Birsel

China’s Economy Is Not Normal. It Doesn’t Have to Be.

March 14, 2018
Credit: Matt Chase

WASHINGTON — China’s extraordinary growth over the past few decades has spawned two major lines of analysis. One school of thought holds that China is a rising economic power poised to conquer the world. The other argues that China’s economy has become so distorted that it is bound to collapse or, at least, as a former United States Treasury secretary suggested, “regress to the mean.”

Both views are mistaken.

For one thing, China has never been a normal economy. It experienced an average of nearly 10 percent growth rates for almost four decades, a record; it is the first developing nation to become a great power. So why couldn’t it keep defying expectations?

What some take to be the Chinese economy’s weaknesses have, in fact, been strengths. Unbalanced growth isn’t evidence of a looming risk so much as a sign of successful industrialization. Surging debt levels are a marker of financial deepening rather than profligate spending. Corruption has spurred, not stalled, growth.

At least so far. The central question isn’t whether China might continue to confound norms so much as what, precisely, is required for it to do so. And that, as ever, hinges on whether the Chinese government can strike the right balance between state intervention and market forces.

Centralized authoritarian power has its benefits, including the ability for those who have it, at least in theory, to correct course rapidly. This has allowed China’s leaders to put the economy on a more sustainable growth path in recent years. The gross domestic product growth rate rebounded last year. Foreign reserves are back up as well. Wages have increased. The recent abolition of term limits for the president and vice-president’s terms gives President Xi Jinping more time and leeway to promote his vision of a more prosperous, modern and powerful China, and with the help of trusted advisers: His former corruption czar, Wang Qishan, is expected to be named vice-president and Liu He vice-premier in charge of the economy.

Skeptics about China’s future usually point to the country’s swelling debt. China’s overall debt-to-G.D.P. ratio exceeds 250 percent — but that is a fairly average level: higher than that of most emerging-market economies; lower than that of most high-income countries. More worrisome, though, is the fact that it increased by more than 100 percentage points, or nearly doubled, over the past decade.

The International Monetary Fund has cautioned that other economies that experienced such rapidly rising debt ratios — Brazil and South Korea a few decades ago, and several European countries more recently — eventually succumbed to a financial crisis. Why would China be any different?

One reason is that not all debt is created equal.

As some of the optimists note, China’s debt is public, not private, which means that the risks are largely borne by the state, which has deeper pockets. The borrowing is largely domestic, rather than external. And despite a surge in mortgages, Chinese households have a low overall debt burden compared to their counterparts elsewhere. For all its heady growth, China’s financial system also remains relatively simple, without the exotic securitization that nearly brought down the American economy a decade ago.

China’s debt ratio also seems more worrisome than it really is because its nature is often misunderstood.

China’s banks are no longer just serving state actors; now they also serve the private sector, notably after the privatization of state-owned housing in the late 1990s and early 2000s created a broad-based commercial property market. As much as two-thirds of credit expansion between 2005 and 2013 — including via unofficial or so-called shadow banking — went into property-related assets, helping establish a market price for land. Thus, rapid credit growth largely reflects an increasing financial sophistication rather than a property bubble or wasteful investments.

Still, the official figures can appear to suggest otherwise. By my calculations, property prices in China have grown sixfold since 2004. But property transactions are not included in gross domestic product assessments — which helps explain why debt levels have surged while G.D.P. has not.

That said, high debt levels dorepresent some fundamental weaknesses. As I detail in my last book, the tax revenues of local governments have not kept pace with their social expenditures, prompting those authorities to borrow from banks to fund public services. China’s large debt isn’t a debt problem so much as a fiscal problem in disguise.

The growing commercial role of local governments has, in turn, multiplied opportunities for graft. But this problem, too, is often misunderstood.

Corruption is said to impede growth by inhibiting investment. Not so in China, where the state controls major resources, such as land and energy, yet generates lower returns on assets than the private sector does. Privatizing those resources was a nonstarter under communism, and so corruption has served as a makeshift alternative, by allowing more private actors to use state-owned resources after striking arrangements with officials. Because those actors’ practices are more profitable, the economy has benefited overall.

Some China observers also are concerned that China’s speedy growth cannot be sustained unless consumption replaces investment as the economy’s main driver. (The Chinese government appears to agree, or claims to at least.) They point out that while investment accounts for an unusually high share of gross domestic product, consumption accounts for an unusually low share.

But to say this is to misunderstand the nature of China’s unbalanced growth.

The main cause of that imbalance is urbanization. Over the past four decades China’s urbanization ratio has increased from less than 20 percent to nearly 60 percent. In the process, workers from labor-intensive rural activities have moved to more capital-intensive industrial jobs in cities. And so, yes, an ever-greater share of national income has gone into investment as a result. But corporate profits have also risen, leading to higher wages, which have spurred consumption. In fact, even as the consumption share of G.D.P. has fallen, personal consumption has grown multiples faster in China than in any other major economy.

Eventually, China’s economy will have to become more balanced, as the government well knows. But the Chinese Communist Party’s plan for that is to have the state play the “leading” role in the economy while the market plays the “decisive” role in allocating resources. Squaring that circle can be tricky.

How will China’s leaders reform state-owned enterprises, whose profitability keeps declining (especially relative to that of private firms), when they still see those companies as national champions?

Mass urbanization is expected to continue, still not out of people’s personal preferences but at the state’s behest, by way of residency restrictions, evictions and forced relocations. Yet China’s planners now seem intent on redirecting migrants from megacities to smaller cities, and this could curb economic growth: As the World Bank points out, labor productivity is much higher in larger cities than in smaller ones.

Then, there is the corruption issue, which will require another delicate balancing act. Corruption has benefited the Chinese economy by, in effect, allowing the transfer of state assets to more efficient private actors. But over time such gains are being outweighed by the social costs of bribes, wasteful expenditures and growing inequities. Allowing corruption to run rampant could undermine the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Yet combating it with draconian measures could hurt growth by discouraging both officials and entrepreneurs from taking economic risks.

Hence the importance, and sensitivity, of Mr. Xi’s signature anticorruption campaign. It has been cast as an effort to discipline errant officials, but some see it as a means for Mr. Xi to purge political opponents or exert more control over society. It seems to have been popular so far: The general public perceives local officials as taking advantage of the system, and here is the central government appearing to rectify the situation. But some warn that the National Supervision Commission, a new agency designed to institutionalize anti-graft efforts, could signal overreach.

To discourage corruption effectively, the Chinese government will eventually have to leaven the rule of the party with more rule of law. In the meantime, some practical reforms would help, including creating a civil code to define acceptable commercial practices, basic property rights and the status of private companies. More sweeping — and more politically sensitive — reforms will also be needed to ensure that private actors have more access to major resources, like land and financing, without having to rely on personal connections to local officials.

The Chinese economy’s glory days may be over, but even a 6 percent growth rate over the next decade would be remarkable. At that pace, the economy would double by 2030 and likely become the world’s largest in nominal dollar terms. (It already is the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.)

China’s remarkable success to date can be credited in part to its leaders’ willingness to set aside communism for pragmatism. Some observers worry that Mr. Xi is now reinjecting ideology into major policies, Mao-style. But he also is concentrating power and promoting action-oriented reformers like Mr. Wang and Mr. Liu — signaling his intention to address China’s social and economic needs even as he gathers the means to do so. China may not become a normal country for some time yet.