Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Communist Party’

China: Scope of Censorship Expands After Liu Xiaobo’s Death

July 18, 2017

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A new report from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab analyzes keyword and image censorship on Weibo and WeChat related to Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chinese political Liu Xiaobo, who died on July 13 from multiple organ failure while under treatment for late-stage terminal liver cancer.

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’s analysis shows that the number of blacklisted images and keywords expanded significantly after his death, illustrates that sensitivity increased depending on how many potential views a post could have, and suggests that there is a continuing interest among Chinese netizens in making and viewing content related to Liu. From the full report:

Following his death, news articles reported cases of  in China blocking references to  and his legacy. In this report we analyze censorship related to Liu and his death on two of China’s most popular platforms:  and Sina .

On WeChat, we collected keywords that trigger message censorship related to Liu Xiaobo before and after his death. Before his death, messages were blocked that contained his name in combination with other words, for example those related to his medical treatment or requests to receive care abroad. However, after his death, we found that simply including his name was enough to trigger blocking of messages, in English and both simplified and traditional Chinese. In other words, WeChat issued a blanket ban on his name after his death, greatly expanding the scope of censorship.

[…] Weibo allows users to search the entire platform for relevant posts. Past research has found that search results are heavily filtered. We confirm through testing done after Liu’s death that there is a blanket block on any search terms containing Liu Xiaobo’s name in English, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese. This search blocking does not seem to be a reaction to Liu Xiaobo’s recent illness or death as his name has been fairly consistently blocked on Weibo search in recent years.

However, since his passing, even searches that only contain his given name (Xiaobo, 晓波, or 曉波) are blocked. According to testing by GreatFire, his given name was accessible as recently as June 14. Like WeChat, Weibo has intensified censorship, recognizing that Liu’s passing is a particularly sensitive event.

[…] Although censorship on Weibo has made finding information about Liu using his proper name impossible, we can still assess that there is interest in Liu-related content in a number of ways. […] [Source]

Read CDT coverage of Citizen Lab’s past reports on Chinese censorship and hacking, including of their discovery this year of WeChat’s unprecedented censorship of images related to the 2015 “Black Friday” or “709” crackdown on rights advocates. Another recent report from Citizen Lab examined a series of unsuccessful phishing attempts against CDT in February.

Following the announcement of Liu’s illness, authorities censored related news and commentary, and following his death CDT found several terms blocked from being posted or searched on Weibo (however, many netizens still managed to offer veiled support for and commemoration of the late Nobel laureate). In her coverage of the new Citizen Lab report, The New York Times’ Amy Qin notes ways that Liu’s supporters managed to make it past the increased censorship, and describes online commentary on official media coverage of Liu’s cremation and sea burial last weekend:

[…E]ven as censors stepped up scrutiny in recent days, many savvy Chinese internet users found ways to evade those efforts. In tributes to Mr. Liu, users referred to him as “Brother Liu” or even “XXX.” They posted passages from his poems and abstract illustrations of Mr. Liu and his wife, Liu Xia.

Over the weekend, however, the tributes gave way to scathing critiques as friends and supporters of Mr. Liu reacted angrily to the news of Mr. Liu’s cremation and sea burial under strict government oversight.

One user took to his WeChat feed on Sunday to express disgust with the use of Mr. Liu’s corpse in what some called a blatant propaganda exercise. “Swift cremation, swift sea burial,” he wrote. “Scared of the living, scared of the dead, and even more scared of the dead who are immortal.” [Source]

On his personal blog, Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert summarizes the findings of the report in the context of Liu Xiaobo’s extreme sensitivity in authoritarian China:

The passing of Liu Xiaobo is a very sensitive event for the Chinese Communist Party.  The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests grew out of the mourning of the death of another person advocating for greater government transparency and reform, Hu Yaobang.

Concerned that martyrdom around Liu may spur similar collective action, as well as being concerned about saving face, the kneejerk reaction of China’s authorities is to quash all public discussion of Liu, which in today’s world translates into censorship on social media.

[…] As with our prior WeChat research, we confirmed that the censorship is undertaken without any notification to the users, and only applies to users with accounts registered to mainland China phone numbers.  For example, we show that images of Liu posted to an international user’s WeChat feed was visible to other users abroad, but hidden from users with Chinese accounts.

[…] Freedom of speech is the antithesis to one-party rule.  Dictators throughout history have forced embarrassing truths into the shadows, typically by imprisoning those who speak it, and have scrubbed dissidents from history books, photographs, and other mass media.

The social media censorship we document in our latest report is but the latest manifestation of this authoritarian tendency, and underscores why careful evidence-based research is so essential to the progress of human rights. [Source]

In a post on her personal blog, Citizen Lab research fellow Lotus Ruan, who contributed to the new Citizen Lab report, commemorates Liu’s life and death, imploring those in mainland China to help ensure a lasting memory of Liu, and asking what implications authorities’ treatment of Liu in his final days could have on Beijing’s efforts to become a global  leader:

There are enough media coverage on Liu’s passing. What we should reflect next is the significance and indications of Liu’s death: what it means for us as an individual, to China as a country that longs to become a global leader, and to the international community in general. 

To each of us, the challenge lies in how not to let Liu Xiaobo and his legacy become one of the “Top 10 Trending Topics on Weibo” that would fade away as time goes by and more importantly, how not to let Liu Xiaobo become a collective amnesia. I am not saying that people, especially those based in mainland China, should take extreme forms of protests regardless of any consequences. Even simple acts such as telling friends who do not know or even hear of Liu Xiaobo, remembering and writing about him even in coded messages will be enough to keep the conversation and people’s interest going. 

To Chinese leaders, how they deal with Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife who has effectively been under house arrest since Liu’s imprisonment, will make a difference in how the world sees their governance and legitimacy. This is also a moment for China to reflect on its development path as it longs to become a global leader. Does it want to be known as a country with only economic achievement and no amicable soft power or one that as it becomes more affluent also matures into a more humane and tolerant state? The first option has gotten China a ticket to many world clubs and international organizations. But will it help China be accepted and become a true rule maker? [Source]

Read more coverage of the Citizen Lab report, including a round-up of the carefully staged official media coverage of Liu’s passing, from Global Voices Oiwan Lam.

China’s social media censors found an additional focus over the weekend. At What’s on Weibo, Manya Koetse describes their resurgent attention to posts showing cartoon bear Winnie the Pooh, who since 2013 has been used as a meme to mock President Xi Jinping. An ongoing “clampdown” on the animated bear may be related to heightened sensitivities in the lead-up to the 19th Party Congress this autumn.


Winnie the Pooh censored in China after President Xi Jinping comparisons

Beloved book and animated cartoon character Winnie the Pooh is being censored in China, according to BBC News.

The Chinese name for Winnie the Pooh (Little Bear Winnie) is being blocked on Chinese social media sites because bloggers have been comparing the plump bear to China’s President Xi Jinping, the BBC reports. Animated GIFs of the character were deleted from the app WeChat, and those who comment on the site Weibo with “Little Bear Winnie” get an error message.

One internet meme that went viral was an encounter between Xi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an awkward handshake. Social media users combined the image of the two politicians with that of Eeyore and Winnie the Pooh.

Another moment that was memorialized by social media users was from 2015, when Xi poppoed out of the top of a limousine. A meme was born when an image was found of Pooh in his very own car.


A photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a 2015 military parade in Beijing (L), inspired the parody image at right, posted on China’s Weibo social media site.


A photo showing a meeting between Xi and President Obama provided another popular meme in 2013. This time, a picture showed Winnie the Pooh and his smiling friend Tigger, walking side by side.

The BBC reports that the ban mainly applies to comments on Weibo, a Facebook-like social network used by 340 million people a month, which makes it more popular than Twitter, according to the BBC.

The crackdown on Winnie the Pooh and ridicule of China’s leaders is strategically timed, the BBC says. There’s an important Communist Party conference scheduled, with several top government jobs up for grabs.

Chinese officials reportedly can block certain phrases to shut down discussions that run against the Communist Party.

Recently, authorities were able to virtually remove any existence of China’s top dissident Liu Xiaobo, the BBC reports. Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize, and died last week in custody. He was a professor, a writer and a human rights activist known for his participation in the infamous Tiananmen Square protests. CBS News’ Pamela Falk says he was an inspiration to a generation of young Chinese students and pro-democracy activists around the world.


From Liu Xiaobo to Winnie the Pooh, China’s net censors can make you disappear

Peter Hartcher

  • Peter Hartcher

The only Chinese person ever to receive a Nobel prize while living in China, the writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo, was able to spread his democratic manifesto, Charter 08, through the internet. The web, he said, was “truly God’s gift to the Chinese people”, allowing them to skirt official censorship.

By the time he died last Thursday, the internationally celebrated martyr to democracy must have been despondent at what China’s internet had become. In 2014, a political cartoonist published his conception of the Chinese web: A computer keyboard and mouse are chained and taped down, padlocked, while the screen shows only the heavy bars of a prison cell.

Under the unrelenting strictures of the Chinese Communist Party, the internet had become a virtual prison. It was to be Cheng Tao’s last political work. “This is my last satirical cartoon,” he wrote. “Don’t just glance at it: every piece was drawn under immense pressure. I draw and I share at immense risk.” His family had pleaded with him to stop antagonising the authorities, he explained. He was giving up. He would henceforth draw entertainment works, he said.

The party’s control of the web has only continued to intensify since. Confounding all predictions by Western tech experts, it has been extraordinarily successful in censoring the internet, guiding the public agenda and eliminating dissent.

One indicator of the party’s success was that, on the weekend, China’s web censors banned Winnie the Pooh. The name and images of the cartoon bear were being systematically removed because he had become too politically sensitive.Why? “While no official explanation was given, observers suggested the crackdown was related to previous comparisons of President Xi Jinping with the portly bear,” reports Yuan Yang of The Financial Times. It was nothing sinister. Xi was likened to the fictional character because they are both round-bellied and benign-looking. But censorship of political debate has become so thoroughgoing that the authorities don’t merely repress dissent or criticism but even subtle references and symbols.

As the British paper quotes a Chinese media expert, Qiao Mu, of Beijing Foreign Studies University, as saying: “Historically, two things have been not allowed: political organising and political action. But this year a third has been added to the list: talking about the President.” Even through cartoon allusions.

may seem ridiculous, but for the Chinese Communist Party this is deadly serious. Nothing is more important than “stability maintenance”, meaning the preservation of the party’s monopoly on power. A key reason that China’s Communist Party is the most durable authoritarian regime on earth is that there is no alternative. No one has been able to create any national organisation that could conceivably turn its hand to politics. This is a reason that the Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, movement was so ruthlessly repressed. Not because it was political – its emphasis is on spiritual meditation – but because it had a national organising structure.

Any of its remaining sympathisers who try to use the web to communicate covertly are subject to “increasing electronic surveillance”, says researcher Sarah Cook of the US-based Freedom House, with authorities “deploying geolocation technology to find and arrest them”. The internet has been turned from an instrument of possible organisation into a tool of repression.

The authorities are not content to police any hint of dissent. They create a thriving universe of pro-regime, pro-party and nationalist messages. Or as Harvard sociology professor Gary King puts it, the party pursues “cheerleading for the state” as “strategic distraction”. It is, in Beijing’s planning, just the beginning. The party has declared that its increasing power in the world will soon be matched by its power over global “discourse”.

The era of “Western strength and Chinese weakness” is at an end, says a senior official at the Central Party School, the institution that trains Communist Party cadres, executive vice-president He Yiting​. He wrote in a party journal, quoted by the China Media Project at Hong Kong University: “Not too far off in the future, China’s dominance in terms of development, institutions and governance will be transformed into discourse dominance on the international stage. The Chinese era of international discourse is at our doorstep.”

And the thrust of that discourse? He is not talking about fun stuff like Chinese film, cuisine or literature. He explains: “The most important thing here is that the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is owed to the leadership of the Central Party with comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and the rejuvenation of Chinese discourse is led by the series of important speeches made by General-Secretary Xi Jinping.”

Unlike the cartoonist Chen, the democracy activist Liu Xiaobo never gave up. Through a cumulative total of 12 years in jail in four separate incarcerations, he remained committed to non-violent political change. Which is why he died of liver cancer last week in the same circumstances in which he received his Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 – in detention.

Xi Jinping is consolidating yet more power in the approach to the five-year party congress to be held late this year. He controls the “discourse” and Liu is not part of it. Liu is a hero in the West but almost entirely censored out of existence in China. Ordinary Chinese do not know his name. Even the phrase “rest in peace” has been comprehensively scrubbed from China’s internet since his death. There is no point in deluding ourselves. The authoritarian project is succeeding in China, just as the West’s confidence in its own democracy is failing.

Peter Hartcher is international editor.

Hong Kong Leader Says Shares Compassion of People Over Liu’s Death — Across town a voice is heard saying: “We will strive to carry forward his legacy to fight for democracy in HK and China.”

July 14, 2017

HONG KONG — Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday she shares the compassion of people in the former British colony over the death of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Lam was speaking in her first interview with the international media since she was sworn in as the city’s new leader by Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 1.

China’s Nobel Peace laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo died on Thursday at the age of 61 of multiple organ failure.

(Reporting by Martin Howell, editing by Bill Tarrant)


On Chinese Social Media, Liu Xiaobo Is Disappearing — “RIP” Not Allowed

By Tom Mitchell in Beijing, Gabriel Wildau in Shanghai and Emily Feng in Shenyang

From FT

Image result for Liu Xiaobo © AP, Liu Xiaobo, greenery, photos

China’s censors worked through the early hours of Friday to scrub away online plaudits for Liu Xiaobo after his admirers took to social media to express their admiration and sympathy for the deceased Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

News reports about Liu’s death, which was announced late on Thursday by authorities in the north-eastern city of Shenyang, were quickly blocked. Searches for Liu’s Chinese name and his English initials LXB were censored on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

The term “RIP” was also banned on Weibo, as was the candle emoji. Other proscribed terms included homophones of Liu’s name spelt with alternative Chinese characters and “The Old Knight”, a frequently used nickname.

But it was harder for censors to keep up with indirect expressions of appreciation on WeChat, the country’s most popular messaging tool that allows its users to view comments posted by their friends. Many used vague expressions such as “someone died today”, or posted Christian allegories of suffering that did not directly mention Liu. Others cited the thunder and lightning storms that rolled through Beijing on Thursday night as a sign of heavenly disquiet.

Obituary Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate, 1955-2017

Democracy activist was jailed four times and died during a sentence for subversion Even state news agency Xinhua appeared to offer a reference to Liu’s death with a cryptic Weibo post: “All one’s miseries come from anger at one’s incompetence”.

Meanwhile, nationalist tabloid the Global Times cast itself as a bemused bystander and suggested mourners were putting on a show. “We’ll sit here for the night eating watermelon seeds with the crowd,” the paper wrote on Weibo.

China maintains a multi-layered internet censorship apparatus that includes both government workers patrolling for politically sensitive postings and legal requirements that internet companies forbid such content or remove it when it appears.  At the hospital in Shenyang where Liu spent has last days, the security presence was reduced, with little sign that China’s most famous political prisoner had died there. Nurses said the hospital had no record of a patient named Liu Xiaobo.

But the oncology ward where Liu was treated remained guarded by two security officers, who turned away those with no visitation rights. One of the guards said the ward would maintain a security presence to avoid “things in the ward becoming too disorderly”.

In Hong Kong, several hundred people held an impromptu vigil and signed a book of condolence in front of the Chinese central government’s main office.

Overt political speech is protected in Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework. Related story China’s best-known dissident Liu Xiaobo dies in custody Nobel peace laureate dies of cancer after being held for 8 years for political writing Funeral arrangements for Liu were unclear on Friday morning.

There was speculation that prison authorities would quickly cremate his remains and deny mourners an opportunity to congregate. Attention also focused on Liu’s widow, Liu Xia, who suffers from depression and had been kept under extra-legal house arrest for most of her husband’s eight years behind bars.

Family members of the “July 9 lawyers” — a reference to the dozens of human rights defenders who were rounded up a year before Liu’s death — called on the government to allow Liu Xia to travel overseas.

Additional reporting by Yuan Yang and Yingzhi Yang in Beijing, Ben Bland in Hong Kong and Nan Ma in Shanghai Twitter: @tmitchpk, @gabewildau, @emilyzfeng


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Protesters mourn jailed Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Thursday, July 13, 2017. Officials say China’s most prominent political prisoner, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, has died. He was 61. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

From The Associated Press

he Latest on the death of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died Thursday night in the northeastern city of Shenyang following a battle with liver cancer (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

A Chinese Communist Party newspaper says the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was a pawn of Western public opinion whose legacy would soon fade.

In an editorial Friday headlined “Liu Xiaobo a victim led astray by West,” the nationalist tabloid Global Times said China’s most famous political prisoner lived a “tragic life” because he sought to confront Chinese mainstream society with outside support.

Liu, a prolific essayist and literary critic, died Thursday of liver cancer while serving an 11-year prison sentence for incitement to subversion. He was 61.

Liu was only the second Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in prison. The first, Carl von Ossietzky, died from tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while serving a sentence for opposing Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.


6 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer says in a brief statement, “The President’s heartfelt condolences go out to Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, and his family and friends. ”

The United States had called on China’s government to let the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy activist seek medical care at a location of his choosing. But China considered such requests to be interference in its own affairs and considered Liu a criminal.

The White House statement does not offer any criticism of China or of Liu’s case.

Liu’s wife remains under house arrest.


2:30 a.m.

China has rejected foreign criticism of Beijing’s handling of the illness from which imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing, in an early morning statement Friday, says China made “all-out efforts” to treat Liu after he was diagnosed with liver cancer while in prison.

The statement says foreign countries “are in no position to make improper remarks” over the handling of Liu’s case, which Beijing sees as a domestic affair.

Liu’s death has triggered a flurry of calls from Western governments and officials for Beijing to let his wife leave China as she wishes.

Human rights groups and some governments had earlier urged Beijing to release Liu so that he could seek treatment abroad, but China rebuffed such suggestions, saying he was already getting the best care possible.


2 a.m.

The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiabo.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that the U.N. chief sent his condolences to Liu’s family and friends. But he had no comment when asked whether Guterres had a view on whether Liu, China’s most prominent political prisoner, should have been allowed to travel abroad for treatment or about his wife.

Guterres’ tepid reaction was a sharp contrast to that of U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who called Liu “China’s iconic peace and democracy figure” and urged Chinese authorities to guarantee his wife, Liu Xia, “freedom of movement, and allow her to travel abroad should she wish so.”

Zeid said Liu “devoted his life to defending and promoting human rights, peacefully and consistently,” and “was the definition of civic courage and human dignity — a poet and intellectual who wanted, and strove for, a better future for his country.”

“Despite all he suffered, (he) continued to espouse the politics of peace,” the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said. “He was and will continue to be an inspiration and an example for all human rights defenders.”


12:30 a.m.

Germany’s foreign minister is urging the Chinese government to let Liu Xiaobo’s wife and brother leave the country following the death of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Berlin had urged Beijing in recent days to let Liu leave China for treatment abroad, possibly in Germany. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday he “deeply regrets” that China didn’t let Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, travel to Germany.

He urged China to lift restrictions on Liu Xia’s movements and communications and added, “She and her brother, Liu Hui, should immediately be allowed to leave for Germany or another country of their choice if they wish to.”

Gabriel also urged China to look in a “credible and transparent way” into whether Liu Xiaobo’s illness could and should have been detected earlier.

Liu was transferred to a hospital after being diagnosed with advanced liver cancer in prison in May but remained under police custody.


12:15 a.m.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has expressed condolences over Liu Xiaobo’s death, saying she had the “highest esteem for this human rights warrior.”

Tsai, who is loathed by Beijing for her refusal to endorse its view that Taiwan is Chinese territory, wrote on her Facebook page that Liu’s passing would be marked by all those around the world concerned with Chinese human rights.

She urged China to grant its citizens democratic rights and freedoms, saying, “We hope the mainland Chinese authorities will display the self-confidence to grant the people of mainland China the natural right of democracy and freedom and open up new prospects for relations” between China and Taiwan.

China’s government made no immediate official comment on Liu’s passing, although state broadcaster CCTV issued a brief statement on its English-language website.

Reporting his death, CCTV said Liu had been “jailed for engaging in activities designed to overthrow the Chinese government.”

“Liu was sentenced to 11 years in jail on December 25, 2009, after a local court in Beijing convicted him of agitation aimed at subverting the government,” it said.


11:50 p.m.

The United States is calling on China’s government to release the wife of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo from house arrest following his death.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should free Liu Xia and let her leave China as she wishes. He sent condolences over Liu’s death to her and other loved ones.

Tillerson said the world mourns Liu’s “tragic passing.” He said Liu, China’s most prominent political prisoner, dedicated his life to improving China and humankind and to pursuing justice and liberty.

Tillerson said Liu “embodied the human spirit that the Nobel Prize rewards” by fighting for freedom, equality and constitutional rule in China.

The U.S. had urged China in recent days to let Liu seek medical care at a location of his choice. China did not grant that request.


11:45 p.m.

Norway’s Nobel Committee has mourned the death of Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and leveled harsh criticism at the “free world” for its “hesitant, belated reactions” to his serious illness and imprisonment.

The organization’s chairwoman, Berit Reiss-Andersen, says the Chinese government “bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death.”

Liu, who died Thursday, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 but was unable to attend the award ceremony because he had been sentenced to prison by Chinese officials for allegedly inciting subversion.

Reiss-Andersen said in a statement that in the committee’s view, “he had not committed any criminal act … his trial and imprisonment were unjust.”

She said, “It is a sad and disturbing fact that the representatives of the free world, who themselves hold democracy and human rights in high regard, are less willing to stand up for those rights for the benefit of others.”


11:40 p.m.

Two Chinese doctors who led the treatment of Liu Xiaobo’s advanced liver cancer say he was accompanied by his family when he died.

The doctors, speaking at a briefing Thursday in the northeastern city of Shenyang where the hospital is located, said Liu died at 5:35 p.m.

Tumor expert Teng Yue’e, who was introduced as Liu’s main physician, said Liu’s wife, two brothers and other family members were by his side when he died.

Teng said Liu died peacefully.

The doctor’s account could not be independently verified. Liu’s wife and other family members have been closely guarded by Chinese authorities and unreachable by friends and the media.


11:30 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is paying tribute to Liu Xiaobo as a “courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of opinion.”

Liu, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence on subversion charges, died Thursday night in the Chinese city of Shenyang following a battle with liver cancer.

A German doctor and an American colleague visited Liu at a hospital last weekend, and the German government urged China on Wednesday to allow the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to leave the country for treatment abroad.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert quoted the German leader in a tweet as saying, “I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of opinion.” She offered “deep condolences to his family.”

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also offered his condolences. He said Liu “only wanted the best for his country and will not be forgotten.”


11:00 p.m.

Prominent pro-democracy activists and other supporters have gathered outside the Chinese central government’s representative office in Hong Kong to mourn the death of the country’s most prominent political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, and call for his wife Liu Xia to be freed from house arrest.

Pictures of Liu Xiaobo and placards reading “Free Liu Xia” were placed on a makeshift altar as mourners chanted slogans and signed a condolence book.

Unlike on the Chinese mainland, where the entirely state-controlled media were forbidden to mention his name, Liu became a prominent figure within the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong following his imprisonment in 2009 and award of the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.

Liu’s face was emblazoned on countless signs during Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy rally and march on Saturday, underscoring how he had become a unifying figure among the opposition in Hong Kong that has been criticized relentlessly by the territory’s leaders.


10:30 p.m.

Human rights advocates and pro-democracy activists have expressed deep sorrow over the death of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and called for his wife, Liu Xia, to be permitted to leave the country.

Wang Dan, a prominent leader of the 1989 pro-democracy protest movement on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, tweeted that governments and people worldwide must press for Liu Xia to be allowed to leave China, where she has been held under extralegal house arrest.

Wang wrote, “Xiaobo, my beloved teacher, my dear brother, you accepted too much hardship, rest easy.”

In Hong Kong, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted, “We will strive to carry forward his legacy to fight for democracy in HK and China.”

Internationally acclaimed artist and activist Ai Weiwei tweeted: “Rest in peace. We are here, Xiaobo is here with us.”

Fellow Beijing activist Hu Jia tweeted regrets that “we were not able to obtain your freedom during your life.”

“The world grieves for you. Your unfulfilled wish is our mission,” Hu wrote.

John Kamm, founder of the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco who has advised U.S. administrations on Chinese human rights issues, wrote that Liu’s demise “is a waystation on the road to freedom of the Chinese people.”

Attention turns to freedom of Liu Xiaobo’s widow after Chinese dissident’s death

July 14, 2017

By Christian Shepherd and Philip Wen

JULY 13, 2017 / 11:54 PM

Image may contain: 4 people

Pro-democracy demonstrators hold signs and portraits of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, China December 25, 2015.Tyrone Siu

BEIJING (Reuters) – Friends of China’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo, who died of liver cancer in custody, said on Friday they are still unable to contact his widow, Liu Xia, and that ensuring her freedom is now a top priority.

Liu Xiaobo, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

Liu Xia has been under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and was allowed to visit him in prison about once a month. She suffers from depression.

Liu Xiaobo died on Thursday after suffering multiple organ failure. He was recently moved from jail to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.

Rights groups and Western governments have mourned Liu Xiaobo’s death and also called for Chinese authorities to allow his wife and the rest of his family to move around freely.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also urged China to guarantee Liu Xia freedom of movement, and allow her to travel abroad should she want to.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged China to lift curbs on the movement of Liu Xia, in a statement sent to Reuters on Friday.

China, however, said the case remained an internal matter.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, eyeglasses

Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a photo of Liu Xiaobo during an interview in Beijing October 3, 2010. REUTERS -Petar Kujundzic

“The handling of Liu Xiaobo’s case belongs to China’s domestic affairs, and foreign countries are in no position to make improper remarks,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“We call on relevant countries to respect China’s judicial sovereignty and not to meddle in China’s domestic affairs with this individual case,” he said.

Hu Jia, a fellow dissident and family friend, said Liu Xia’s freedom was now a top priority for Liu Xiaobo’s supporters.

“Now, we are most concerned about Liu Xia, but there has been no information about her. She is at this moment the person who is suffering most,” Hu said.

“All the willpower and force we put behind freeing Liu Xiaobo, we have turned to Liu Xia,” he said, urging the United States and Germany to continue pressuring China to free Liu Xia.

Efforts should also focus on Liu Hui, the younger brother of Liu Xia, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2013 for fraud and to whom Liu Xia is very close, Hu said.

Several other family friends confirmed they were still unable to contact Liu Xia or family members to confirm her whereabouts.

Taiwan-based Wu’er Kaixi, a leading figure in China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement who knew Liu, made a plea to world leaders to suspend official interactions with China until Liu Xia was released.

“I want to urge the world, urge the world leaders, that you failed to save Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo,” he said.

“You failed to help him to receive his last wish, which is freedom and medical treatment he deserved. Please, do not fail again to save Liu Xia.”

Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a photo of Liu Xiaobo during an interview in Beijing October 3, 2010.Petar Kujundzic

A video clip of Liu Xiaobo’s treatment was released by the Shenyang justice department on Friday, the latest in a series issued by authorities who say he was well cared for in hospital.

It emphasized that Liu Xiaobo’s family had a history of liver cancer and that Liu Xia and his family were involved in the treatment process and kept abreast of developments.

Funeral Arrangements

Friends have also begun calling to be allowed to participate in Liu Xiaobo’s funeral arrangements and support his wife and family.

More than 150 friends and supporters, including some of China’s most prominent dissidents, rights lawyers and intellectuals, have also signed an open letter announcing plans for an “online memorial” to Liu.

Signatories have urged authorities to release Liu’s body and allow an open funeral by his family and friends.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

A pro-democracy protester holds a portrait of Liu Xia, the wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, during a protest to call for the freeing of Chinese dissidents outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong December 5, 2013.Tyrone Siu

“We will pay close attention to how Liu Xiaobo’s funeral will be arranged,” said Shanghai-based writer Wen Kejian, another friend of the family.

“We, at the very least, hope to have the opportunity to go to Shenyang or Beijing to send him off.”

Rights lawyer Chen Jinxue added, “Normally if someone has passed, the right to deal with the body lies with the family.”

Liu’s remains were taken to Shenyang’s Xiheyuan funeral parlor, a source close to the family said, but surrounding roads had been blocked off when a Reuters reporter tried to visit on Friday.

Local authorities forced half-a-dozen supporters of Liu who went to Shenyang to pay their respects to leave, or detained them, said Beijing-based rights activist Li Yu, who is tracking the cases.

News of Liu’s death prompted an outpouring of grief online, with many liberals, lawyers, dissidents and journalists sharing articles and posting on popular instant messaging app WeChat.

But censors were swift to act. Even an article titled, “Speaking of heroes, who is a hero?” from respected business publication Caixin was taken down after being shared by many of Liu Xiaobo’s supporters, despite making no mention of him.

Searches and postings of images and emojis of candles, as well as the word itself, were also blocked on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

“Tonight we will let you have the floor,” the state-backed Global Times tabloid said in a social media post that appeared to mock the mourners.

“The deceased has gone, the feigned sorrow is really preposterous. We will just eat watermelon and watch for the night.”

Ye Du, a writer and friend of Liu’s, said he hoped people would be able to commemorate Liu Xiaobo, despite harsh government restrictions.

“Liu Xia will surely be monitored and controlled,” he added. “Grieving in reality will certainly also be strictly controlled, but there will definitely be lots of people who will use all sorts of ways to mourn.”

Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Philip Wen in BEIJING, Joesph Campbell in SHENYANG and Fabian Hamacher and Damon Lin in TAIPEI; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez


BBC News

The love that s

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia grinning at each other
The couple’s romance has played out in labour camps, prisons and under house arrest, with the Chinese state always a third wheel

Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent years in prison for calling for political change in his country. For more than half of his marriage to Liu Xia, he has been imprisoned, and now he is dying of cancer. The BBC’s Celia Hatton looks back at how the couple’s love survived.

They fought to be allowed to marry each other. But when the government in Beijing finally backed down, permitting one of its unrelenting critics to marry his love, problems remained.

The camera that was supposed to take the couple’s official marriage picture wouldn’t work. The photographer was left scratching his head. Chinese marriage certificates aren’t valid unless they contain an official portrait snapped at the scene.

So, Liu Xiaobo and and his would-be wife, Liu Xia, improvised. They found single photos of themselves and stuck them side by side. The makeshift photo was stamped and finally, they were married.

That was in 1996.

Getting married was a small victory for the couple. It gave Liu Xia the right to visit her new husband in the grim labour camp in north-eastern China where he had recently been imprisoned. Liu Xia made the 1,600km (1,000 miles) return journey from Beijing every month.

“The train to the concentration camp,” she wrote in a poem. “Sobbing pass and running over my body/ Yet I still couldn’t hold your hand.”

Their wedding banquet was in the labour camp’s cafeteria, a scenario that would prove to be symbolic. Throughout their intense romance, the Chinese government was a relentless and interfering third wheel, the uninvited partner providing a constant backdrop to their interactions.

By all accounts, Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia were inseparable, except when they were forcibly parted.

Liu Xiaobo
Once an author and professor, Liu Xiaobo became a famous anti-government activist in China. LIU XIA / HANDOUT

Liu Xiaobo started as a brilliant writer and a beloved professor who was often invited to speak and study abroad.

In the spring of 1989, he was in New York City when he heard about the pro-democracy protests making their way to Tiananmen Square. He returned home to China at once.

Xiaobo helped spur on the protesters, as their calls for political reform rose to a crescendo, and then helped to negotiate with Chinese soldiers for many of the students to leave without harm.

It is still a state secret how many were killed by government forces in June 1989, but most agree the death toll would have been far higher without Liu Xiaobo.

That made little difference to the government.

A look back at the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre

Days after the silence fell on Tiananmen, Xiaobo was placed in a secret detention centre. He stayed there for almost 20 months. When he was released, he had lost nearly everything, including his prestigious teaching job and his home.

It was then that Liu Xiaobo connected with the light of his life: an exuberant young poet named Liu Xia.

a mug with the couple's faces onImage copyright
Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo are well-known inside and outside China. GETTY IMAGES

“I found all the beauty in the world in this one woman,” he reportedly told a friend.

Six years younger, she was already recognised as a gifted writer. Her close friend, the writer Liao Yiwu, said that back then, she was always giggling. Xia’s high tolerance for alcohol was also legendary; she could drink her friends under the table. Xiaobo adored large meals, but would only drink Coca-Cola.

Liu Xia came from a privileged background, the daughter of a high-ranking banking official. She was expected to become a civil servant too, but had recently given up that stable life in favour of writing.

Against all odds, Xia’s parents encouraged her relationship with Xiaobo, despite his political troubles.

‘If someone is in jail, their family’s life ends too’

In the early days, the couple tried to establish the semblance of a normal life. Xiaobo moved into Xia’s apartment, not far from Tiananmen Square, and they made a life together.

Liu Xiaobo was under near-constant surveillance by security agents, who pressured him to stop writing about the need for democracy, to stop criticising China’s one-party state.

“You must understand: If the government persecutes someone, the first thing they try to do is disturb their private life” explains the couple’s friend, Tienchi Martin-Liao.

“They will separate the couple. If someone is in jail, their family’s life ends too.”

The couple never seriously considered having children, Tienchi says.

“I asked him once, ‘Hey, why don’t you have a child with Liu Xia?'” Tienchi continues.

“Xiaobo told me: ‘I do not want that child, a son or a daughter, to see their father be taken away by the police’.

“He told me that. That is the reason why the couple never had children.”

‘I have never had a peaceful day since I am with you’

Tienchi worked as Liu Xiaobo’s editor, spending hours on the phone with him. Xia would sometimes bring him soup while he was on the phone, and Tienchi would listen to him happily slurp it down.

Later, when Xiaobo was handed his final prison sentence, the one that would put him behind bars for 11 years, Tienchi switched to speaking with Xia, who often sobbed on the phone.

“Of course she loves him and she is willing to do everything for him,” Tienchi explained. “And sometimes she complains. Not really complains but still she says, ‘Well, I have never had a peaceful day since I am with you together.’

“Which is true, which is totally true. Which doesn’t mean that she wants to leave him or anything like that. She just wants to emphasise how difficult and under what hard conditions their love connection to each other has survived.”

Even when Liu Xiaobo was out of prison, the couple were rarely left alone for long.

“Because he has written so many socially critical articles, a lot of underprivileged people would go to his house,” Tienchi Liao remembers.

“He doesn’t even know them. They just knock at his door and ring the bell at his house and say, ‘please help me, some injustice has happened to me’. And mostly, he would help those people.”

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia in front of a full bookcase
The couple, seen here in 2002, have only been able to live together for part of their married life as Xiaobo has been in and out of prison

Liu Xiaobo once recalled that even the pleasures of a birthday party were sometimes impossible.

He once told a Hong Kong newspaper, “at Liu Xia’s birthday, her best friend brought two bottles of wine but they were blocked by the police from my home. I ordered a cake and the police also rejected the man who delivered the cake to us. I quarrelled with them and the police said, “it is for your security. Bomb attacks are common these days.”

But Xiaobo didn’t ever decide to stop his work, even when it interfered with his home life with Xia. And some of that drive he blamed on his concern for her future.

“Liu Xiaobo frankly explained that he wanted to take advantage of the energy that he still has,” his biographer and close friend, the writer Yu Jie, wrote.

“So he could save up more money for Liu Xia, just in case one day something happened to him. At least Liu Xia would still be able to live without worrying about food and clothing.”

Some intellectuals said he wrote too many articles, and some of them lacked polish.

Everything changed when Liu Xiaobo helped to draft and circulate Charter 08, the document calling for an end to China’s one-party rule that would land him in prison.

Xia had always stayed away from Xiaobo’s political commentary, but she told the filmmaker Ai Xiaoming that she knew Charter 08 heralded trouble.

“I saw it coming early on,” she explained. “‘From the time that the first draft of Charter 08 appeared in my home, to when Xiaobo threw himself into revising it, I just knew that something terrible was going to happen.”

“Did you read it?” Ai asked her.

‘You wait in the intangible prison of the heart’

“I had no interest in doing so,” she answered. “But I knew there’d be big trouble. I tried to tell Xiaobo, but it was no use. I could only do what I’d done in the past – patiently wait for calamity to descend.”

Before Charter 08 was officially released, Xiaobo was taken away. At his trial almost a year later, he was found guilty of trying to overthrow the state.

His last public statement, made to the court in 2009, ended with an acknowledgement to his wife.

He said: “Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savour its aftertaste, it remains boundless.

“I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning.

Liu Xia was being detained in her own flat in Beijing – and the BBC was prevented from seeing her

“My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight.”

It’s unclear how much Liu Xiaobo knew about Xia’s living conditions after he began his final prison sentence.

Shortly after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 she was placed under strict house arrest, confined to her small apartment in Beijing.

When speaking with the BBC in 2010, Liu Xia said she couldn’t give Xiaobo any detailed information about her house arrest. “We were not allowed to talk about these things. We couldn’t talk about these things. Anyhow, I thought he could understand me. I just told him, ‘I live a life similar to yours’.”

people with photograph of Liu Xia and Amnesty International placard saying Free Liu Xia
Liu Xia was put under house arrest, prompting protests in Hong Kong. Getty Imares

“Originally I thought, when it just happened, that I would just be locked in for about a month or two. Time flies, now I’ve been locked for two years.”

As the years under house arrest dragged on, Xia became clinically depressed.

She had intermittent access to a phone, but could only phone a few close family members. A group of police would take Xia to see Xiaobo on occasions, but those visits were closely watched by the authorities, who would halt conversations if too much was shared.

Liu Xiaobo was finally reunited with his wife only after it was clear that he was dying of liver cancer. After he received medical parole and was transferred to a hospital in northern China, he pushed to leave China for overseas treatment. For Xia’s sake, sources told the BBC.

Protesters dressed as pandas with a big picture of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, and slogans in German
Liu Xiaobo’s situation is famous around the world; when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Berlin last week, these protesters held signs calling for the couple to be able to leave China, and saying the countries’ leaders preferred to talk about pandas than human rights. Reuters

“He worries what will happen when he’s gone,” one friend explained. “He wants to take her out of China, and her brother too.”

Tienchi’s voice drops when asked about the future for Liu Xia after her beloved Xiaobo passes away. “We know that she is very ill, physically and psychologically. We are all worried he doesn’t have much time to live and we are all worried afterwards what happens to her.”

When Xiaobo is gone, Xia will have little left of him. In 2009, she admitted that even Xiaobo’s poems and letters to her have all but gone.

“During Xiaobo’s re-education through labour for three years from 8 October 1996 to 8 October 1999, I wrote him more than 300 letters and he wrote me 2-3 million words. After our home was raided several times, his writings generally disappeared.

“This is our life.”

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, he in pyjamas and she in outdoor clothes
Image captionLiu Xiaobo was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and has been let out of prison

More on this story

  • Liu Xiaobo: Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner
    13 July 2017
  • Liu Xiaobo: Hospital says dissident’s health worsening
    6 July 2017
  • Liu Xiaobo: Jailed Chinese dissident has terminal cancer
    26 June 2017
  • Human rights: What is China accused of?
    21 October 2015
  • Liu Xia, wife of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, ‘depressed’
    3 December 2013
  • China’s voices of dissent
    31 August 2012
  • The Nobel Peace Prize’s empty chair
    10 December 2010
  • Liu Xiaobo: China’s Nobel public affairs disaster
    10 December 2010
  • Charter 08: A call for change in China
    9 December 2010
  • Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo
    8 October 2010

China’s liberals quietly fight efforts to erase Liu Xiaobo legacy — Plus: “Murder without spilling blood” — The Chinese Communist Party’s history of denying medical treatment to its enemies

July 13, 2017


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In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong hold a candlelight vigil in support of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.


Pro-democracy activists continue their sit-in demanding the release of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 12, 2017.Bobby Yip

SHENYANG, China (Reuters) – As the hospital treating Liu Xiaobao says his organs and breathing have begun to fail from cancer, few in China outside a small circle of dissidents know about the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and his lifetime pursuit of liberal democratic reform.

Even other patients at the First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang, where Liu is being treated, seem not to know they are sharing the facilities with a world famous dissident.

When Reuters visited the floor where friends say Liu is being treated, visitors for other patients on the same ward seemed confused and asked why there were new procedures when security questioned them and checked their IDs.

Liu Xiaobo Nobel Peace: A policeman standing next to a poster showing Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

Nothing has appeared in Chinese-language official media since Liu was diagnosed with cancer in late May. Searches for “Liu Xiaobo” on Chinese social media show no results.

China’s foreign ministry answers questions from international media at its daily briefing with the standard line: China is a country ruled by law and the case is an internal affair; other countries should not meddle. Even that line is missing from the official transcripts of the briefings on the ministry’s website.

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, is the only publication that regularly writes articles about Liu, in English, and usually to rebuff international criticism.

The paper has cast Liu as an outsider marginalized from society whose cause has failed inside China.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

A member of the Australian Tibetan community places a candle near a banner during a candlelight vigil for the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore

It was “overseas dissidents” who are the most active in “hyping the issue” and are trying to “boost their image by ‘deifying’ Liu,” the Global Times said in a Monday editorial. “Western mainstream society is much less enthusiastic than before in interfering with China’s sovereign affairs,” it said.

Charter 08

Liu was the co-author of a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, which attracted more than 10,000 signatures online before the authorities deleted the document from internet pages and chatrooms. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, a year after he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion.

Charter ’08, issued in 2008, reflected an apparent shift in China at the time toward becoming more open to liberal ideals, said Beijing-based historian and political commentator Zhang Lifan. That changed when Xi Jinping came to power in 2013.

“Since (Liu) was sentenced, peaceful transformation as a route for change has essentially been blocked off by the party. Since the new administration came into office, the party is moving in the opposite direction,” he said.

Hu Jia, a well-known Beijing-based dissident and friend of Liu’s, says few people in China know anything about him or his work.

“The reality is that if you are on the streets of Beijing and you stop a hundred people, to have one know who Liu Xiaobo is would be a great result,” he said.

Pro-democracy activists stage a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017.Bobby Yip

“Chinese society, due to internet censorship and being cut off from the rest of the world, essentially does not get to hear our (dissident) voices. Protesting voices on Weibo are almost not existent these days,” Hu said.

But Xi has helped the dissident movement by locking up a peaceful protester and letting him die in detention. “The last state to do that was Nazi Germany,” Hu says.

Carl von Ossietzky, a pacifist who died in 1938 in Nazi Germany’s Berlin, was the last Nobel Peace Prize winner to live out his dying days under state surveillance.

‘Need to Act’

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, shoes and outdoor

FILE PHOTO: A monument of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of a building of the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, where friends of sick dissident Liu Xiaobo say he is being treated, in Shenyang, China July 10, 2017.Christian Shepherd/File Photo

While China’s censorship makes it difficult to assess Liu’s support, he is a “hero” for many liberals in China, even if few will speak out for him, a Chinese editor at an online publication said, declining to be named.

“I am really not sure if it’s accurate to claim he is unknown to the public, (or if) people are just too scared to show their knowledge (of Liu),” the editor said.

Despite the restrictions, internet posters have written in support of Liu and his cause, using variations on his name to avoid the censors.

“When it comes to freedom, comes to constitutional government, we have talked too much, now we need to act,” read one comment on the micro-blogging platform Weibo. “Situations like Liu Xiaobo’s are still a worry, but we nevertheless need people to act, bravely face the risk of death and act.”

Pro-democracy activists stage a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The post echoed something Liu wrote in April 1989 when he returned from studying in the United States to take part in the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square: intellectuals often “just talk”, they “do not do”.

“He’s leaving, but we cannot see, cannot speak, cannot act” said the headline of an article shared as an image on the popular messaging platform, WeChat, a method that can slow down the censors. In the article, three people born in the 1980s were interviewed about Liu.

“I will see him as a very important symbol, (but) people like him fail to get attention from common folk, and given his plight as an unknown prisoner of conscience, there is little to say,” one person identified as L said in the article.

Albert Ho, who heads the Hong Kong Alliance organizing protests in Liu’s support, said China’s efforts to erase Liu from people’s memory will fail.

“Don’t underestimate the power of the internet … And don’t underestimate the people. I have seen many episodes where suddenly the hero gets degraded into the devil and the devil becomes the hero,” he said, referring to previous shifts in China’s political system.

“People are not living in an open society in China so you never know,” he said.

Additional reporting by Venus Wu in HONG KONG and Beijing news room; Editing by Bill Tarrant


See also:


“Murder without spilling blood”: the Chinese Communist Party’s history of denying medical treatment to its enemies

.Activists send postcards to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

“Xiaobo, we are with you.” (EPA/Alex Hofford)
July 11, 2017

When news emerged that Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was gravely ill in hospital with late-term liver cancer, many wondered whether the Chinese Communist Party had purposely delayed treatment for the vocal critic of the regime.

Indeed, the party has a history of intentionally denying or delaying adequate medical treatment to such critics, or people deemed “enemies of the state.” During the era of chairman Mao Zedong, many of China’s intellectual elites were sent to labor camps and jails, where harsh conditions and the denial of health care often led to poor health and early death. Those who survived suffered from chronic illnesses and mental trauma that lasted for the rest of their lives.

Veteran journalist Dai Huang, who was sent to labor camps for 20 years after being branded an “anti-party” element for criticizing Mao’s cult of personality, wrote in his memoir Nine Deaths and One Life of his own experience of starvation, injury, sickness, and denial of medical treatment. Dai, who died in 2016, also chronicled the brutal treatment of artists, academics, and journalists who perished in the camps.

Dai wrote that even when these political outcasts were sent to rural clinics, staff were often too afraid to treat them, wary of being accused of sympathizing with “class enemies.” When he suffered a serious leg injury in an accident, his supervisor accused him of faking illness. In his elderly years, Dai suffered from hepatitis and cancer of the colon and rectum, illnesses that his family attributed to malnutrition and harsh conditions in the camps.

The return of “class enemies”

Senior members of the Communist Party who were seen by Mao as a threat were not immune to such maltreatment. After president Liu Shaoqi was purged in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution, the one-time designated successor of Mao was put under house arrest and condemned as “a traitor to the revolution,” “enemy agent,” and China’s foremost “capitalist-roader.” According to historical accounts, he was frequently beaten in public denunciation sessions and was for a long time denied medication for diabetes and pneumonia. In October 1969 he was taken from Beijing to Henan province, where he died in isolation a month later.

He Long (link in Chinese), a military leader and vice premier, spent the last two-and-a-half years of his life under house arrest, where he was deprived of food and water, made to sleep on the floor with no blankets and pillows, and refused medication for his chronic diabetes. When he was finally sent to hospital, doctors were ordered not to give him the best medicine. He died in 1969, after a glucose injection caused complications for his diabetes. According to some reports, he condemned the authorities’ treatment as “murder without spilling blood.”

Tao Zhu, another top party leader who was put under house arrest during the Cultural Revolution, was diagnosed with cancer of the gall bladder but was refused medical treatment until it was too late, author Jung Chang chronicled in her book Wild Swans. He died in 1969.

With the launch of the “reform and opening up” era in the 1980s, the brutal class-based ideology of the party was in gradual decline, as Liu Xiaobo also noted—only to make a comeback in recent years under president Xi Jinping, as government critics languishing in custody with ill health died under suspicious circumstances.

Activist Cao Shunli died in hospital in March 2014, three weeks after she fell into a coma under unknown circumstances and was granted medical parole. She was detained by police six months earlier for staging protests on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Her lawyer said she was denied treatment for tuberculosis and liver disease, and her family, denied visits while she was alive, said her body appeared bruised and swollen.

In July 2015, Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in a Chinese prison after having served 13 years on separatism and terror charges. His family applied for medical parole, citing a heart condition, but were ignored.

The rhetorical foundation of Xi’s increasingly repressive rule can be traced to a 2012 article (link in Chinese) in state mouthpiece People’s Daily, which cautioned against the danger of five categories of people—dissidents, rights lawyers, underground religious followers, opinion leaders on the internet, and the underprivileged—accusing them of “infiltrating” Chinese society to push for regime change. It was reminiscent of the so-called “five black categories” of the Cultural Revolution—landlords, rich peasants and capitalists, counter-revolutionaries, “bad elements,” and rightists—who were often violently beaten up by Mao’s Red Guards and refused treatment by medical staff.

In critical condition

Since he was “released” on medical parole in June, Liu Xiaobo has been transferred to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. As Liu’s life hangs in the balance, Chinese authorities are pulling out all the stops to reject accusations that he has been denied adequate health care, in an apparent response to international criticism.

China Jailed Nobel Nobel laureate
Photos on the website of the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang show foreign doctors meeting with Liu Xiaobo at the hospital. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The government openly invited foreign doctors to treat Liu last week. Official websites say Liu has been undergoing annual health check-ups since he was jailed in 2009, and that Liu has been treated by the country’s top cancer expert since his cancer was diagnosed in early June. A video was posted on YouTube—which is blocked in China—showing Liu receiving medical treatment, including a scan, and captured him saying on camera that he “greatly appreciated” the care he was offered. Authorities also contend that Liu already had a history of hepatitis B before he was imprisoned this time round.

Yet Chinese authorities continue to deny him the freedom to be treated abroad. German and American doctors who visited Liu said they believed that he could travel, contrary to claims by the Chinese government.

In 2009, in his final statement to the court before his 11-year jail sentence was announced—which was also read out in the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo—Liu said he still held out hopes for his country. He said compared to his previous jail terms, he experienced more humane treatment during this period of incarceration, and said that was evidence of the decline of the Maoist philosophy of class struggle:

“The weakening of the enemy mentality (in Chinese society) has paved the way for the regime to gradually accept the universality of human rights… It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China.”

The First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang said on Monday (July 11) that Liu was in critical condition. A statement on the hospital website said his tumor has grown, and that there are other complications including bleeding from his liver, peritonitis, acute renal insufficiency, and a drop in blood pressure.

As he lies in the hospital in Shenyang, denied the chance to receive the best treatment abroad, Liu’s hopes of a free China die with him.


North Korea’s Latest Missile Test Puts China in a Corner

July 5, 2017

Beijing calls for calm and restraint as Trump urges ‘heavy move’ on Pyongyang

U.S. President Donald Trump welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla., in April.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla., in April. PHOTO:JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BEIJING—North Korea’s announcement of an intercontinental-ballistic-missile test intensifies pressure on Beijing to penalize Pyongyang or risk further tensions with Washington as the U.S. and Chinese presidents prepare to meet this week.

Tuesday’s test of the Hwasong-14 missile marked a setback for Beijing, analysts said, undermining its repeated calls for the U.S. to negotiate with North Korea and increasing the risk that the Trump administration could turn to military action to quash Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The test also provides political leverage for U.S. President Donald Trump at meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders at a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Germany later this week. Mr. Trump is expected to try to rally other international leaders behind stricter United Nations sanctions on North Korea and urge stronger measures by China to restrain North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“This test is a heavy blow for China,” said Zhu Feng, an international security expert at China’s Nanjing University. “Beijing wants to see the U.S. talking with North Korea and not just emphasizing sanctions and isolation. But North Korea keeps escalating the tension.”

Mr. Xi has trod a careful line with Mr. Trump, who for months has appealed to Beijing to rein in its North Korean neighbor. China has backed existing U.N. sanctions and banned imports of North Korean coal, a recent key source of revenue, while opposing more potent measures that might destabilize Pyongyang, triggering a flood of refugees into northeastern China and bringing U.S. troops closer to the Chinese border.

Even before the test, Mr. Trump signaled his rising frustration with Beijing, in recent days by approving a big arms sale to Taiwansending a U.S. Navy destroyer close to a Chinese-held island in the South China Sea and sanctioning two Chinese companies and two Chinese nationals for alleged dealings with North Korea.

Soon after Tuesday’s test, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter another appeal to Beijing, saying “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

China’s options for ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang include cutting exports of oil and other essential goods, reducing imports of commodities such as iron ore, and banning Chinese tourists from North Korea, said Nanjing University’s Mr. Zhu.

He said that Beijing might also consider discussing contingency plans with the U.S. over what would happen in the event of a military strike against Pyongyang—something that the Chinese leadership has been reluctant to do despite repeated urgings from Washington.

Fueling Beijing’s caution are disagreements within the civilian and military leadership over how to respond, with some arguing that a united, democratic Korea poses a greater threat to Beijing than a nuclear-armed Pyongyang, other Chinese experts said.

At a regular briefing Tuesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the issue was “complicated and sensitive” and reiterated Beijing’s position that China opposes any North Korean actions that violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The spokesman, Geng Shuang, urged all countries involved to “remain calm and exercise restraint, stop irritating each other, work hard to create an atmosphere for contact and dialogue between all sides, and seek a return to the correct path of dialogue and negotiation as soon as possible.”

China has repeatedly suggested that North Korea halt its nuclear program in exchange for a suspension of joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea—a proposal rejected by Washington.

Zhang Liangui, an expert on North Korea at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School, said Beijing’s position was unlikely to change fundamentally until it recognized that Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program didn’t just threaten the U.S.

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North Korea said it successfully test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a claim that could escalate tensions between Pyongyang and the rest of the world. Image: KRT/AP

“In China, a considerable number of people think the North Korean nuclear issue is not a matter for China, but is between the U.S. and North Korea,” he said. “I think it’s an absolute mistake for the U.S. to rely on China to resolve the problem.”

Write to Jeremy Page at

Appeared in the July 5, 2017, print edition as ‘Missile Test Puts China in Tough Spot.’

China’s treatment of sick activist raises fears for others — “If Xi is going to stand up in public and say that China is a country governed by rule of law, how has this been allowed to happen?”

June 27, 2017


© LIU FAMILY/AFP/File / by Allison JACKSON, Joanna CHIU | This picture released by the family of Liu Xiaobo taken on March 14, 2005 shows 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo (L) and his brother Liu Xiaoxuan in Guangzhou in southern China

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s treatment of cancer-stricken democracy activist Liu Xiaobo reflects Beijing’s hardening crackdown on political dissent and heightens concern over lesser-known campaigners still languishing in jail, supporters say.

Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, has been transferred from prison to a hospital on medical parole for terminal liver cancer treatment, his lawyer said Monday.

The 61-year-old is one of China’s best-known activists, having spent decades campaigning for greater democracy and human rights in the country, and his jailing in 2009 drew global calls for his release.

Prison authorities said Liu was under the care of “eight renowned Chinese oncologists” at a hospital in Shenyang city, the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Activists said the move was not a humanitarian gesture but rather a cynical attempt by authorities to avoid a backlash for allowing such a high-profile human rights defender to die behind bars.

“Presumably they didn’t want him to die in the prison — they want him to die somewhere else,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, who described Liu’s treatment as a “travesty”.

Blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who fled to the United States in 2012, said: “If Liu died in prison this would arouse the anger of the people and accelerate the demise of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).”

– ‘No human rights’ –

Liu’s treatment offered little hope to lower-profile activists still in detention, supporters said.

“The international community can see that China has no human rights when even Nobel prize winners have been treated like this,” Beijing-based lawyer Yu Wensheng said, adding that when Liu dies it will be “a heavy blow” for China’s human rights movement.

China has long been criticised for its harsh treatment of activists and dissidents but since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012 the controls on civil society have tightened.

Campaigners say it is impossible to know the exact number of lawyers and activists in detention because many are held incommunicado with no access to legal advice or their families.

In the summer of 2015 hundreds of legal staff and activists were detained under the so-called “709 crackdown”, which was the toughest against civil society for years.

Most of those rounded up were released on bail but last year courts found six of them guilty of serious crimes, with sentences ranging from no additional jail time to seven years in prison.

Wang Quanzhang, one of several leading rights lawyers whose fate remains unclear, was charged in January 2016 with “inciting subversion of state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” but he has not yet stood trial and has been denied access to a lawyer.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 percent and there are growing concerns about the use of torture to extract confessions and the lack of effective defence.

In an annual report in March, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang cited the harsh punishments imposed on rights defenders as the legal system’s top accomplishment last year.

“The crackdown on human rights defenders and activists has been getting more serious,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.

– Still not free –

The exact conditions of Liu’s parole are not known but activists said he would likely be kept under police surveillance. Close friends of his told AFP his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest in Beijing since 2010, has been allowed to visit him.

The US embassy in Beijing on Tuesday called on China to release the couple and allow Liu to choose his own doctors.

“Liu will never be free. He will still be tightly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party as his wife has been for so many years,” Chen Guangcheng said.

Activists are demanding to know whether Liu received any medical treatment while he was in jail and why he was not given parole earlier.

“It’s very difficult to understand why his illness is only being treated at the last stage,” said Poon.

But Richardson said China had a history of allowing “peaceful critics to become gravely ill and sometimes die in detention”.

Among them are Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who was 13 years into a life sentence for terrorism and separatism when he died in prison in July 2015.

Chinese dissident Cao Shunli passed away in custody in March 2014 after allegedly being denied medical treatment for months.

“If Xi is going to stand up in public and say that China is a country governed by rule of law, how has this been allowed to happen,” she said, calling for China’s president and other officials to be held accountable.

by Allison JACKSON, Joanna CHIU
See also:
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Cao Shunli passed away in custody in China in March 2014 after allegedly being denied medical treatment for months
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Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in custody in China
Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses
Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian — Died in prison in China
See also:
BBC News

Liu Xiaobo: Jailed Chinese dissident has terminal cancer

  • 26 June 2017
  • From the sectionChina
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is seen in this undated photo released by his families.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionLiu Xiaobo is a poet and human rights campaigner

Chinese Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has been moved from prison to hospital after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

Mr Liu, a human rights campaigner, was jailed in 2009 on subversion charges for calling for greater democracy.

His lawyer says he is being treated in hospital in northern Liaoning Province after being diagnosed a month ago.

His wife Liu Xia has been under house arrest since her husband won the award in 2010 but has never been charged.

Liu Xiaobo, 61, was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The Chinese authorities have never explained why they have restricted his wife’s movements.

Mr Liu’s brother confirmed the Nobel laureate had been diagnosed with cancer on 23 May, his lawyer Mo Shaoping told the South China Morning Post. He was released days later and is now being treated in the northern city of Shenyang.

“He has no special plans. He is just receiving medical treatment for his illness,” Mo Shaoping told AFP news agency.

A statement from the government in Liaoning said Mr Liu had been released on medical parole and was being treated by eight tumour experts.

Fighting for change from within – Stephen McDonell, BBC News, Beijing

Most people in China have never heard of Liu Xiaobo due to the censorship of discussion about him here. That it could take a month for news of his release to become public gives you an idea of the level of sensitivity.

It also shows that his transfer to hospital by no means guarantees his friends and family will be able to visit.

After the brutal crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989 Mr Liu was driven to the front gate of the Australian embassy and an Australian diplomat said that he had to choose in or out.

He decided not to leave, believing he could be more effective trying to make change from within. This commitment to a very different China has led to him paying a terrible price.

The Nobel committee described Liu Xiaobo as “the foremost symbol” of the human rights struggle in China.

He never collected his prize and was represented by an empty chair. The Chinese government, which regards him as a criminal, was infuriated by the award.

Diplomatic ties with Norway were frozen. Relations were normalised only last December.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia (C), together with human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping (L), arrive at the court for the trial of her brother, Liu Hui, who is charged for committing fraud in connection with a real-estate deal, in Beijing on April 23, 2013.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionLiu Xia (seen with lawyer Mo Shaoping, left) has been allowed only brief, intermittent visits to her husband

Mr Liu has three years left to serve of an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion” after drafting Charter 08 – which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

Amnesty International said he should never have been jailed.

It urged China to ensure he received “adequate medical care, effective access to his family and that he and all others imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights are immediately and unconditionally released”.

China’s Xi to visit Hong Kong next week

June 23, 2017


© Pool/AFP/File | President Xi Jinping will come to Hong Kong next week to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain, according to local media

HONG KONG (AFP) – President Xi Jinping will come to Hong Kong next week to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain, local media said, in a visit that will be incendiary to activists.Although widely expected, officials have not so far said whether Xi will make the trip, his first to Hong Kong since becoming president in 2013.

The South China Morning Post reported for the first time Friday that Xi’s visit had been “confirmed”, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the visit.

It comes at a time when Beijing stands accused of squeezing the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms and frustrations have led to the emergence of a new independence movement calling for Hong Kong to break from the mainland.

Protesters say they are preparing to gather during the handover celebrations and Xi’s visit will be shrouded in a huge security operation.

His itinerary includes touring the garrison of China’s People’s Liberation Army in central Hong Kong, as well as visiting an infrastructure project, the Post said.

He will arrive Thursday with his wife Peng Liyuan and stay until Saturday July 1, the handover anniversary date, when he will inaugurate the city’s new leader Carrie Lam, the report added.

Hong Kong was handed back to China by colonial power Britain in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal designed to protect its freedoms and way of life for 50 years.

But a number of incidents, including the disqualification from parliament of two pro-independence lawmakers and the alleged abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers, have raised fears that Beijing is trampling the agreement.

A government spokesman told AFP Friday there was still no official confirmation that Xi would visit.

Political analyst Willy Lam predicted there may be “ugly scenes” if he does.

“The fact that the head of the (Chinese Communist) party and the army is in Hong Kong I think will enhance people’s impression that Beijing really means business,” said Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“This is a symbol of the fact that in ‘one country, two systems’, the one country is towering over the two systems.”

China: Could the world’s new superpower be on the verge of collapse? — China must step up

June 21, 2017

By Paul Wilson

COULD China be witnessing the beginnings of its own end?

The vast majority of commentators say chances are slim. Most are as dismissive of China-sceptics as Nikita Krushchev was of USSR doom-mongers in the late fifties. Yet within three decades of “We will bury you!” Krushchev was proved wrong. History was not on his side and the only grave being dug was for the Soviet Union itself.

But, surely, this is the beginning of the great “Chinese Century”? The People’s Republic is completely different to the USSR? It’s all about economics now? Well, yes and no …

Historical map of China. Picture: Thinkstock

Historical map of China. Picture: Thinkstock Source:News Limited


Pull out a map of the Orient. Not a Chinese Communist Party standard issue, but one from history. Whether you go back a hundred years or a thousand, the image that greets you is strikingly similar: a far, far smaller “China”, centred on the old Han Chinese heartlands. Much of what lies within “Chinese” borders today was not so long ago a mosaic of very separate, non-Chinese states, only absorbed by force.

Travel around China, and as you leave the booming cities of the east, the picture becomes clear. Fewer people look “Chinese”, speak Chinese (either Mandarin or Cantonese), or act “Chinese” (mosques instead of Mao, chortens instead of chopsticks). It is not so much “ethnic minorities” living in “autonomous zones”, more non-Chinese majorities whose homelands have been swiped from beneath their feet. The contrast with Beijing and Shanghai is stark, despite millions of Han Chinese families being forcibly relocated to live in these regions, or bribed with government jobs.

If it was inevitable Soviet Republics like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would one day seek self-determination, is it so hard to believe Tibetans and Uighurs won’t do the same? Or that Inner Mongolians wish reunification with their “Outer” cousins?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inspects the troops with Premier Li Keqiang outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on his first official visit to China. Picture: Stephen Cooper

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inspects the troops with Premier Li Keqiang outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on his first official visit to China. Picture: Stephen CooperSource:News Corp Australia


China may not face the threat of a cold war, yet it is still embroiled in major conflict. Trump, Putin, even Kim Jong-un could be roll-called as potential adversaries, but foreign opponents are the least of Party Leaders’ worries. The reality is they are already at war on three home fronts:


This is the Mandarin name for the enormous province that makes up northwest China. However, a significant minority of the region’s (primarily Muslim) inhabitants use “East Turkestan” or “Uighurstan”. The area’s history is of mixed fortune but for much of the past it was made up of rich independent kingdoms like Khotan or Kashgar. As recently as 1949, East Turkestan existed as an independent republic. Today, the largest ethnic group is the Uighurs, and many are in conflict with Beijing. Suicide bombings, embassy attacks and plane hijackings are regularly carried out by groups demanding their own nation state. A 2014 attack at the Kunming Railway station killed 31 and injured 141.


The Tibetan struggle may be the most peaceful “war” on the planet, but this does allow the Dalai Lama to retain broad international sympathy. Historically, Tibet also included much of the modern Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan, and ethnically and culturally Tibetans have always been completely at odds with their Chinese neighbours. This whole region is still primarily “Tibetan”, despite 150,000 Tibetans living in exile. Recent protests have turned violent, sometimes deadly.


Technically, China is not at war with this nation but that is only because Taiwan has never formally declared nationhood. If Taipei does, Beijing has vowed it will launch an immediate military attack. As recently as March 2017, Taiwan’s Defence Minister talked of “warfare” against mainland China. With hostilities in the South China Sea steadily increasing, and Washington using Taiwan as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Beijing, developments in Taipei could yet be a major catalyst for change.

Workers install the ‘Golden Bridge of Silk Road’ outside a summit showcasing President Xi Jinping's signature foreign-policy plan ‘One Belt, One Road’. Picture: AP

Workers install the ‘Golden Bridge of Silk Road’ outside a summit showcasing President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign-policy plan ‘One Belt, One Road’. Picture: APSource:AP


If economics as much as politics proves instrumental in the unravelling of modern China, Hong Kong holds the key. Beijing has made every effort to integrate the former colony into the mainland economy, but fundamental obstacles remain. Uncompromising protests frequently denounce Beijing for reneging on promises, with many “islanders” demanding full democratic rights and an end to the one-party system.

Dissent is spreading across southern China and many protesters, like their Hong Kong counterparts, are Cantonese — or Hokkien-speaking Han. Those south of the Yangzte River may share ethnic and cultural ties with their Mandarin-speaking cousins in the north, but they have long considered themselves different. Traditionally this might have only been a preference for rice over noodles, but increasingly debate is about more than what food’s on the table.

Will China collapse? Ask this guy.

Will China collapse? Ask this guy.Source:AP


The world’s new “superpower” hopes investment in the provinces will convince locals that life under CPC rule is preferable to any breakup. In particular, President Xi Jinping is staking billions on his “One Belt, One Road” policy, aimed at creating a “New Silk Road” to bring trade and prosperity. Nevertheless, the economy is increasingly volatile. Could a 9/11-type terrorist event cause it to implode? Under such circumstances, might the Han Chinese call for their Uighur, Tibetan and Mongol “compatriots” to be cut loose? This is a country famous for turning its back on the outside world.

Tellingly, the Kremlin also ordered mass migrations. Stalin sent thousands of native Russians to “modernise” his newly created Soviet Republics, yet following the breakup of the USSR the vast majority quickly returned. Successive leaders tried similar “economic solutions” but the likes of Perestroika and Glasnost proved too little too late.

Will China collapse tomorrow? Probably not. In the next 30 years? Ask Mikhail Gorbachev.

Paul Wilson has been travelling through Central Asia and China since the late 1990s. His book, The Silk Roads (Trailblazer), is in its third edition. He is a regular speaker at the UNWTO’s Silk Road Programme and Open Central Asia Literary Festival.

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China’s “Belt and Road” plan would be the world’s largest infrastructure program.


 (The “Project of the Century” is, at heart, an imperial venture.)


Guo Wengui Exposes China’s Corruption

May 31, 2017

The biggest political story in China this year isn’t in Beijing. It isn’t even in China. It’s centered at a $68 million apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.

That’s where Guo Wengui, a billionaire in self-imposed exile, has hurled political grenades at the Chinese Communist Party for months, accusing senior leaders of graft using Twitter as his loudspeaker. He escalated his attack by claiming that members of the family of China’s second most powerful official, who oversees the country’s anticorruption effort, secretly own a large stake in a major Chinese conglomerate.

The Chinese government responded by unleashing the state-controlled media to enumerate Mr. Guo’s alleged frauds, and asking Interpol to put out a global warrant for his arrest.

But then something unexpected happened. China stood down. The state media campaign against him tapered off. In mid-May, Mr. Guo announced on Twitter that his wife and daughter — previously barred from leaving China — had been allowed to visit him in New York.

“We need to root out some of the robbers of this country,” Mr. Guo, referring to China, told two New York Times reporters this month at his apartment. To emphasize the point, he wrote it out in Chinese in a notebook. “We are against using corruption to root out corruption.”

Mr. Guo’s allegations are unproved, and some of his claims have been outlandish and easily debunked. Yet amid his barrage of charges about China’s powerful and wealthy are claims that have turned out to be accurate. And the government’s treatment of Mr. Guo, whose former political patron was one of China’s highest-ranking intelligence officials, suggests he may be taken seriously, perhaps even supported, by some officials in Beijing.



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China’s Belt and Road to Nowhere — Can anyone just say no? — Cutting through China’s propaganda

May 22, 2017
Shanghai at night. Pixabay/Public domain

Beijing’s mixture of political and economic priorities may not result in an overall Belt and Road policy formula that is workable.


May 21, 2017

A great deal of attention is being paid by Western media to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, the most ambitious foreign-policy initiative yet for paramount leader Xi Jinping. Launched in 2013 under the slogan “One Belt, One Road,” the effort involves China spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects in countries along the old Silk Road linking it with Europe.

The ambition of Xi is immense, but it is largely driven by insecurity. Western media parrots China’s propaganda about the Belt and Road Initiative. “Its ultimate aim is to make Eurasia (dominated by China) an economic and trading area to rival the transatlantic one (dominated by America),” reports the Economist.

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But in fact the motivations for China are far more simple and direct than this grandiose vision suggests. Viewed through the prism of China’s economic progress over the past decade, the Belt and Road program is merely a continuation of China’s massive internal investment in infrastructure—only on a larger scale.

China is spending roughly $150 billion annually to build roads, rail lines and other infrastructure in sixty-plus countries that have signed up to the scheme. The obvious question is whether China can support such a gigantic effort.

In 1958, Mao announced the “great leap forward,” a program grounded upon the Marxian prescription for the advancement of industrial technology which ultimately resulted in the deaths of between twenty million and forty million Chinese nationals. Christopher Balding, writing for Bloomberg View, questions the financial logic of Xi’s version of the “great leap forward” of the Maoist period:

China’s just-completed conference touting its Belt and Road initiative certainly looked like a triumph, with Russian president Vladimir Putin playing the piano and Chinese leaders announcing a string of potential deals and massive financial pledges. Underneath all the heady talk about China positioning itself at the heart of a new global order, though, lies in uncomfortable question: Can it afford to do so?

Foreign analysts often try to understand Chinese thinking and priorities using the commercial and economic logic of the West, but, in fact, asking whether China can afford the Belt and Road effort is to ask the wrong question. In the minds of China’s leaders, who fear political instability above all else, the real question is whether China can afford not to spend more tens of billions on infrastructure projects to keep the country’s restive population under control.

Going back to President Xi’s meeting with President Donald Trump earlier this year and his carefully scripted defense of free trade, the Chinese leader is clearly focused on creating new channels to absorb China’s massive overcapacity. “Trade is the important engine of economic development,” Xi said at a summit of world leaders in Beijing that was largely ignored by the United States, European nations and India.

But, in fact, it is investment flows, not trade, that dominates the economic relationship between the United States and China. The key challenge facing China is not how to generate greater trade flows, especially away from its primary partner the United States, but how to allocate investment flows given the dearth of attractive investment opportunities in China.

Just as Germany channeled its surplus savings to the nations of Southern Europe, China has been allowing its citizens to invest trillions of dollars in the United States, Canada and other nations, often focused on direct investment in companies and real estate. Over the past five years, for example, Chinese nationals ploughed $1 trillion into foreign real estate and other assets.

“The most important economic truth to grasp about the U.S. trade deficit is that it has virtually nothing to do with trade policy,” noted Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute in testimony before Congress two decades ago. “A nation’s trade deficit is determined by the flow of investment funds into or out of the country. And those flows are determined by how much the people of a nation save and invest—two variables that are only marginally affected by trade policy.”

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Thus, when we look at China’s massive investment in infrastructure outside of its own borders, we see the imperative of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), namely political stability. Measured in economic terms, many of China’s supposed “investments” along the Silk Road don’t make a great deal of sense.

But viewed from the political perspective of employing China’s people and the accumulation of unused capacity inside the Chinese economy, the Belt and Road makes perfect sense. Beijing’s mixture of political and economic priorities will not necessarily result in an overall policy formula that is actually workable. Note for example, the November 2016 decision to impose barriers on foreign investments by private individuals and companies.

The de facto currency controls are slowing the outward flow of investment—and dollars—from China, a change that has negative implications for the value of the U.S. currency, the United States real estate market and also implies a weaker Chinese renminbi (RMB).

As we have noted in previous articles for the National Interest, the Chinese RMB has been under pressure to depreciate against the dollar. China’s central bank sold over $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds to provide the dollars to slow down the decline (by buying RMB). Indeed, over the past several years China’s massive foreign currency reserve shrank from $4 trillion to $3 trillion as the country’s nationals went on a spending spree acquiring real estate and commercial assets in the United States and other nations.

With the imposition of currency controls last year, however, China’s posture as a net investor around the world is changing. The propaganda headlines of the Belt and Road Initiative suggest a massive capital outflow to other nations, but, in fact, just the opposite is the case. Indeed, the South China Morning Post reports that Beijing’s strict capital controls are delaying private investments that are part of the Belt and Road project.

First and foremost the importance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is political, namely to show President Xi Jinping in control of China’s command economy as he consolidates political power as dictator of China and the unquestioned leader of the CCP. Under Xi, the era of collective leadership in China is well and truly at an end.

But second—and more important—the continuing effort by China to “pump prime” internal economic activity via gargantuan infrastructure projects, both at home and abroad, reveals a basic flaw in the Chinese economy. Only when the political monopoly of the CCP has ended and China’s people are truly free to make economic and political choices will the country be able to provide sufficient investment opportunities at home so that desperate measures such as the Belt and Road spectacle will no longer be necessary.

Christopher Whalen is senior managing director and head of research at Kroll Bond Rating Agency. He is the author of Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream (Wiley, 2010) and the coauthor, with Frederick Feldkamp, of Financial Stability: Fraud, Confidence and the Wealth of Nations(Wiley, 2014). His website is

Image: Shanghai at night. Pixabay/Public domain