Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Communist Party’

Senior Chinese Leader Says Has ‘Shared Destiny’ With Vietnam

September 19, 2017

BEIJING — China and Vietnam’s Communist Parties have a “shared destiny” and the two nations have huge potential for economic cooperation, a senior official said on Tuesday during a visit to Vietnam, which has clashed with China over the South China Sea.

Though the two countries are run by Communist parties, they are deeply suspicious of each other and relations have been strained over the past few years because of the dispute in the strategic South China Sea.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the busy waterway as well as at its neighbor’s growing defense ties with the United States, Japan and India.

In July, under pressure from Beijing, Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China.

However, Hanoi and Beijing have also tried to prevent tensions from getting too out of control, and senior officials from two countries make fairly regular visits to each other.

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Liu Yunshan, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite Standing Committee which runs the country, told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi that the two parties “constitute a community of shared destiny with strategic significance”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The two economies are highly complementary, with huge potential for practical cooperation, he added.

While the report made no direction mention of the South China Sea, it quoted Liu as suggesting the two countries “properly manage and control their divergences, so as to create favorable environment for bilateral cooperation”.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

See the report from Xinhua:



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


China Communist Party Complains About ‘Fabricated’ Twitter Account — Sarcastic comments about the Communist Party are unbearable

September 18, 2017

BEIJING — The youth wing of China’s ruling Communist Party on Monday said it had complained to social network Twitter about a fake account set up in its name that has tweeted sarcastic comments about the Communist Party.

China blocks Twitter and other Western sites, such as Facebook and Google, but that has not stopped some state media and government departments from setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts in Chinese and English as they seek to expand their global footprint.

In a brief statement on its Weibo account, China’s answer to Twitter, the Youth League labeled the @ComYouthLeague Twitter account “completely fabricated”, saying it had asked for it to be “handled”. The statement did not elaborate.

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It displayed a screenshot of the account with the phrase “fake goods” stamped across it in Chinese.

A second picture showed the Youth League’s official social media accounts, including those on Weibo and WeChat. It did not include any foreign social media sites.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The account the Youth League labeled as fake sent its first tweet on Sept. 12, and has sent 10 tweets to date.

One linked to an article on the official Xinhua news agency about a Chinese being detained for selling VPN services that help people skirt internet curbs and asked why people needed to do this, if China had such a “wonderful internet culture”.

It is not clear who set up the account, but it calls itself the Youth League’s official Twitter account and carries a link to the League’s official website.

Adding to the confusion, another Twitter account claiming to be the Youth League’s, @ccylchina, was also launched last week, though its content conforms to the party’s point of view. Neither account is officially verified by Twitter.

The Youth League did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

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The Youth League has 88 million members aged between 14 and 28, mainly party and government officials who have been groomed for decades as potential future rulers.

With more than 5 million followers on Weibo, it has aggressively courted Chinese social media, extending its reach to platforms previously neglected by mainstream propaganda bodies.

In July, the Youth League made its latest online foray into Netease music, one of China’s largest online music streaming sites, with songs on its playlist ranging from the Internationale to raps by Taiwanese singing sensation Jay Chou.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Pei Li; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

My prediction: the coming collapse of China’s Ponzi scheme economy — The Chinese Communist Party is unlikely to survive

August 27, 2017

By Jake Van Der Kamp
South China Morning Post

So much production in industries like steel is based on demand for more production, but should that demand falter, the whole system could come crashing down

Sunday, August 27, 2017, 1:03am

I think this phrases things the wrong way. The one country bit was never in issue.

What they actually mean to say is that Beijing’s system of state command of the economy will become dominant and Hong Kong’s more freewheeling system will fade away.

I don’t think it will happen.

In my view human society is so dynamic that no command system can last long in charge of an economy. Attempts at this particular form of hubris inevitably end in either war or financial crisis. For the Soviet Union it was financial crisis. I think the same fate awaits Beijing.

Consider crude steel production, a test-tube example of how command economies get it wrong. In the mainland this stood in June at an all time monthly record of 73 million tonnes, five times the total production in all of Europe.

Steel was recently targeted for a reduction in capacity but then a regime of easy money intended to help the industry overcome a difficult period of contraction instead stimulated production.

As long as it keeps growing everything is fine. When it stops growing it collapses

It has happened across the mainland’s rust belt industries.

Why is so much steel needed?

Simple. It is needed to build more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways and bridges so that more ships can be built to carry more iron ore to more ports and thence along more rails and bridges to more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways …

What we have here, in short, is a giant Ponzi scheme. In a Ponzi scheme you pay out the winnings of the first entrants with what others later pay into it.

As long as it keeps growing everything is fine. When it stops growing it collapses.

In this case you justify production with demand based purely on more production. As long as you keep pushing production up everything looks fine. At its peak in 2014 China turned out 30 times more cement than the United States, and the latest production figures are only a smidgen less than 2014’s.

Command systems may be good at deciding where to direct economic effort in wartime but they are hopeless in peacetime at deciding when to stop and do something else.

They just keep going down the same old track and then what you get is economic cancer, uncontrollable growth.

You don’t see it right away. Any Ponzi scheme looks just fine as long as more people can be found to put their money in. But the end is inevitable and the longer it is delayed the more resounding the collapse.

It has so long been delayed in the mainland that, when the end finally comes, I believe more than half of the loans and advances of the financial system will prove irrecoverable, which would be very resounding indeed.

When will it happen?

I cannot tell you. No one has ever conducted so big a Ponzi scheme from so high a level of authority before. The closest comparison is the Soviet Union and its collapse was not only extraordinarily rapid but took the whole world by surprise.

I think the Chinese Communist Party is unlikely to survive this coming debacle although I do not think it will result in the break-up of China or replacement by a full democracy.

Political and economic affairs are more likely to resemble the Russian emergence from a command economy.

I am sure, however, that it will happen long before 2047. We will then make a less difficult transition to one country, one system across all of China, a system that will look more like present-day Hong Kong’s than present-day Beijing’s.

China’s Xi Jinping: Is the writing of his political thinking into the party Constitution the next step?

August 12, 2017

By Goh Sui Noi
The Straits Times

Enshrining his political thinking in party ideology would further enhance his status

For some days now, President Xi Jinping and some key top leaders of China have been absent from the prime-time news bulletin of the state-run China Central Television.

The word is that they have converged on the seaside resort of Beidaihe, 280km east of the capital, for their annual summer confab.

This year’s event is special in that it precedes the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly national congress, slated to take place in autumn, where several of the party’s top leaders are expected to step down in favour of younger cadres.

But with Mr Xi’s grip on power stronger than ever, he is expected to have his way in appointing mainly his coterie to positions in the 25-member Politburo and the apex seven-member Politburo standing committee.

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Instead, the buzz among the chattering classes is whether Mr Xi’s status will be enhanced further through the writing of his political thinking into the party Constitution.

This follows his elevation to the status of “core” leader in October last year at a central committee meeting that cemented his consolidation of power. He had taken over the party reins at the 18th party congress in 2012.

Recent comments by political heavyweights on the need for Mr Xi’s political thoughts to be diligently studied and put into practice have been seen as signals that these would be written into the party charter at the upcoming 19th congress.

The latest remarks inferred as a sign come from Beijing party chief Cai Qi, a protege of Mr Xi, in an article in the party newspaper People’s Daily on Monday. Mr Cai wrote about persisting in using “General Secretary Xi’s important thought as a banner to lead the way”.

Last month, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who oversees foreign affairs, wrote about studying and implementing “General Secretary Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy in a deep-going way” in an article in a party magazine, Qiushi.

This thinking, he wrote, represents the central committee’s “new governing philosophy and strategy as they apply to diplomacy, and is an integral part of the theories of socialism with distinctive Chinese features”.

In the same month, an editorial in another party journal, Dangjian Yanjiu or Research On Party Building, said: “The innovative theories since the Party’s 18th National Congress, which can be called Xi Jinping Thoughts, are the new result of localising Marxism in China and developing the Socialist Theory with Chinese Characteristics.”

The piece called Mr Xi’s thinking the most vibrant form of Marxism seen in modern China.

There were already inklings that the formulation of Mr Xi’s political thinking was under way at the March meetings of the Chinese Parliament, the National People’s Congress, and the top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The Xinhua state news agency published a piece then titled China’s Two Sessions To Highlight Xi’s Thoughts. It said: “Xi’s governance thoughts, ranging from economic and social reform to foreign affairs and military transformation, have been greatly influencing the country’s course.”

It quoted an analyst as saying “Xi’s thoughts on state governance will be more clear-cut” through the March meetings.

If what is written into the party charter is described as Xi Jinping Thought, then Mr Xi would become only the third Chinese leader to have his name included in his “banner term” or qizhiyu.

The other two are communist China’s founding father Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, who set China on the path to pragmatism and prosperity with his reform and opening-up programme in 1978.

Mr Xi’s two predecessors, Mr Jiang Zemin and Mr Hu Jintao, did not have their names in their banner terms. Mr Jiang’s Three Represents, encompassing entrepreneurs hitherto excluded from the party, was written into the party charter in 2002 as he was stepping down. Mr Hu’s Scientific Outlook On Development, about building a socialist harmonious society, was added to the party Constitution midway through the leader’s term in 2007.

The formulation of Mr Xi’s banner term as Xi Jinping Thought would also place him next to Mao – whose banner term is Mao Zedong Thought – and ahead of Deng and his Deng Xiaoping Theory as “theory” stands below “thought” in China, according to analysts.

However, political analyst Wang Zhengxu of Fudan University in Shanghai suggested that the banner term might also take a phrasing without Mr Xi’s name in it, such as Theory Of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics.

As for why the writing of Mr Xi’s political thinking into the party Constitution is being done, Professor Wang thinks it is a way through which Mr Xi could realise his mission. “He has put forth a vision and a set of masterplans and action plans, and wants to see them materialise,” said Prof Wang.

He added that it is also because of a belief that, after 40 years of development since the 1980s, a “coherent and comprehensive theoretical-ideological framework” is needed to guide the party and the country’s development.

What this move would signify, said Hong Kong-based analyst Willy Lam, is that while Mr Xi might have his enemies, at this stage, there is nobody who can challenge him politically.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline ‘Xi’s political thoughts may enter party charter soon’.

China probes social media platforms for ‘obscenity’

August 11, 2017


© AFP/File | China has launched probes into three of its largest social networking platforms over the suspected dissemination of violence and obscenity
BEIJING (AFP) – China has launched probes into three of its largest social networking platforms over the suspected dissemination of violence and obscenity — the latest move aimed at sanitising the country’s increasingly closed-off internet.The world’s most popular messaging service WeChat, the Twitter-like Weibo as well as the Tieba discussion forum are being investigated, according to an announcement from the Cyberspace Administration of China on Friday.

Citing reports from internet users, the administration said other users on WeChat, Weibo and Tieba’s platforms “have disseminated content showing violence, terrorism, fake rumours, obscene pornography and more”.

Such materials “endanger national security, public security and the social order” and are illegal under a cybersecurity law that came into force in June, the agency said.

China’s internet is already considered one of the most tightly-controlled in the world, with a censorship system known as the “Great Firewall”.

But restrictive measures have multiplied in recent months, as celebrity gossip blogs and online video streaming sites alike have fallen victim to the new web regulations.

Last month, the Cyberspace Administration directed the country’s biggest technology firms — including Baidu, Tencent and Sohu — to shut down accounts on their networks that publish “bad information”.

The content was deemed to misinterpret policy directives and distort Chinese Communist Party history.

Another mandate in the new cybersecurity law requires online platforms to get a licence to post news reports or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs and social issues.

There has also been increasing concern among internet users that they will completely lose access to virtual private networks (VPN), software which allows people to circumvent the Great Firewall.

In January China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced it would be banning the use of unlicensed VPN providers.

While there has been little clarity on what exactly the rule meant and how, or even if, it would be implemented, Apple said last month that it was removing VPNs from its China app store.

“The Red Guard generation is in power now,” one Weibo commenter said of the latest investigation, alluding to a 1960s youth paramilitary movement that tormented and attacked people whom they perceived to be opposed to Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.

China Military display is latest effort by President Xi Jinping to improve standing as party leadership shuffle looms

July 30, 2017
Troops make preparations ahead of the military parade at the Zhurihe training base in northern China on Sunday, July 30, 2017.
Troops make preparations ahead of the military parade at the Zhurihe training base in northern China on Sunday, July 30, 2017. PHOTO: LI GANG/ZUMA PRESS

BEIJING—China unveiled a new, more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile at a parade of advanced weaponry and combat troops, in President Xi Jinping’s latest display of military—and political—muscle.

State television showed at least 16 DF-31AG missiles in Sunday’s parade at the Zhurihe combat-training base in northern China, marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the force that is now known as the People’s Liberation Army.

The DF-31AG is mounted on an all-terrain vehicle so it is harder to track and can be fired from multiple locations, and it could have a longer range than the older DF-31A, which was also displayed and is carried by a vehicle designed mainly for roads, military experts say.

Mr. Xi, wearing combat fatigues and a peaked cap, inspected the troops from an open-top military vehicle before the parade, which featured tanks, helicopters, stealth jet fighters and some 12,000 personnel.

“The world is not peaceful,” Mr. Xi in a speech afterward that invoked his signature political idea of a “China Dream” to build the country into a global economic and military power. “Today we are closer than any other period in history to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and we need more than any period in history to build a strong people’s military.”

Mr. Xi also ordered troops to obey the Communist Party leadership, saying: “Wherever the party points, march there.”

It is the first time a parade has been held to mark the anniversary since 1949, according to state media, and is the latest in a series of moves that analysts say are designed to boost Mr. Xi’s political standing in the run-up to a reshuffle of the party’s leadership this year.

The parade also came amid escalating military tensions in the region, with North Korea accelerating its nuclear-weapons program since January through a series of tests, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned repeatedly that he is weighing military action to halt North Korea’s nuclear program, and in recent weeks has become increasingly critical of China, accusing them of failing to rein in Pyongyang. The U.S. Air Force flew two B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Saturday in direct response to North Korea’s latest missile test.

“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” Mr. Trump wrote in a pair of posts on his Twitter account. “We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

China’s parade would have been planned months in advance, analysts said, and wasn’t a direct response to Pyongyang or Washington, but it demonstrated Mr. Xi’s efforts to build a military that can respond to external challenges—including on the Korean Peninsula.

Last year, the Chinese leader launched sweeping military reforms—including cutting 300,000 troops—that are designed to overhaul Soviet-modeled command structures and better prepare the armed forces for combat, at home and abroad if needed.

The PLA is training for scenarios that include a conflict over the disputed South China Sea, a blockade of China’s oil supplies through the Indian Ocean, and operations to protect its citizens and investments in Africa and the Middle East.

Mr. Xi has also sought to assert his authority over the PLA through an anticorruption campaign that ensnared several current and retired generals, and by assuming the new title of “commander-in-chief” last year.

In June, he inspected PLA troops stationed in Hong Kong in another move to boost his political stature ahead of this fall’s 19th Party Congress, where he’s expected to try to promote allies to the top leadership.

“By presiding over a landmark parade for a party-loyal PLA growing leaner and meaner by his orders, Xi shows that he is large and in charge in the run-up to the 19th Congress,” said Andrew Erickson, an expert on China’s military at the U.S. Naval War College. “Debuting publicly such a powerful, penetrating deterrent weapon as the DF-31AG ICBM seeks to demonstrate that China commands heightened respect abroad even as it maintains order at home—both central components of Xi’s China Dream.”

China's People's Liberation Army soldiers get ready for Sunday’s military parade.
China’s People’s Liberation Army soldiers get ready for Sunday’s military parade. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/REUTERS

China hasn’t provided any details about the DF-31AG, but a model was displayed for the first time this month in an exhibition at Beijing’s Military Museum. Analysts say the missile’s design and name suggest it is an improved version of the DF-31A, but beyond its improved survivability and possibly longer range, it remains unclear what the enhancements are.

China has an estimated 75 to 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the solid-fueled DF-31A, which has a range of more than 7000 miles and can reach most locations in the continental U.S., according to the Pentagon.

Other equipment in the parade included five J-20 stealth jet fighters and several DF-21D antiship ballistic missiles, which experts say are designed to hit approaching U.S. aircraft carriers in a potential conflict.

Chinese state television said more than 40 percent of the equipment in the parade was being displayed for the first time, but didn’t provide details of every piece of new weaponry.

Troops in the parade came from the army, navy and air force but also from two new services created about 18 months ago—the rocket force, which controls conventional and nuclear missiles, and the strategic support force, which handles electronic warfare.

Electronic weaponry on display included equipment designed for electromagnetic countermeasures and aerial drones that can be used for radar-jamming, state television said, without providing details.

Write to Jeremy Page at


China’s Xi Jinping urges need for ‘world-class’ army loyal to Party

July 30, 2017

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China’s President Xi Jinping addresses 12,000 troops during an unprecedented display of China’s military muscle in Inner Mongolia.

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) – Chinese President Xi Jinping touted the need to build a “world-class” army capable of “defeating all invading enemies” at a military parade held Sunday (July 30) to mark the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Since coming to power in 2012, the president has trumpeted building a stronger, combat-ready army, while leading efforts to centralise the ruling Communist Party’s control over the PLA, the world’s largest standing military.

Sunday’s procession – including 12,000 service personnel and about 700 aircrafts and pieces of ground equipment – marked the first time Xi has observed a parade of this size staged in the field, according to the ministry of defence.

“The world is not all at peace. Peace must be safeguarded,” Xi, wearing a camouflage military suit, said in a speech at the expansive Zhurihe training base in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region.

“Today we are closer than ever before to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and – more than any other time in history – we need to build a strong people’s military.”

Xi also ordered the PLA to “unswervingly stick to… the Party’s absolute leadership,” saying the military should “march to wherever the Party is pointing.”

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Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement that the parade was intended to create a “good atmosphere” ahead of an important party congress later this year when Xi is expected to further consolidate his grip on power.

China’s armed forces, the world’s largest, are in the midst of an ambitious modernisation programme, from restructuring to troop cuts and investment in technology and equipment upgrades, such as acquiring stealth fighters and aircraft carriers.

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Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops march in formation Sunday, July 30, 2017 as they arrive for a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA on Aug. 1 at Zhurihe training base in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua via AP)

Xi inspected troops from the back of a jeep and the event was carried live on state television.

Travelling down a long strip lined with tanks, missile launchers and other military vehicles, Xi greeted thousands of troops.

Xi, who oversees the PLA in his role as head of the powerful Central Military Commission, repeatedly shouted, “Hello comrades!” and “Comrades, you are working hard!” into four microphones fixed atop his motorcade as martial music blared in the background.

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People dressed as Red Army soldiers carry flags as they march to mark the 90th anniversary of founding of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in Ruijin, Jiangxi province on July 28, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

The troops bellowed back: “Serve the people!”, “Follow the Party!”, “Fight to win!” and “Forge exemplary conduct!”.

Tanks, vehicle-mounted nuclear-capable missiles and other equipment rolled by, as military aircraft flew above, including H-6K bombers, which have been patrolling near Taiwan and Japan recently, the J-15 carrier-based fighters and new generation J-20 stealth fighter.

It was the first time China has marked Army Day, which formally falls on Aug 1, with a military parade since the Communist revolution in 1949, state news agency Xinhua said.

China’s military is more nimble and technologically proficient following reforms to make it more compact and responsive, rather than just relying on strength of numbers, Xi said last week.

China has not fought a war in decades and the government insists it has no hostile intent, simply needing the ability to properly defend what is now the world’s second-largest economy.

But China has rattled nerves around Asia and globally with its increasingly assertive stance in the East and South China Seas and its military modernisation plan.

The military reforms have not been uncontroversial, with unease in particular about the 300,000 troop cuts Xi announced in 2015 at a massive military parade through central Beijing to mark 70 years since the end of World War II.


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


Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, night

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

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