Posts Tagged ‘Chinese social media’

China Moves to Discredit Tycoon’s Claims of Communist Party Corruption

April 21, 2017

BEIJING — China on Friday sought to discredit billionaire businessman Guo Wengui, painting him as a “criminal suspect” whose allegations of corruption within the highest levels of the Communist Party should not be believed.

Guo, a flamboyant property mogul who has held close ties to disgraced former Chinese intelligence official Ma Jian, has courted international attention with his explosive claims, most recently aired during a live television interview with the U.S government-funded Voice of America (VoA) on Wednesday.

 Exiled businessman Guo Wengui. Photo: Handout

China said on Wednesday that Guo was subject to an Interpol “red notice”, a fact Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday.

“If you are willing to believe what he said then that’s your business,” Lu said. “We don’t believe it.”

The Chinese government had pressed VoA to cancel the interview ahead of time, including by summoning one of the broadcaster’s Beijing-based correspondents to a meeting on Monday, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The ministry’s comments come amid an apparently concerted damage-limitation effort within China highlighting Guo’s reputation as an unreliable narrator.

A 23-minute video, purportedly of Ma Jian confessing in detail to accepting 60 million yuan ($8.72 million) in bribes from Guo, has circulated on Chinese social media since Wednesday night without being removed by government censors who are often quick to delete politically sensitive posts or unsubstantiated rumors.

The video, which was produced and posted online anonymously, has also been reported on widely by mainland media outlets, all of which are regulated by the government. Reuters was unable to independently verify the veracity of the video.

The widely read Beijing News newspaper, and the respected financial magazine Caixin, also published lengthy investigations into Guo’s business dealings and ties with Ma, a disgraced former state security vice-minister who was first detained in early 2015 and expelled from the Communist Party in December last year.

Guo has said he left China in late 2014 after being tipped off about Ma’s imminent arrest, and has not returned since his company premises were raided amid a heated dispute with state-backed Founder Securities.

Since leaving, he has spent most of his time in the United States.

After laying low for two years, Guo resurfaced in February and has since made wide-ranging but unverified allegations of corruption against several top Communist Party officials – past and present – and their families.

He says the information was obtained from Ma, whom he concedes he held a close relationship with but denies bribing.

At Friday’s Foreign Ministry briefing, Lu rejected suggestions the timing of the Interpol red notice was connected to the airing of the VoA interview.

“Interpol has been around for 100 years and has 190 member states,” he said. “For this kind of international organization we think their actions are solemn.”

(Reporting by Philip Wen and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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‘We’ll thrash United Airlines until we get an apology’: 120 million Chinese view eviction video as enraged users vow vengeance — “Hue was beaten and dragged off the plane, with blood over his face”.

April 11, 2017

By Julia Hollingsworth and Sarah Zheng
South China Morning Post

Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 6:55pm

Is the world’s factory ‘hollowing out’ as manufacturers pack up and leave China?

December 30, 2016

Concerns raised as increasing tax and labour costs prompt Chinese producers to move business offshore

By Sidney Leng
South China Morning Post

Friday, December 30, 2016, 2:31 p.m.
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Fears are being raised of a “hollowing out” in China, formerly thought of as the world’s factory, after a mainland tycoon explained his rationale to set up factories in the United States and Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, also suggested it might move some operations across the Pacific.

“Hollowing out” refers to the deterioration of a country’s manufacturing sector when producers move to low-cost facilities overseas. Some economists believe the world’s leading developed economies are being hollowed out, threatening full employment in those locales.

Since China’s opening up in the 1980s and ’90s, and particularly so since it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, China has been a key destination for manufacturing to relocate from advanced economies, in the process making it the world’s second-largest economy.

 Workers stand at the gate of a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Foxconn plans to move some operations to the United States. Photo: Reuters

Academics and Chinese workers have sensed a sea change in this situation after US president-elect Donald Trump began urging – and even bullying – American businesses to bring jobs back to the US at a time when China’s tax and regulatory regimes are becoming hostile to private manufacturers.

The central government has also encouraged many labour-intensive businesses to move elsewhere as it tries to steer the economy towards higher value-added services and high technology.

In its haste to effect such changes, Beijing barely bothered to aid firms such as footwear maker Stella International, which decided a year ago to close its 13-year-old factory in the southern industrial hub of Dongguan, sacking thousands of workers.

Last week, Cao Dewang – the founder of Fuyao Glass, a leading global supplier of automotive glass – said that the US offers better conditions for his North American plant than China does for those at home. His remarks triggered heated debate about Beijing policies, including a corporate tax system described by some as “death tax”. Taiwan-owned Foxconn Technology Group, which employs about a million workers across China to makes iPhones and other leading electronics under contract, earlier confirmed it was looking to set up factories in the US.

“Don’t let Foxconn run away” ran a headline that went viral on Chinese social media. The entreaty was in stark contrast to a few years earlier, when Chinese media were describing Foxconn as a sweatshop that drove its employees to suicide.

 Workers make shoes in the Huajian factory in Dongguan, Guangdong province, in September. Once a thriving manufacturing hub, Dongguan now has many idle factories. Photo: AFP

Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at Industrial Bank, said China’s own hollowing out probably started in 2012 when the country’s services sector overtook manufacturing for the first time as the biggest contributor to nominal gross domestic product. This was praised by Beijing as a milestone towards industrial restructuring.

“The process began to get serious a long time ago … When we spoke highly of the increasing role of the service industry in our economic structure, it had already kicked in. That was 2012,” Lu said, adding that China’s high taxes and high land costs are now turning business away.

When there is a serious lack of domestic demand, there is no return on investment because people don’t buy products
ECONOMIST XU CHENGGANG

Meanwhile, the exodus of manufacturing from China continues. Outbound investment surged more than 50 per cent in the first 11 months of 2016 from a year earlier, with manufacturers involved in more than a third of China’s overseas mergers during that period. At the same time, China’s private sector investment at home rose just 3.1 per cent.

Factories funded by Hong Kong and Taiwanese money, which helped China’s boom in past decades, were among the first to retreat. Eclat Textile, Taiwan’s largest apparel company, said earlier this month it would pull out of China completely due to deteriorating business conditions and surging wage costs.

Only a few years ago, Changping district in Dongguan was home to hundreds of low-end electronics factories that hummed day and night to meet delivery deadlines, but today many factory compounds stand idle and the streets are quiet.

Xu Chenggang, a Hong Kong-based China economist, argued that poor domestic demand caused by low household incomes was the fundamental reason Chinese manufacturers are looking for investment opportunities abroad.

“When there is a serious lack of domestic demand, there is no return on investment because people don’t buy products,” Xu said.

Today’s China resembles 1980s industrial Japan in many ways, according to Arthur Kroeber, head of research at Gavekal Dragonomics. China is dealing with an ageing workforce just as Japan did in the ’80s, and both countries used their powerful exports to rise in the global economic rankings to threaten US political and economic dominance.

The difference is that Japan dealt with its hollowing out by moving quickly up the supply chain while keeping its core technology at home. China, however, still lags behind in innovation, according to Lu from Industrial Bank.

 Workers assemble electronic devices at an Alco Electronics factory in Houjie, Dongguan. Photo: AP

China’s machinery manufacturing, the most advanced and investment-intensive part of its manufacturing economy, saw losses expand by 2 per cent in 2015 in a downward spiral, which has reflected in overcapacity and a short supply of high-end machines, according to a report from the Research Institute of Machinery Industry Economic and Management in Beijing.

Without doubt, China remains a powerful player in global manufacturing that enjoys a good infrastructure, an army of skilled and disciplined workers and a large domestic market.

“It’s premature to worry about manufacturing in China being hollowed out just because a number of China-based manufacturers are shifting some operations to the US,” said Leslie Young, a professor of economics at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing.

“The most important measures to boost manufacturing in China are political – to assure Chinese manufacturers of a predictable business environment, transparent regulations, a level playing field and secure property rights.”

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2058175/chinese-manufacturing-hollowing-out

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2058175/chinese-manufacturing-hollowing-out

Chinese education giant helps its students game the SAT

December 24, 2016

Students chat as others line up to take part in SAT examinations at Asia-World Expo near Hong Kong Airport in Hong Kong, China October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
By Steve Stecklow and Alexandra Harney | LONDON/SHANGHAI

When the new SAT was given for the first time in March, the owner of the test took unprecedented steps to stop “bad actors” from collecting and circulating material from the all-important college entrance exam.

But in the months since, China’s largest private education company has been subverting efforts to prevent cheating, Reuters found.

The company, New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc, has regularly provided items from the tests to clients shortly after the exams are administered. Because material from past SATs is typically reused on later exams, the items New Oriental is distributing could provide test-takers with an unfair advantage.

New Oriental has put some of the exam items on its Chinese website. On Dec. 6, for instance, the Beijing-based company posted a reading passage that had been used on a version of the SAT administered in the United States three days earlier. New Oriental also has been posting information about recent questions on the TOEFL, the English-language exam widely used by colleges to assess foreign applicants. TOEFL questions are also sometimes recycled.

New Oriental also gave students access to a March version of the SAT that was administered in the United States, two students from Beijing told Reuters. One of the students showed Reuters 36 pages from that test.

In addition, the news agency viewed a copy of a full version of the SAT given in Asia last month. Most pages of the document were emblazoned with the words “Beijing New Oriental School,” a major tutoring operation run by New Oriental. A person who identified himself as a test-prep teacher at the school posted 15 pages of that exam on Chinese social media.

In response to the Reuters findings, New Oriental issued a statement condemning “illegal and illegitimate business practices, whether committed by competitors or by any of our current or past employees … We are reviewing what has been raised and will take disciplinary actions against anyone who violated our policies and procedures.”

The Reuters findings cast new doubt on the ability of America’s standardized testing giants to contain cheating in Asia, where security breaches pose an increasing threat to the integrity of U.S. college admissions. Hundreds of thousands of students from China and other Asian nations are now enrolled at American campuses.

The SAT’s owner, the New York-based College Board, has blamed the cheating epidemic on an industry of nameless “bad actors” operating beyond the arm of the law. New Oriental, however, is one of the best-known companies in China.

A CHINESE CELEBRITY

Hundreds of thousands of students enroll in New Oriental’s test-prep classes. It has a stock market capitalization of $6.6 billion and a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. New Oriental’s founder and executive chairman, Michael Minhong Yu, is a business celebrity in China.

Yu’s company is also a business partner of Educational Testing Service, or ETS – the New Jersey non-profit that both owns the TOEFL and provides security for the SAT.

A popular 2013 feature film, “American Dreams in China,” tells the story of how a businessman, loosely modeled on Yu, launches a test-prep company after failing to obtain a visa to study in the United States. It includes a dramatic scene in which the hero confronts attorneys for “Educational Exam Services,” an American company that had sued the Chinese firm “New Dream” for copyright infringement.

Although the companies in the film are fictional, that scene is based on fact: New Oriental was caught misusing TOEFL materials more than a decade ago. In 2004, the Beijing Higher People’s Court found that New Oriental had violated the copyright of ETS, the test’s owner, by distributing content from the TOEFL without permission. The court ordered the Chinese company to pay damages.

The fresh signs that New Oriental is misusing SAT and TOEFL material are a blow to ETS.

After the copyright case, ETS and New Oriental formed a partnership that made the Beijing company the official provider of TOEFL online practice tests in China. ETS touted the deal at the time as a way to expand access to the practice material in China. ETS is also a key partner of the College Board. It earns about $300 million in revenue a year from the College Board to provide security for the SAT and administer the test.

ETS thus finds itself in an awkward position: It failed to stop its Chinese partner from compromising both ETS’s own test and the signature exam of the College Board, ETS’s biggest client.

Zach Goldberg, a College Board spokesman, said his organization has begun investigating whether New Oriental is misusing SAT material.

ETS spokesman Tom Ewing said his company “has a process in place to identify and address copyright infringement worldwide. For confidentiality and proprietary reasons we do not discuss specific instances of alleged copyright infringement.” He declined to discuss the ETS partnership with the Chinese company.

The findings also spell further trouble for New Oriental. Its shares plunged 14 percent, erasing more than $1 billion of its market value, after Reuters reported Dec. 2 that former and current New Oriental employees said the company had helped write college application essays and teacher recommendations for clients. (reut.rs/2gHWbwZ)

BIG TUTORING BUSINESS

The accusations raised in that report are being investigated by the American International Recruitment Council, which certifies agencies that recruit foreign students on behalf of U.S. colleges. New Oriental has contracts with a number of American universities that pay the company when it refers Chinese students who enroll.

In response to the Dec. 2 article, New Oriental said it did not condone application fraud. It also downplayed the importance of the business unit at the center of the story: It noted that the division that helps students apply to college accounted for only 8 percent of New Oriental’s total net revenue of $1.5 billion in the fiscal year ended May 31.

In contrast, the New Oriental unit that’s providing the SAT and TOEFL materials – the test-prep and English language business – represented 84 percent of the company’s revenue, according to its most recent annual report.

Joseph Simone, a China intellectual property rights specialist in Hong Kong, said if standardized test owners “are able to generate clear evidence of willful infringement” of copyright, they could file criminal complaints against New Oriental. ETS and the College Board would not comment on their plans.

A Reuters analysis of a New Oriental website, toefl.xdf.cn, found that the company has posted detailed descriptions of TOEFL material, including four tests given this month.

The day after the exam was given on Dec. 10, for example, New Oriental posted a question that the company said had appeared on the spoken-English section of the TOEFL: “If you can have a part-time job at the university, what position would you choose? A lab assistant, a campus tour guide, or a library assistant? Please give specific reasons.”

Reuters interviewed a student who took the TOEFL on Dec. 10 in Xi’an, a city in northwest China, and confirmed a question like that was on the exam. “I chose library assistant!” she said, laughing. A second student who took the TOEFL elsewhere that day confirmed her test included a writing prompt posted by New Oriental about the best age to travel abroad.

NEW ORIENTAL’S WEBSITE

New Oriental has also been circulating SAT material for years, an analysis of its website, sat.xdf.cn, shows. Reuters found more than a dozen instances in which New Oriental posted SAT essay prompts or reading passages from exams that had been administered in the U.S. and Asia between 2012 and this month. Those exam materials were not released for practice by the College Board, which means some of the items potentially could be reused on tests.

For instance, New Oriental posted a reading passage about the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act. The passage came from a version of the SAT that was given on Dec. 3, Reuters determined.

How New Oriental got the material is unclear, although the post says that it was “reviewed and compiled” by its educational research team.

“We require our teachers to take tests periodically to sharpen their test taking skills, keep their knowledge up to date and be adequately prepared to effectively teach students,” the company said in its statement to Reuters. “We believe this practice is fully consistent with industry practice elsewhere, including that of established private educational service providers in the U.S.”

When the College Board first offered a redesigned SAT in March, the organization banned tutors and other non-students from taking the exam that day. They were not supposed to take the SAT in December, either.

Goldberg, the College Board spokesman, said those who take the exam “agree not to share test content. While challenging to enforce, it is important that test takers abide by this policy for test security reasons and for the protection of our intellectual property.”

Goldberg said that when the organization learns that materials are being misused, it takes “appropriate measures.”

Any pressure on New Oriental to change its business methods could put the company in a bind. It has become a powerhouse in China by promising an unrivaled ability to help students get into the college of their dreams.

“It’s created a culture so that everybody thinks, if I want to apply for American schools, I have to take tests,” said Perry Gao, a researcher at Harvard Graduate School of Education who was once a New Oriental client. “And if I have to take tests, then I have to go to New Oriental.”

(Additional reporting by Himanshu Ojha in London and the Reuters Shanghai newsroom. Edited by Blake Morrison and Michael Williams)

Chinese government officials criticised over Great Wall cement “pavement” over history repairs

September 23, 2016
  • 22 September 2016

BBC News

A long, cement-like path tops the stretch of the Great Wall after repairs

The controversial repairs only came to light from photos posted on Chinese social media sites. Photo by ZHONGANZU37

Chinese officials have come under fire after repairs to the Great Wall left part of the ancient structure smoothed and resembling a concrete path.

A five-mile (8km) stretch of the Unesco world heritage site was repaired to protect it from exposure to the elements.

The ancient stone wall was repaired with materials reported to include sand and concrete.

“It really was an ugly repair job,” a local official admitted.

A photo showing the original brickwork path of the Great Wall

The original stone surface was uneven brickwork. ZHONGANZU37

Ding Hui, the head of the Liaoning Provincial Antiquities Bureau, said the repairs to the 635-year-old structure took place in 2014.

He said the repairs filled broken gaps, and added an additional protective layer on the top surface “like a hat”, but admitted “the surface does not look ideal”.

The repairs have only now come to light from photos posted to Chinese social media platform Weibo, where thousands of users criticised the renovation work.

A villager walks along the long, smooth path of the repaired section

A range of materials, from sand to concrete, are reported to have been used. AP photo

However, an official survey said the stretch of wall was in danger of falling apart and being washed away by the rain.

The affected section of the Great Wall lies in Suizhong county, along the border with Hebei province.

Local news outlets reported a wide variety of materials had been used, including sand, lime and cement. The work was labelled “basic and crude” by Dong Yaohui, vice-chairman of the Great Wall Studies Society.

A villager look at the old brickwork of the Great Wall

The repair work is widely seen as being out of character with the original design. AP photo

The Chinese government has specific regulations on the preservation of the Great Wall, which is crumbling in many remote locations. Some stretches have been damaged or demolished over the years.

The law for damaging a cultural relic is strict, with those found guilty facing up to 10 years in prison.

The Great Wall, a Unesco world heritage site since 1987, was built and rebuilt on a continual basis from around 220 BC until the Ming Dynasty in the 1600s, when it was the world’s largest military structure.

Designed to protect the Chinese empire from northern invasions, it once stretched 20,000km (12,400 miles).

Great botched repairs of our time

Several museum employees in Egypt endure a hairy time after the beard on the burial mask of the pharaoh, Tutankhamun, comes unstuck and is rather too hastily glued back on. The authorities are not amused.

Cecilia Gimenez: “Everybody who came into the church could see I was painting”

Media captionCecilia Gimenez: “Everybody who came into the church could see I was painting”

An elderly parishioner carries out an alarming restoration of a prized Jesus Christ fresco in a church near Zaragoza in Spain. Bizarrely, the monkey-like do-over has brought in tens of thousands of admiring pilgrims since its creation in 2012, helping to ease the town’s recession. It’s a miracle.

Ecce Homo (Martínez and Giménez, Borja)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecce_Homo_(Mart%C3%ADnez_and_Gim%C3%A9nez,_Borja)

Not so botched, perhaps. Although some criticised the repair of Spain’s 9th Century Matrera Castle, saying it had been turned into a 1960s multi-storey car park, the architect had the last laugh as he walked off with the architecture and preservation prize at the Architizer A+ awards.

Then there are these embarrassing miscalculations through the ages, from Sweden’s Vasa warship to London’s Millennium Bridge.

Great miscalculations: The French railway error and 10 others

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27509559

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Hilarious botched fresco is helping a town survive a recession

Zachary Kussin
New York Post

IT WAS an unholy mistake — that became one town’s miracle.

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In 2012, an amateur art restorer in the small village of Borja, Spain, turned her attention to a fresco of Jesus Christ called “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”).

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Alas, Cecilia Giménez’s “fix” rendered the face of Jesus — painted in 1930 by Elías García Martínez — wholly unrecognisable. Ecce Homo 2.0 became a global laughing-stock, compared to a blurry potato and a monkey.

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More than 160,000 visitors have flocked to the Sanctuary of Mercy church since the botched restoration, scooping up “Ecce Homo” souvenirs from pens ($AU3) to mugs ($AU9) to wine featuring Jesus’ tragically altered face on the label (approximately $AU5 to $14 a bottle).

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The global curiosity has led to a boom in tourism that’s allowed restaurants and museums in Borja, population 5000, to remain stable during Spain’s crippling recession.

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“The level of these numbers (of tourists) … has never happened before,” says Elena Aznar Martinez, who handles marketing for “Ecce Homo”.

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“The visitors recognise me,” Giménez, 85, an amateur painter who had performed multiple church-sanctioned renovations of “Ecce Homo” over the years, tells The Post.

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The original Ecce Homo artwork from 1930 by Elías García Martínez on the left, and Cecilia Giménez’s globally mocked restoration on the right. Picture: AP Photo/Centro de Estudios Borjanos, File

The original Ecce Homo artwork from 1930 by Elías García Martínez on the left, and Cecilia Giménez’s globally mocked restoration on the right. Picture: AP Photo/Centro de Estudios Borjanos, FileSource:AP

“They take photos with (the painting) and with me … even though I tell them, ‘My children, I’m not an important person’.”

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Visitors are charged 1 euro ($AU1.50) per person to enter the church for viewing, and all proceeds go to a church-affiliated nursing home.

 

Fifty-one per cent of the proceeds from souvenir sales go to the nursing home, while 49 per cent go to Giménez, who uses the money to care for her 56-year-old son, José Antonio, who has cerebral palsy.

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“When news broke (of “Ecce Homo”), I felt humiliated,” says Giménez.

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She claims she had only begun a part of the restoration before leaving on a vacation and intended to finish it upon her return, but was stopped by the church.

The painting’s since been found impossible to restore from its current state. At one point, García Martínez’s horrified heirs had threatened to sue Giménez for destroying the painting, but that never happened.

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On Wednesday, a museum dedicated to the fresco will open. And in August, a comic opera entitled “Behold the Man” will debut in Borja, and its creators — Americans Andrew Flack and Paul Fowler — hope it becomes an annual event.

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“When I saw this photograph of (Giménez) in the paper, I felt so bad for her,” says Flack, who’s travelled twice to Borja and seen the painting.

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“I thought this had all the operatic qualities: faith, redemption and revenge.”

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All the attention has even changed Giménez’s outlook.

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“I’ve gone to a psychiatrist and I take medication to feel a bit better,” she says. “Now, I look (at the painting and think,) ‘It’s OK, you’re not that ugly’,” Giménez says.

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“I hold it so dear — to the point that I see him as handsome!”

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http://www.news.com.au/travel/world-travel/europe/remember-this-hilarious-botched-fresco-its-helping-a-town-survive-a-recession/news-story/1c5c2616e41da9b0434c2dd767976f5d

Guangdong party chief ordered crackdown on Wukan ‘democracy village’ with eye on national power — Politburo Member Hu Chunhua Wants Entry Into China’s Leadership Elite By Attacking Innocents

September 23, 2016

Image result for Wukan ‘democracy village’, china, photos

Citizens in Wukan protest what they said were illegal land seizures by the Chinese Communist Party plus the illegal arrest and suspected torture of the democratically elected mayor. Photo from June 20, 2016. Credit Xinhua

Reuters

WUKAN, CHINA (Reuters) – This month’s crackdown on protests in China’s Wukan village was ordered by the provincial leader under pressure to prove his mettle ahead of a pivotal Communist Party congress next year where he could reach the top table of power in China, sources close to the leadership say.

Guangdong party boss Hu Chunhua, at 53 one of the two youngest members of the party’s 25-member Politburo, is a candidate for the seven-person Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese political power, according to analysts and several sources with ties to the central leadership.

The pacification of Wukan, where villagers had marched for over 80 days since mid-June in protest at the jailing of democratically elected village chief Lin Zuluan, was crucial to Hu’s chances, the sources said.

“It’s a test of Hu Chunhua’s ability,” one of the sources with central leadership ties told Reuters.

Image result for Wukan ‘democracy village’, china, photos

Villager Wei Yonghan makes a speech before assembled Wukan villagers, who are demanding justice for a series of land grabs and for the release of their elected village chief Lin Zuluan, who was arrested by authorities, in the southern province of Guangdong, China June 20, 2016. REUTERS/James Pomfret
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The source added that the leadership’s view of Hu’s handling of the Wukan situation would be an important factor in determining whether he makes it onto the Standing Committee.

Hu couldn’t be reached for comment, and there was no reply to requests for comment from China’s State Council, or Cabinet, nor from Guangdong’s Public Security Bureau and the Lufeng government, which has direct jurisdiction over Wukan.

The fishing village came to prominence in 2011, when it rose up against land grabs by local officials and wrested concessions including a free vote to elect Lin and other village leaders from Hu’s predecessor as Guangdong boss, Wang Yang, now a vice premier in Beijing.

The protestors this time were beaten back by rubber bullets and tear gas, and by hundreds of police in riot gear, who made scores of arrests and barred Hong Kong and foreign journalists from the area.

One Wukan villager who was injured as locals attempted to dodge the police earlier this week. Photo: SCMP Pictures

A source close to senior officials in Guangdong said Hu opted to take a harder line on Wukan to minimise risks to his prospects and any perception of weakness from a repeat of the climb-down in 2011.

He took that option after leaders in Beijing made clear they wanted it suppressed, said a second source with central leadership ties. “The central leadership held a meeting (recently) and decided that Wukan should be dealt with appropriately,” the source said, adding that Hu was facing a delicate situation.

The possibility that the Wukan protests could spread to other villages or mushroom into a nationwide pro-democracy movement is particularly unwelcome in Beijing ahead of the party congress next autumn, when precedent suggests a sweeping reshuffle could replace five of the seven PSC leaders.

 Wukan residents protest in their village. Photo: SCMP Pictures

 

“There can be no noise pollution,” a senior Chinese official in Beijing told Reuters. “Threats to stability must be nipped in the bud.”

The crackdown received extensive coverage in Hong Kong, just 200km to the southwest, which held massive street protests in late 2014 demanding full democracy and this month angered Beijing by electing several independence advocates to its legislature.

MEDIA BLACKOUT

For now at least, Wukan appears defeated. “We have no weapons; how could we fight back? People aren’t going to stand up anymore. We’re finished,” said a villager who brought drinks and snacks to three Reuters journalists as they hid out while police were searching for journalists in the village.

After journalists’ departure following police pressure, there has been scant information coming out of Wukan; communications have been largely severed, social media posts censored, and mobile phone calls blocked or scrambled.

Four villagers told Reuters that authorities had offered a 20,000 yuan (S$4,053) reward for tip-offs leading to the capture of journalists.

“Anyone who helps a journalist will be arrested,” one local with a shoulder wound from a rubber bullet told Reuters last week in a village house.

“I’m afraid of them catching me; they may beat me to death. There are informers everywhere.”

“The presence of reporters in Wukan is not conducive to our work,” the senior Chinese official in Beijing told Reuters.

Related:

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China’s Wukan Democracy Experiment Comes to a Violent End

September 21, 2016

Wukan in Guangdong province was a sleepy fishing village of 13,000 people, little known until 2011 when villagers took to the streets in a stand against government corruption. The protests led local authorities to grant Wukan democratic elections, a groundbreaking event in China that made global headlines. Lin Zuluan, the protest leader at the time, would become the elected village chief, both a traditional and semi-official position. However, the process left a long list of corrupt political casualties. It seems now, five years later, retribution for these long standing grievances is coming back for Lin.

Lin was sentenced to 37 months in jail earlier this September on bribery charges. He was accused of accepting RMB440,000 ($66,000) in bribes relating to construction projects in Wukan and another RMB150,000 in kickbacks on behalf of the entire village committee, according to Southcn.com, a provincial online portal. Lin confessed to the charges in the tightly secured trial where a one kilometer security perimeter was cordoned off and guarded by police dogs; no parties unrelated to the case were allowed into the court building, and non-essential personnel were given the day off. Locals say Lin’s confession was forced and politically motivated – not unusual in Mainland Chinese trials.

Violent protests erupted on September 13, after a dawn raid by local authorities rounded up 13 people in Wukan. They were charged with illegal assembly and using threats to force others to protest in the aftermath of Lin’s sentencing.

China's Wukan Democracy Experiment Comes to a Violent End
Phalanx of Chinese police in Wukan: Image Credit– Wukan villagers via @xianyanyu

The village is under lock down with many fearing to leave their homes. Officials have blocked visitors and food supplies from entering into Wukan forcing resident villagers to sneak across to neighboring villages to obtain food supplies.Up to 1,000 police officers equipped with tear gas and rubber bullets were then deployed after the dawn raids last week. They were searching for six suspects close to Lin, including a number of his family members. The police faced off against protesting villagers armed with broken bricks and little else. Unconfirmed reports say more than 100 villagers have been arrested; some have reported police using live ammunition on protesters and also the death of an elderly woman in her 80s, caused by rubber bullets. Paramilitary police have been going from door to door searching houses for suspects.  Authorities have offered RMB10,000 ($1,500) cash reward offered for tip offs on the six suspects.

To stem the news of Wukan spreading, authorities have actively expelled the many local and foreign journalists who streamed into the surrounding areas since the sentencing of Lin. Five Beijing-accredited Hong Kong journalists were detained inside private residences where they were conducting an interview. A group of officials broke into the house and accused them of stealing. They were taken back to the nearby Lufeng police station where they were questioned and accused of “illegal reporting,” despite their official accreditations. Two were reportedly coerced into signing confession letters stating they would not return to report on Wukan. All were taken to the Hong Kong border and released.

Internet users who have shared news about Wukan have also been detained. A mother from Zhuhai, some 350 km away, was summoned by neighboring Shenzhen police authorities. When she reported to the police station, she was jailed without trial for 13 days for sharing a digital article on Wukan by Voice of America on Wechat, a Chinese social media network. Her husband was then told by the police not to take any interviews with foreign media, or else he too would be jailed. In spite of all this, the governor of Guangdong has denied that there is a crackdown when questioned at a press conference on cross-border collaboration with Hong Kong officials.

Wukan has yet again become a testing ground for the central Chinese government. It is highlighting the deficiencies in not only China’s human rights record, but also brings into question the level of coordination between often corrupt municipal authorities and national authorities. Wukan village is once again receiving too much global media attention, and that means the central government is forced to deftly deal with what should be a local government issue. While Lin has already been sentenced, more heads will roll in the coming months.

http://thediplomat.com/2016/09/chinas-wukan-democracy-experiment-comes-to-a-violent-end/

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China’s Crackdown on ‘Vote-Buying’ Likely The Result of Factional Warfare: Analysts

September 16, 2016

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), presides over the NPC Standing Committee in Beijing, Sept. 13, 2016. AFP

A decision by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to expel 45 members for vote-buying and bribery is more closely linked to factional infighting than a genuine attempt to weed out corruption in the rubber-stamp parliament, analysts said on Wednesday.

The NPC on Tuesday disqualified 45 legislators from the northeastern province of Liaoning, citing “electoral fraud” during 2013 elections to the legislature, official media reported.

More than 500 delegates to the Liaoning Provincial People’s Congress were implicated in the election fraud and have now either resigned or had their qualification as delegates terminated, state news agency Xinhua reported.

But while pro-Beijing media reported the move as an important step in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, analysts said the crackdown was more likely the result of power struggle within the ranks of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

“I think that this is the result of factional infighting,” constitutional law expert and former local People’s Congress deputy Yao Lifa told RFA.

“I think that the laws governing the election of People’s Congress delegates must be amended, otherwise the problem of vote-buying isn’t going away.”

Bruce Lui, of the Hong Kong Baptist University’s journalism faculty, said Liaoning was once a political stronghold of jailed former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, which might have made it a political target under Xi’s administration.

“For the whole of the Liaoning People’s Congress to be rounded up and taken away by the central government ahead of the 19th People’s Congress [next year] shows that this must really be a nest of vipers … and that Xi Jinping has the authority to deal with them,” Lui said.

“But it also shows us at some level that the government dictates how deep and how far the anti-corruption campaign goes.”

Political retaliation?

Lui said such moves could also be a form of political retaliation targeting local governments who obstruct the implementation of Xi’s directives.

Sun Wenguang, retired Shandong University lecturer and former local delegate to NPC advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said if the system is corrupt, then the responsibility lies with the government.

“All of the NPC delegates and the election candidates are in fact chosen by the government,” Sun said. “The elections are just there for show, and people very seldom cast a vote in opposition.”

“There is no real election campaigning, which is why the Liaoning electoral fraud case is a little strange.”

“I think it has to do with internal struggles within the party, with one faction gaining the ascendancy and then using bribery charges to get rid of the other faction,” he said.

Sun called for reform of the NPC system to allow for genuine elections to take place with a slate of different candidates not pre-selected by the government.

“There should be two or three different candidates in a People’s Congress election, and anyone should be allowed to stand as long as they are over 18 and meet the residency requirements,” Sun said.

“Elections should be open, fair and transparent, otherwise they are meaningless,” he said.

No opposition allowed

Overall, there are five levels of hierarchy in the People’s Congress system, with the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing at the top.

China’s electoral guidelines state that candidates may put themselves forward if they receive recommendations from at least 10 local voters in direct elections to district and township level People’s Congresses.

Every three to five years, China “elects” more than two million lawmakers at the county and township levels across the country to local-level People’s Congresses in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships.

But powerful vested interests mean that the majority of local “elections” are a fait accompli, while independent candidates are frequently targeted for persecution, harassment and detention.

Local vested interests have used intimidation and detention, tampering with physical ballot boxes, and paying for extra votes to maintain their grip on the outcome.

Apart from a token group of “democratic parties” that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.

Reported by Lee Lai for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Gao Shan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-votebuying-09142016125327.html

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Figure in China vote-buying scandal has ties to Clinton Foundation

September 16, 2016

By John Solomon
Global News

A Chinese businessman publicly identified as one of 45 legislators dismissed earlier this week from China’s main legislative body in a vote fraud scandal made a seven-figure donation from his company to the Clinton Foundation three years ago, donor records show.

Wang Wenliang’s Rilin Enterprises contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation tied to Bill and Hillary Clinton in 2013, according to the charity’s public donation records. He serves as chairman of the Chinese-based construction conglomerate.

Wang, a Chinese national with legal U.S. residency, was identified in public reports as one of the 45 lawmakers dismissed by the National People’s Congress as a regional deputy from Liaoning in what China’s official Xinhua news agency called a “vote buying and bribery” scandal in the legislature.

Among the publications identifying Wang as one of the 45 lawmakers was The New York Times and the Taipei Times.

Wang has emerged as an intriguing figure in the U.S. election after CNN and other news media outlets reported earlier this year $122,000 in donations connected to him and given to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons, was being investigated by the FBI.

The America Rising PAC posted a video purportedly showing Wang entering the home of Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C. in 2013. McAuliffe has denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not know Wang personally. His lawyers said the FBI investigation wasn’t focused on fundraising but rather foreign lobbying laws.

Even though the Clinton Foundation donation occurred the same year as the meeting at Mrs. Clinton’s home, McAuliffe has insisted there was nothing wrong with the Clinton Foundation. ‘This has nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation,’ McAuliffe said this spring.

Nonetheless, the revelations about Wang are likely to complicate Hillary Clinton’s efforts to put questions about her family foundation’s foreign fundraising to rest before the November election. Mrs. Clinton vowed to not accept foreign donations to the foundation if she becomes president.

The U.S. State Department and the Clinton Foundation did not return calls seeking comment Thursday night.

A spokesman for Mr. Wang was quoted in prior media reports that he didn’t do anything improper.

Source: http://circa.com/world/global-news/figure-in-china-vote-buying-scandal-has-ties-to-clinton-foundation

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