Posts Tagged ‘Chinese social media’

India-China Border Dispute: With Indian National Security Adviser in China, anti-war and moderate sentiments dominate in Chinese social media

July 28, 2017

Ajit Doval

The country’s vibrant cyberspace adopts a moderate tone in contrast to the hawkish official line.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval has commenced his visit to China, outside the glare of media, amid public calls by Chinese authorities seeking unilateral withdrawal of Indian troops engaged in a tense standoff with Chinese forces, from the Doklam plateau.

But simultaneously, anti-war and moderate sentiments, especially in the Chinese social media, seeking to avoid an India-China conflict are also beginning to take root.

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Asked about Mr. Doval’s engagements on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, in his afternoon briefing, said he had no details, as the meetings of the BRICS national security advisers, in which Mr. Doval is participating, had not commenced.

Mr. Doval is expected to meet China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi — the public face of the conference later on Thursday — as part of the customary one-on-one meetings of each of the representatives of the BRICS nations, with representatives of the host country. However, neither the Chinese authorities nor the Indian embassy in Beijing have confirmed the meeting so far.

Chances of debating Doklam

On Friday morning, Mr. Doval will attend the full session of the BRICS meeting. All the visiting NSAs will then call on Chinese President Xi Jinping in the afternoon. Analysts say that within this schedule, there would be plenty of opportunities to discuss Doklam, especially as Mr. Yang is China’s Special Representative for the boundary talks with Mr. Doval as his counterpart. However, with China adopting a public position that talks on Doklam can only follow the unilateral withdrawal of Indian troops from the plateau, any confirmation of talks on Doklam with Mr. Doval is unlikely.

A separate interaction between the NSA and the resident Indian media in Beijing was also not expected, apparently on account of the sensitivity of the Doklam crisis, Indian officials say.

Despite the uncompromising tone of Chinese officialdom, and a hawkish position, riven with military threats, adopted by a vocal section of the state-media seeking an Indian withdrawal, anti-war sentiments also appear to be simultaneously rising, especially in China’s vibrant cyberspace.

Ahead of Mr. Doval’s visit, an online posting authored by Lu Yang, a researcher from the international department of China’s Tsinghua University saw in the Doklam crisis an opportunity to reappraise and finally resolve the boundary issue between China and India. Titled, “Doklam Standoff — maybe a turning point to reconsider the China-India border issue,” the write-up argued how a military conflict can severely undermine China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Mr. Xi’s pet Eurasian connectivity project.

BRI at risk

Besides, the psychological impact of a war with India triggered by the Doklam crisis, feeding into the memories of the 1962 conflict, will sow lasting bitterness among the two peoples. “The Doklam crisis indicates if China and India do not resolve it, it will further impact the implementation of the belt and road strategy,” says Dr. Lu. He adds: “The border conflict related to territory, sovereignty and nationalism, among other sensitive topics, will have an emotional overflow that will seriously affect the overall relationship, with serious implications on the belt and road construction. If we can build mutual trust with India, the key is to resolve the border problem.”

The author also signaled that China should also consider the spillover impact of India-Pakistan military tensions on future security of China’s Xinjiang province.

He highlighted that “China will be dragged into quagmire of South Asia security in case tensions between India and Pakistan — two nuclear neighbours — are not resolved.” “In that case, the security in West China also cannot be assured,” he said without referring to the turbulence in the Xinjiang province in western China.

Lasting impact of war

Dr. Lu underscored the lasting impact of the cross-border war on “national memory and psychology” of the two peoples. “This will further shrink the room for the two governments to resolve the border problem.”

Another widely circulated online blog on July 14 on the popular WeChat site had denounced war as an option to resolve the border crisis with India.



VPN crackdown an ‘unthinkable’ trial by firewall for China’s research world

July 24, 2017

Beijing risks a brain drain and undermining international collaborations by cutting off academics reliant on virtual private networks, scholars say

By Sarah Zheng
South China Morning Post

Monday, July 24, 2017, 11:45am

But access to this resource is not guaranteed as he works at Tsinghua University in China – where the government has been tightening what are already among the strictest controls over the internet in the world.

China is notorious for its “Great Firewall” – the mass censorship and blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, plus news sites including The New York Times. It also routinely censors politically sensitive information across Chinese social media and websites.

 If researchers cannot use VPNs to access a free and open internet, it might lead to government censorship of academic information and a “brain drain” of skilled individuals overseas, one researcher says. Photo: Xinhua

Its push in recent years to further limit people’s abilities to circumvent controls on the internet have forced academics such as Pastor-Pareja to depend on tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs), which redirect users to offshore servers to bypass the censors. His personal VPN subscription, paid for out of his own pocket, allows him to access Google, monitor his Twitter feed for the latest scientific literature, and connect with the wider scientific community via social media.

“Everybody here does the same,” he said. “First-class research at a truly competitive level can’t go on with researchers cut off from the outside world. It’s truly unthinkable.”

However, it may become more difficult for people in China to evade the censors amid the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s “clean-up” campaign of internet access services such as VPNs.

Beijing has championed the concept of “cyberspace sovereignty” – control of its own digital space – that has forced VPN providers into a long-standing dance with the authorities over their “legal grey zone” of operation.

Freedom House, a US-based democracy and human rights NGO, says Beijing has escalated efforts to “restrict individual VPN usage over the past few years”, branding it “the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom”.

“VPNs provide a pressure valve for those who rely on open internet access to communicate and stay informed – even government supporters,” said Madeline Earp, a research analyst at the group. “Interfering with these channels to the outside world creates tremendous frustration and uncertainty.”

In January this year, Beijing launched a 14-month nationwide campaign against unauthorised internet connections, including VPN services, saying all service providers must obtain government approval.

Nathan Freitas, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, said “anyone who was anyone” in China depended on “the VPN of the week that works” to access essential blocked resources.

Any new restrictions would cause “significant” harm to global collaborations, including Chinese academics or open-source projects on the mainland, he said.

“There is this idea that for people inside – the playing field, the collaboration field, was levelled because they had VPNs,” he said.

John Zhang, a chemistry professor at New York University Shanghai, has used his college’s VPN network to access academic information for years. If that changed, “the impact on my work would be serious”, Zhang said.

Another Chinese academic at a university in Shanghai said he had used VPNs since 2012 to access sites such as Google, a service he needed to “accurately and quickly” find academic papers.

He now bypasses the firewall with his university’s VPN system. Since researchers could still access legal VPNs through work, he did not think the restrictions were harmful to China’s academia – “at least for now”.

 Both Chinese and foreign researchers in the country need to tap into global conversations for “well-informed research”. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences

A Chinese physics professor at a university in Beijing said he hoped the VPN crackdown would not affect his ability to use Google.

“Baidu has absolutely no use for my work,” he said, referring to the Chinese search engine.

“It is a shame … Without Google, academic research and study will definitely be adversely ­affected.”

Academics in China are reluctant to publicly comment on censorship. But both Chinese and foreign researchers in the country need to tap into to global conversations for “well-informed research”, according to Dr Nicole Talmacs, lecturer in media and communications at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

One former visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai tried multiple services in his “adventures of finding a VPN”. The first was blocked upon arrival, the second worked for one night and the third worked only after a prolonged configuration process.

He said it was “catastrophic” for his research to be restricted from file sharing services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. “I don’t want to risk my access being limited to whatever the government decides I can use,” he said.

Dr Christopher Balding, a business and economics professor at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, frequently accesses Twitter, Gmail, and Google Scholar for his work.

“If we start taking [VPNs] away, it’s going to be very problematic,” Balding said.

“When you’re going to such extremes, you’re stopping basic access to information for professors … It’s really going to harm the types of jobs and industries that China says it wants to grow.”

Dr Mario Poceski, a former visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the lack of complete internet access was a constant hassle while he was in China, creating conditions that were “rather intolerable”.

He added that this would negatively affect the country’s appeal for foreign scholars.

The firewall’s impact on research was raised when the legislature met in March in Beijing.

Even Liu Binjie, a former director of the General Administration of Press and Publication, indicated support at the National People’s Congress meeting this year for the reintroduction of Google Scholar to China after the authorities suspended access to the service in 2010.

Luo Fuhe, a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also said this year that limited access to the internet was harmful to scientists.

“It is not normal when quite a number of researchers have to buy software that helps them bypass the country’s firewalls in order to complete their scientific research,” Luo said.

The communist government has been increasing efforts to maintain its ideological grip on the country’s universities, which President Xi Jinping has vowed to turn into “strongholds of the party’s leadership”.

Universities – which fall under the control of Communist Party committees – have repeatedly been told to maintain purity in their socialist ideology, including steering clear of teaching topics such as press freedom and civil rights.

The party dispatched anti-graft teams earlier this year to inspect 29 top universities on criteria including the implementation of the party’s guiding principles for education and strong “political awareness”.

China’s drive for internet restrictions on academics may stem from a desire to keep data on Chinese internet platforms and sensitive information such as defence or cybersecurity research within its borders, according to Freitas.

But when scholars and researchers could not use VPNs to access a free and open internet, it might lead to government censorship of academic information and a “brain drain” of skilled individuals overseas, he noted. “Intelligent people want to be connected with a global cohort of collaborators,” he said.

Balding said China was “definitely a different environment” from when he arrived in the country eight years ago, citing its restrictive internet and politically sensitive academic environment.

Asked if he was now considering working outside China, he replied soberly: “I should probably start thinking about looking.”

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

July 13, 2017


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charter 08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Need to Act’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


See also:


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

.Activists send postcards to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

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

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

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

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

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

The return of “class enemies”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In critical condition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thai Police Raid ‘Click Farm,’ Find 347,200 SIM Cards — Fraudulent “likes” generation

June 13, 2017

BANGKOK — Thai police have arrested three Chinese men who they say operated a so-called “click farm,” using hundreds of cellphones and several hundred thousand SIM cards to run up “likes” and views on WeChat, a Chinese social media mobile application.

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Immigration Police Capt. Itthikorn Atthanark said Tuesday the men said they were paid according to how many likes and views they generated, each earning 100,000-150,000 baht ($2,950-$4,400) per month. Click farms are hired to inflate an online site’s viewership for prestige and profit.

Police seized 476 cellphones and around 347,200 SIM cards during the arrests Sunday in Sa Kaeo province , about 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of Bangkok. The men were charged with working without a permit and importing the phones without paying taxes.

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)



‘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.

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

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.”

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.


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. (


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,, 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 has also been circulating SAT material for years, an analysis of its website,, 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),_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


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.

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”).

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.

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).

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.

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

“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.


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’.”

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.

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

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.

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.

“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.

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

All the attention has even changed Giménez’s outlook.

“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.

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