Posts Tagged ‘Communist Party’

China keeps delaying talks on letting Liu Xiaobo’s widow leave the country — Some say they killed her Nobel Peace Prize-winning husband and now refuse to release her

April 11, 2018

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FILE PHOTO: Protesters carrying photos of Chinese dissident Liu Xia demonstrate near a flag raising ceremony for China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is repeatedly postponing discussions with Western governments on the possibility that Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo, be allowed to leave the country, according to a source with direct knowledge of the case.

Liu Xia, a poet and artist who suffers from depression, has effectively been under house arrest since her husband won the prize in 2010. Liu Xiaobo died in Chinese custody in July last year after being denied permission to go abroad for treatment of advanced liver cancer.

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Liu Xiaobo

Since his death, Liu Xia has continued to be closely monitored by government minders and is unable to travel or to speak freely with friends and family, other than in infrequent pre-arranged phone calls and visits, according to friends and Beijing-based Western diplomats.

Now, fears are mounting that no progress has been made toward allowing her to travel outside the country despite the conclusion of the annual meeting of parliament, which Chinese authorities previously said was the reason for delays.

“There are growing doubts that she will be released in the near future,” a Western diplomat involved in the case told Reuters.

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In a photo provided  by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, center, the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral. She stands with Liu Hui, her younger brother (left) and Liu Xiaoxuan, the younger brother of her late husband, who is holding his cremated remains. Credit AP

“The case has so far been handled discreetly in the expectation that she would soon be permitted to leave the country,” the diplomat said.

China’s foreign ministry was unable to immediately comment on the case. China’s State Council Information Office, which comments on behalf of the Communist Party, did not reply to a faxed request for comment.


Liu has told diplomats and friends on numerous occasions that she wants to leave China. Friends of the couple say that allowing her the freedom to do so was one reason for her husband’s insistence on his deathbed that he be treated overseas.

Chinese dissidents have in the past been allowed to leave the country and take up residence in a willing Western host nation.

However, since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping campaign to quash dissent throughout Chinese society, detaining hundreds of rights activists and lawyers; dozens have been jailed.

China has said that Liu Xia, as a private citizen, is free to do as she pleases and that the details of the case remain an internal affair of China’s.

Friends of Liu Xia say that the process has been slowed by Chinese government fears of what she might say once free, as well as her insistence that her brother, Liu Hui, also be allowed to leave.

He was handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013 and was later released under house arrest, where he remains closely monitored, according to friends of the family.

“The Chinese authorities are primarily concerned that after she leaves she will openly tell the international community about her and Liu Xiaobo’s plight,” Ye Du, a writer and close friend of the couple, told Reuters.

“The authorities have seized upon her weakest point, which is her and Liu Hui’s total dependence on one another, so they may agree to her leaving, but only if Liu Hui stays as a hostage,” he said in reference to the pressure that the Chinese authorities can put on the China-based relatives of dissidents overseas.

Liu Xia continued to write and paint after Liu Xiaobo’s imprisonment but has told friends that she constantly struggles with loneliness and depression and has become dependent on alcohol, cigarettes and medication.

The repeat delays also reflect a failure by foreign governments and international organizations to come together and “raise the cost” of not allowing her to leave by pushing the case publicly and repeatedly, according to Sophie Richardson, Washington-based China director for Human Rights Watch.

“From Beijing’s prospective, there’s no place to go but down in releasing her,” Richardson said. “It’s not a complicated diplomatic thing. It’s about making it more painful for Beijing to keep her than release her.”


How China is trying to export its soft power — “Shaping the ideal image abroad”

April 5, 2018

In recent months, China’s Communist Party has been setting up an international soft power network, while consolidating domestic media to shore up its image at home. William Yang reports from Taipei.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at China Central Television CCTV (picture alliance/ZUMA Press/M. Zhancheng)

China’s growing attempts to amplify its influence overseas were amplified after the ruling Communist Party announced its plan to impose stricter surveillance on all media content in March.

This consolidation aims to make all broadcast media serve as China’s mouthpiece, allowing the Communist Party to have a streamlined institution to project its ideal image abroad.

This move came after Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out a vision during a speech last December that Beijing is ready to “provide more opportunities for the world through our development.”

Analysts have recently said that the series of moves adds up to the Communist Parties consolidation of its efforts to expand strategies designed to influence foreign governments and major global institutions like the United Nations.

As China grows into an economic and political world power, it is accompanied by an increasing need to frame a dominant image domestically to prove this to Chinese citizens.

“What we are seeing [under Xi Jinping] is the expansion of influence abroad in the last five years,” said Sarah Cook, senior research analyst for East Asia at the Washington-based think tank Freedom House.

Read more: Will China’s regulator reshuffle turn all state media into propaganda?

China has been advancing its agenda at the UN by curtailing human rights advocacy efforts. For example, China and Russia led a group of countries to block the secretary-general’s request to fund a key human rights unit within his office.

This case is part of a larger trend with Beijing and the Kremlin gaining more influence in international forums like the UN.

According to Merriden Varrall, Director of the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute, since China feels it is being forced by other countries to comply to standards that it argues aren’t universal, the recent soft power push is a sign that Beijing wants the issue of human rights to take a back seat on the international agenda.

“Some would see this as being quite convenient given where China sits on international measures of human rights,” Varrall told DW.

The ‘United Front’

China largely relies on the operation of the so-called United Front Work Department to cultivate support and grow influence overseas.

Through a range of carefully orchestrated movements, the United Front is entrusted with the mission to “unite all forces that can be united” worldwide while establishing a “iron Great Wall” to prevent opponents abroad from interfering.

As Xi highlights the significant role played by the United Front in the Communist Party, several members of the United Front have risen through the ranks inside the party.

The Financial Times recently reported that Beijing has also designated works related to the United Front to Chinese embassies across the world, setting up a streamlined operation that allows China to advance its agenda.

However, analyst Cook points out that other countries have become more aware of China’ soft power influence operations. Bodies like the United Front and cultural institutes like the Confucius Institute have come under scrutiny.

Even though awareness about the United Front’s agenda is growing, western countries still face the challenge of determining the appropriate countermeasures to threats from Beijing in a democratic setting.

“I think the main challenge is how do [western governments] respond to genuine threat to freedom but do it in a way that’s compatible with democratic values,” Cook said.

Read more: Soft power – China’s expanding role in the Middle East

A retreat of ‘western’ values?

China’s rise to success has been dubbed the “China Model,” referring to an authoritarian capitalism that Beijing has been actively promoting in developing countries.

In a report published by the Brookings Institute in Washington, non-resident fellow Yun Sun highlights how African countries like Ethiopia consider the China Model a complete success and want to build their system and institutions based on the Chinese system.

Even though China emphasizes that the training programs mostly focus on capacity development of political parties, Beijing still attempts to promote China’s experience in governance and development to African countries on these occasions.

“China actively pushes African political party members to personally experience China’s economic success and systematically train them on China’s paths to such a success,” Sun wrote in the report.

Varrall indicates that the China Model remains appealing to countries without a strong liberal-democratic tradition, as China indicates that a country can succeed economically while remaining politically closed.

“There has been some positive responses to China’s media efforts, for example in some parts of Africa and the Pacific,” Varrall said.

Beijing recently said they would not seek to export their social models abroad in a editorial in the party mouthpiece Global Times. However, Cook explains that China is adopting a new strategy that allows them to avoid explicitly stating their intention to promote China’s governance model. She said this new tactic could potentially exacerbate risks to democratic values in certain countries.

Even though China’s strategy may have proven to be partially effective, Cook believes that there is a possibility that China could see some negative consequences.

“I think [we could] see increased censorship and control over access to information domestically,” Cook said. “Internationally, there might be ways that some of these measures are more effective, but in other ways, it can also backfire at them.”

Includes videos:


Facial Recognition Key To China’s Surveillance State

April 3, 2018

acial recognition technology is taking hold in China, while in Europe it’s considered a sign of a looming surveillance state. DW’s Frank Sieren thinks there might be a happy medium.

Chinese police officer strikes a pose (Getty Images/AFP)

With her symmetric face, her dark uniform and her mirrored sunglasses, this young policewoman looks like an agent from the sci-fi franchise “The Matrix.”  She can see things that others cannot. Her glasses are equipped with a face scanner that can search and identify faces in the crowds at a train station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The glasses are linked to a giant database which enables people to be identified within seconds.

A pilot project in Henan province was considered a success: The authorities say that thanks to the glasses, seven people for whom their was a search warrant were found and arrested and caught a further 35 people who had false identity cards.

The government’s argument is that facial recognition technology will boost security and the economy at the same time. No other country has invested in the technology to such an extent. This is also because there is no major debate about data protection in China. Large parts of the population are not interested in the subject and the censors deal with those who are.

Read more – Does your phone know if you’re sick?

An ideal testing ground

Thus, China is an ideal testing ground for the technology whereby computers create biometric models that are unique for each person. Select companies can access state databases, which are huge in China. There are already 176 million cameras providing huge surveillance of public space, and by 2020 there will be 450 million more. Fingerprinting is also daily practice.

Each Chinese person over 16 has an identification card with biometric data, which can be used as a source for developers and programmers using Deep Learning. This is one of the supreme disciplines of artificial intelligence. It is indispensable for creating good facial recognition software. Algorithms teach themselves what kind of faces exist, how they can be differentiated and what factors, for example light or distorted angles, have to be taken into account to find a clear match.

A picture of DW's Frank Sieren (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Tirl)


DW’s Frank Sieren

China would like to be the global leader in the field of artificial intelligence by 2030. So the government is supporting companies such as Megvii, a startup launched in Beijing in 2011.  It is the first “unicorn” in the branch – a company that’s not older than 10 years but already worth over $1 billion (€813 million).

Not far behind is SenseTime from Hong Kong, a company specialized in video analyses for testing precision in self-driving cars as well as facial recognition, which also rose to “unicorn” status last summer. There’s also CloudWalk, which last year received $301 million from the local government in Guangzhou.

Read more – How do biometric facial recognition systems work?

Beyond surveillance

Facial recognition technology is not only useful for surveillance, as is often thought in the West. It is a much more secure method of authentication than passwords or PIN numbers.

The China Merchants Bank has introduced 1,000 ATMs where all customers need to do is glance at the camera to withdraw money. Developers say that because the scanner calculates and analyzes facial features, the movement of the mouth and muscles, there can be no fraud.

Facial recognition also makes it easier to go through security in a country where there are masses of people on the move. China Southern Airlines has been testing the use of facial recognition technology in the city of Nanyang. People no longer need boarding cards, their own face suffices to pass through the gate. In future, people might not need passports at all.

The technology could also help personalize advertising even more. If you’re looking a bit down, you might receive a message from a suntanning studio offering you a special deal!

Strange applications

As with all new technologies, there are some odd uses, too. In Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site, facial scanners have been installed in the public toilets to catch paper thieves. If someone uses more than 60 centimeters’ worth of paper within nine minutes, the machine will politely rebuke them.

In Hangzhou, an outlet of the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken has introduced a biometric paying system. Customers can basically “smile to pay” because their data are linked to the Chinese tech giant Alibaba’s online paying system.

Public humiliation

Other projects might raise an eyebrow in a country which suffered Mao’s Cultural Revolution. During that era, a slogan saying the “masses have sharp eyes” encouraged daily denunciations. At a traffic light in the huge city of Jinan, facial recognition technology is used to record and shame pedestrians who cross the road on red. Photos and videos of the “culprit” appear on public screens. In some cases, employers have been informed of the “crime.”

Such initiatives, along with the government’s planned “social credit” system which will evaluate citizens according to good and bad deeds, might send a chill down the backs of foreign observers in particular.

As with all new technologies, it remains to be seen what will work in the long term. The government and companies now have to convince the population that it will also benefit from facial recognition. When it comes to fighting crime, many Chinese seem to approve its use.

What’s certain is that facial recognition is here to stay – less certain is in what sectors.

Frank Sieren has lived in Beijing for over 20 years.



China’s new surveillance state puts Facebook’s privacy problems in the shade

April 3, 2018

By John Pomfret

A security camera overlooks Tiananmen Square in Beijing on March 6. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

When a woman walked to work this month in the bustling Southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, she, like many millions of other Chinese, jaywalked, cutting across a side street to avoid a detour of hundreds of yards to a crosswalk. What happened next, as documented by the woman, a writer calling herself Mao Yan, was an illustration of a brave new world being born in China.

Two traffic policemen approached the woman and told her that she had violated the traffic regulations of the People’s Republic of China. Eager to get to her job, Mao Yan apologized and pointed out that there was no fencing to block jaywalkers like her. She hoped to get off with a verbal warning. The officers, however, were intent on prosecution. They demanded her identity card, which is issued to all Chinese citizens. When Mao Yan said that she had not brought hers, they asked for her ID number. When she said she had not memorized it, one officer snapped her picture with a camera phone. Seconds later he read out her name, her ID card number and date of birth. Using facial recognition technology, he had identified Mao Yan.

Then Mao Yan heard the clatter of a printer from a nearby police kiosk. One of the officers entered the kiosk and returned with a slip. “It was my first ever traffic citation,” Mao Yan wrote. On the citation was a QR code that she scanned to pay her fine via a messaging app called WeChat that is managed by Tencent, a private Chinese company.

Mao Yan was taken aback by the experience and what she called “the stunning efficiency of the facial recognition technology possessed by our traffic police.” She shared her story with friends, who told her she was lucky that she had not crossed against a light. If she had, police could have put her face, her full name and several digits of her ID card number on a public bulletin board for everyone to see. “Jaywalkers have fewer rights than criminal suspects,” she wrote, pointing out that in Chinese news reports, suspects are often not fully identified and their faces are blotted out.

Mao Yan’s Shenzhen is part of one of the great social experiments of mankind — the use of massive amounts of data, combined with facial recognition technology, shaming and artificial intelligence to control a population via marriage of the state and private companies. Already on the packed highways of Shanghai, honking has decreased. That’s because directional microphones coupled with high-definition cameras can identify and ticket — again, via WeChat — noisy drivers and display their names, photographs and identity card numbers on the city’s many LED boards. On some streets, if drivers stop their cars by the side of the road longer than seven minutes, high-definition cameras identify the driver and, again, issue him or her an instant ticket.

In other parts of China the technology is being used by the state security apparatus to crack down on separatism. In Xinjiang, which has been the site of a separatist movement against Chinese rule, China’s police have established a 21st-century police state through an infrastructure of security technology with high-definition cameras, facial-recognition technology, iris and body scanners at checkpoints, the forced collection of DNA, and the mandatory use of apps that monitor messages on smartphones. The focus of this campaign is the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group that is mostly Muslim.

But as Mao Yan’s story makes clear, this technology is bleeding into the rest of China, where 95 percent of the population is Han Chinese. And China’s authorities won’t be content with traffic stops. Their goal is behavioral modification on a massive scale. Chinese planners have announced their intention to tap the vast AI and surveillance infrastructure currently under construction to generate “social credit” scores for all of China’s 1.5 billion people. With a high score, traveling, securing a loan, buying a car and other benefits will be easy to come by. Run afoul of the authorities, and problems begin.

Some Chinese businessmen who are benefiting from this massive investment in data have argued that the Chinese are less concerned about privacy than people in the United States. Robin Li, the founder of Baidu, China’s version of Google, which routinely shares its data with the Chinese Communist Party, argued over the weekend that Chinese people don’t care that much about privacy. “The Chinese people are more open or less sensitive about the privacy issue,” said Li, speaking at the China Development Forum in Beijing. “If they are able to trade privacy for convenience, safety and efficiency, in a lot of cases, they are willing to do that.” Ironically, Li’s remarks were released by the Chinese magazine Caixin on the same day that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology for releasing user data to a political consultancy.

In her article, Mao Yan didn’t seem to agree with Li’s optimistic interpretation of the campaign. “Maybe,” she wrote, “it’s intimidation to make everyone afraid.” I think she’s right. Hours after Mao Yan posted her story on China’s Internet, censors took it down.




China cracks down on spoofs of ‘Communist heroes’ — No “distorting or mocking” classic works — In fact, “no laughing” — Kim Jong Un cannot be called ‘Fatty’

April 3, 2018


© AFP | Authorities are clamping down on any mocking of China’s “communist classics and heroes”

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s culture watchdog has slapped fines on websites that posted parodies of “Communist classics and heroes”, as the authorities further restrict what people can say — or even laugh at — online.Major video sites iQiyi and Sina were handed undisclosed fines for “distorting or mocking” classic works, the culture ministry said, less than two weeks after new rules were issued to ban online spoofs.

The ministry did not describe the offending videos.

But another company in southwest China’s Sichuan province, Sichuan Shengshi Tianfu Media, was given “the highest fine according to law” for creating a popular parody of a revolutionary ballad, the ministry said in a Monday statement.

“Yellow River Cantata”, a patriotic song written in 1939 encouraging youth to fight during the Sino-Japanese war, has inspired several humorous remakes that have chafed the authorities.

One viral video this year featured employees from the Sichuan company in panda hats, lamenting delays in year-end bonuses.

China has one of the world’s most restrictive internets, with a “Great Firewall” that blocks foreign social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter and censors politically sensitive content.

Despite the censorship, the internet is wildly popular in China, with people turning to video parodies to mock state media or highlight pressing social issues.

But China’s media regulator — the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — issued a directive on March 22 banning websites from “editing, dubbing, or adding subtitles to classic works, radio and television programmes, or original online audio-visual programs.”

Nearly 12,000 officers have been deployed to monitor online content, the culture ministry said. Censors have investigated over 7,800 entities and found more than 230 violations, it said.

Authorities are also targeting online game developers who promote gambling or use pornographic content.

The new rule was announced just over a week after a TV reporter’s theatrical during a Beijing news conference on the sidelines of the annual parliament session took social media by storm.

The video triggered a series of satirical performances, some mocking the scripted nature of the rubber-stamp parliament, before censors intervened.

The congress greenlighted the abolition of presidential term limits, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power after his second term ends in 2023.


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

Senator Warren, in Beijing, says U.S. is waking up to Chinese abuses

April 1, 2018


BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. policy toward China has been misdirected for decades and policymakers are now recalibrating ties, Senator Elizabeth Warren told reporters during a visit to Beijing amid heightened trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

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FILE – In this July 24, 2017 file photo, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks in a park in Berryville, Va., where Congressional Democrats unveiled their new agenda. Warren is working to defuse an issue that has dogged her for years, her claims of Native American heritage, ahead of a possible run for president in 2020. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Warren’s visit comes as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to implement more than $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods meant to punish China over U.S. allegations that Beijing systematically misappropriated American intellectual property.

The Massachusetts Democrat and Trump foe, who has been touted as a potential 2020 presidential candidate despite rejecting such speculation, has said U.S. trade policy needs a rethink and that she is not afraid of tariffs.

After years of mistakenly assuming economic engagement would lead to a more open China, the U.S. government was waking up to Chinese demands for U.S. companies to give up their know-how in exchange for access to its market, Warren said.

“The whole policy was misdirected. We told ourselves a happy-face story that never fit with the facts,” Warren told reporters on Saturday, during a three-day visit to China that began on Friday.

“Now U.S. policymakers are starting to look more aggressively at pushing China to open up the markets without demanding a hostage price of access to U.S. technology,” she said.

Warren discussed trade issues and North Korea with senior Chinese officials, including Liu He, the vice premier for economic policy, Yang Jiechi, a top diplomat, and the Minister of Defence Wei Fenghe.

She said she told officials she met that Americans cannot support a more integrated economic system with China if it “fails to respect basic human rights”.

China’s ruling Communist Party has tightened controls on society since President Xi Jinping assumed power, from online censorship to a crackdown on activists and non-governmental organizations, though Chinese officials routinely deny accusations of rights abuses.

Warren also made stops in Japan and South Korea, and she said that U.S. allies in Asia were having trouble understanding Trump’s “chaotic” foreign policy.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Trump had earlier exchanged insults and veiled threats of war over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but the U.S. leader made the surprising announcement last month that he was prepared to meet Kim.

Warren said success for that meeting would mean getting a commitment to discuss verifiable steps to reduce North Korea’s nuclear threat, which would require careful negotiations from a State Department whose role has been vastly diminished under Trump, with several high-profile posts unoccupied.

Trump’s efforts to “take the legs out from underneath our diplomatic corps” are a “terrible mistake”, she said.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Christian Schmollinger


  (Wall Street Journal)

 (The New York Times)

China’s law-enforcers are going global — “We will hunt you down” — “For a fugitive from China, he is like a flying kite: even though he is abroad, the string is in China.”

March 31, 2018

But their methods are far from orthodox

The Economist

LAST year’s big blockbuster in China, “Wolf Warrior 2”, assured citizens not to fear running into trouble abroad: “Remember, the strength of China always has your back!” That is doubtless a comfort to patriots. But for those who seek to escape the government’s clutches, its growing willingness to project its authority beyond its borders is a source of alarm. In pursuit of fugitives, the Chinese authorities are increasingly willing to challenge the sovereignty of foreign governments and to seek the help of international agencies, even on spurious grounds.

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Fugitives from China used to be mainly dissidents. The government was happy to have them out of the country, assuming they could do less harm there. But since Xi Jinping came to office in 2012 and launched a sweeping campaign against corruption, another type of fugitive has increased in number: those wanted for graft. Though they do not preach democracy, they pose a greater threat to the regime. Most are officials or well-connected business folk, insiders familiar with the workings of government. And in the internet age it is far easier for exiles to maintain ties with people back home.

So China has changed its stance, and started to hunt fugitives down. It has managed to repatriate nearly 4,000 suspects from some 90 countries. It has also recovered about 9.6bn yuan ($1.5bn). Still, nearly 1,000 remain on the run, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s anti-graft watchdog.

The problem is that only 36 countries have ratified extradition treaties with China. France, Italy, Spain and South Korea are among them, but few other rich democracies. It is easy for Chinese suspects seeking refuge abroad to argue that they will not get a fair trial if returned home, since the government does not believe that courts should be independent. Last year the country’s top judge denounced the very idea as a “false Western ideal”. What is more, China has thousands of political prisoners. Torture is endemic.

The hard way

These failings have forced the Chinese authorities to resort to less-straightforward methods to bring suspects home. Typically, they send agents, often travelling unofficially, to press exiles to return. The tactics involved are similar to ones used at home to induce people to do the Communist Party’s bidding. Many are subjected to persistent surveillance, intimidation and even violence. Occasionally, Chinese agents attempt to kidnap suspects abroad and bring them home by force.

If runaways have family in China, those left behind are often subject to threats and harassment. In an interview in 2014 a member of Shanghai’s Public Security Bureau said that “a fugitive is like a flying kite: even though he is abroad, the string is in China.” Some exiles are told that their adult relatives will lose their jobs and that their children will be kicked out of school if they do not return. Police pressed Guo Xin, one of China’s 100 most-wanted officials, to return from America by preventing her elderly mother and her sister from leaving China, and barring a brother living in Canada from entering the country, among other restrictions. In the end she gave in and went home.

In countries with closer ties to China, agents have occasionally dispensed with such pressures in favour of more resolute action. Wang Dan, a leader of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, says that he and other exiled dissidents have long avoided Cambodia, Thailand and other countries seen as friendly to China for fear of being detained by Chinese agents. The case of Gui Minhai, a Swede who had renounced his Chinese citizenship, suggests they are right to do so. He was kidnapped by Chinese officials in Thailand in 2015 and taken to the mainland. In a seemingly forced confession broadcast on Chinese television, he admitted to a driving offence over a decade earlier.

Many countries, naturally, are upset about covert actions by Chinese operatives on their soil. In 2015 the New York Times reported that the American authorities had complained to the Chinese government about agents working illegally in America, often entering the country on tourist or trade visas. Other foreign diplomats note that officials from China’s Ministry of Public Security sometimes travel as delegates of trade and tourism missions from individual provinces. Chinese police were caught in Australia in 2015 pursuing a tour-bus driver accused of bribery. Though France has an extradition treaty with China, French officials found out about the repatriation of Zheng Ning, a businessman seeking refuge there, only when China’s own anti-graft website put a notice up saying police had successfully “persuaded” him to return to China. The French authorities had not received a request for his extradition.

This pattern is especially disturbing since the anti-corruption campaign is sometimes used as an excuse to pursue people for actions that would not be considered crimes in the countries where they have taken refuge—including political dissent. It beggars belief that the Chinese authorities would have worked so hard to capture Mr Gui, the kidnapped Swede, just to answer for a driving offence. His real crime was to have published salacious books in Hong Kong about the Chinese leadership. By the same token, last year the Chinese embassy in Bangkok reportedly asked the Thai government to detain the wife of a civil-rights lawyer after she escaped over China’s south-western border. Her only known offence was to have married a man who had the cheek to defend Chinese citizens against the state.

Increasingly, China is trying to use Interpol, an international body for police co-operation, to give its cross-border forays a veneer of respectability. Interpol has no power to order countries to arrest individuals, but many democratic states frequently respond to the agency’s “red notices” requesting a detention as a precursor to extradition. In 2015 China’s government asked Interpol to issue red notices for 100 of its most-wanted officials. To date, the government says half of those on the list have returned, one way or another. Small wonder that Xi Jinping, China’s president, has said he wants the agency to “play an even more important role in global security governance”.

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Guo Wengui

Since 2016 Interpol has been headed by Meng Hongwei, who is also China’s vice-minister of public security. That year alone China issued 612 red notices. The worry is that China may have misrepresented its reasons for seeking arrests abroad. Miles Kwok, also known as Guo Wengui, a businessman who fled China in 2015, stands accused of bribery. But it was only when he was poised to give an interview last summer in which he had threatened to expose the misdeeds of the ruling elite that China asked Interpol to help secure his arrest. When America refused to send him home, the Chinese government requested a second red notice, accusing Mr Kwok of rape.

China’s covert extraterritorial activity suggests that foreign governments are right to be cautious about deepening ties in law-enforcement. If nothing else, the fate of those who do return provides grounds for concern. Although few would shed any tears for corrupt tycoons or crooked officials, the chances of any of them getting a genuine opportunity to prove their innocence are all but zero. Nearly half of the repatriated officials who were subject to red notices have been sentenced to life in prison; the other half have not yet been tried. Chinese courts have an astonishingly high conviction rate. In 2016, the latest year for which figures are available, it was 99.9%.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline “Forbidding kingdom”

China: How a trip to South Korea by special envoy Yang Jiechi shows Communist Party’s diplomatic ambitions — Break apart the South Korea, Japan, U.S. Alliance

March 30, 2018

Yang Jiechi went to South Korea in a government capacity but also as a Politburo member, as the Communist Party seeks to expand its influence

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 6:16pm

High-ranking Chinese politician Yang Jiechi’s two-day trip to South Korea is a sign that the Communist Party aims to take a bigger role in diplomacy, observers say – and the clue was in his three titles.

It came after a major shake-up of China’s government and party agencies was unveiled, along with a personnel reshuffle and constitutional revisions that aim to blur the line between party and state.

Yang went to Seoul on Thursday to share information about this week’s meeting between President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

He was sent in a government capacity as Xi’s special envoy – but he was also there as head of the party’s  general office, and as a Politburo member.

Until the reshuffle earlier this month, Yang was a state councillor of China’s cabinet when he travelled overseas. While he no longer has that job, he now holds a higher rank within the party after he was promoted to the decision-making Politburo in October.

But the nuances may have been lost on Yang’s hosts – South Korea’s foreign ministry and presidential office said they did not pay much attention to the titles he used for the trip. To them, he was Xi’s special envoy, and his South Korean counterpart was National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong.

Xi Quote:

“Government, the military, society and schools, north, south, east and west, the Party controls them all.”

Xi Jinping, President for Life

Observers said it was appropriate for Yang to travel as Xi’s special envoy, and to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other government officials in that capacity. But the fact he was also using the other titles for the trip could indicate the party was trying to expand its influence in Chinese diplomacy.

“Promoting Yang within the Communist Party and sending him to South Korea as Xi’s special envoy may be a sign that the party will take a stronger leading role in diplomatic matters in the future,” said Seok Yong-youn, president of the Korean-Chinese Relations Institute at Wonkwang University.

“As Yang is an expert in diplomacy, I think he will take a lead in the decision-making process and so will ultimately play a role to centralise the diplomatic leadership to the Communist Party … This is totally natural since Chinese government departments are only the bodies executing party decisions,” he said.

“I think Yang and the Communist Party’s influence in Chinese diplomacy will only grow.”

The government and the party announced plans to restructure their agencies and departments at the annual legislative session earlier this month – a move which will allow the party to consolidate its control across many aspects of Chinese society.

Among the changes, four of the party’s “leading groups” – on financial and economic affairs, cybersecurity, reforms and foreign affairs – have been upgraded as commissions, while several government agencies will be merged with party organs to strengthen the party’s leadership on major affairs, according to a party document.

Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said there was more focus on the division between party and state in past decades, but the restructuring plan was aimed at blurring that line.

“The party will have an overriding influence and the party and state will be more integrated [after the overhaul],” he said.


China-Vatican deal on bishops imminent

March 29, 2018
© AFP/File | A Catholic worshipper holds a cross during an Ash Wednesday mass at Beijing’s government-sanctioned South Cathedral in February

BEIJING (AFP) – A historic agreement between the Vatican and Beijing on the appointment of bishops in China could be signed as early as this Saturday, a Chinese government-approved bishop said in a report published Thursday.Negotiations have reached “the final stages,” Bishop Guo Jincai, secretary-general of the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China, was quoted as saying by the state-owned Global Times newspaper.

“If everything goes right, the deal could be signed as early as the end of this month,” said Guo, who is recognised by China’s Communist government.

Beijing and the Vatican severed diplomatic relations in 1951 and although ties have improved as China’s Catholic population grows, they have remained at odds over the appointment of bishops.

China’s roughly 12 million Catholics are divided between a government-run association, whose clergy are chosen by the atheist Communist Party, and an unofficial underground church loyal to the Vatican.

The situation is complex because the Vatican has previously accepted several bishops appointed by Beijing, officially an atheist regime.

But opponents — among them the respected Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen — say the agreement risks abandoning loyal believers and amounts to a deal with the devil.

On Tuesday night, Chinese police released an underground bishop at the heart of the Beijing-Vatican negotiations after holding him for a day, sources told AFP on Wednesday.

Vincent Guo Xijin, bishop of the diocese of Mindong in the southeastern province of Fujian, is recognised by the Vatican but not by the Chinese authorities.

He was recently urged by the Vatican to step aside for Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu and to accept being demoted to auxiliary bishop, as part of preparations for the agreement.

According to Catholics consulted by AsiaNews, which is run by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Guo’s disappearance can be explained by his refusal to celebrate Easter with the prelate who will replace him.

Asked about Guo’s arrest, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday he was not aware of the situation.

According to information from the French daily La Croix published Monday, a Chinese delegation is expected in Rome this week.

Lu said he had no information but said that China “is always sincere towards improving its relations with Vatican” and willing to meet it “half-way”.


Chinese Police Arrest Underground Bishop Faithful to Rome — The Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China

March 28, 2018

cchristian communist china

Chinese police arrested Bishop Giuseppe Guo Xijin of Mindong Monday night, just prior to the celebration of Holy Week, the most solemn period in the Christian calendar.

In a show of state power over the Church, officials arrived to the diocesan chancery around ten o’clock Monday night and took the bishop away along with the chancellor of the Diocese, Father Xu, according to a report Tuesday from Asianews, the official outlet of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

Bishop Guo was called to the Chinese Office for Religious Affairs at 3:00pm Monday, where he was questioned by officials for more than two hours. He returned to the bishop’s residence at 7:00pm and prepared his luggage as if preparing to leave. Police showed up at 10:00pm and arrested him.

Although the contents of the bishop’s discussions with communist authorities is unknown, according to some of the faithful, the bishop was arrested for refusing to concelebrate the liturgy during the Easter holidays with the illicit bishop Zhan Silu.

Last October, the Vatican issued instructions to Bishop Guo to yield his post as bishop of Mindong to the government-approved Bishop Vincenzo Zhan Silu and to take up the role of his auxiliary, as a way of preparing for diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China. In December, a Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli visited Bishop Zhan, one of seven illegitimate bishops waiting for Vatican recognition and the man slated to replace Bishop Guo as the new bishop of Mindong.

On December 14, the Patriotic Catholic Association—the parallel “Catholic” church created by the Communist party—and the Council of Bishops issued a five-year plan aimed at “Sinicizing” the Catholic Church. The plan demands that all religions submit to the leadership of the Communist Party. Neither the Patriotic Association nor the Council of Bishops is recognized by Rome.

China’s highest ranking Catholic prelate, Cardinal Joseph Zen, published an open letter to the media in late January, accusing the Vatican of “selling out” the Church by caving in to demands of the Communist leaders.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup

Cardinal Joseph Zen

The 86-year-old cardinal has been a vocal critic of recent diplomatic efforts by the Vatican to curry the favor of Chinese leaders. For years, members of the Chinese underground Church have suffered persecution for their faithfulness to Rome, and for their refusal to abandon the Church and join the state-controlled Patriotic Association.

Zen urged Pope Francis last year not to make a deal with the Chinese government that would undermine the sacrifice and fidelity of the underground Catholic Church in the country.

“We are very much worried because it seems that the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China,” the cardinal said at the time.

Pope Francis “is really naïve” and “doesn’t know the Chinese communists,” he said.

“So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China?” Zen asked in his open letter in January. “Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.”

At this same time last year Bishop Guo was arrested by police just prior to the Easter holidays, to prevent him from celebrating the festivities with his flock. Twenty days later he was released.

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