Posts Tagged ‘Liu’

Top Chinese Authorities Must Release Human Rights Lawyers — Illegal Behaviour on the Part of the State Gets Harder To Hide

July 16, 2015

Crackdown on lawyers shows authorities fear burgeoning rights defence movement, analysts say

By Verna Yu
South China Morning Post

It was going to be just another day.

Wang Yu, a 44-year-old human rights lawyer, saw off her husband and teenage son at the airport on Wednesday last week, where they were due to fly to Australia to put their son into school.

But after she got home, things started going horribly wrong.

At around 3am, the electricity and internet connection was suddenly cut off. Then she heard someone picking at her front-door lock. She heard people murmuring outside, so she looked through the peephole, but couldn’t see anyone in the darkness, according to a message she sent to a friend.

Shortly after 4am she sent another message, saying someone was forcing her front door open. That was her last message before she disappeared. Her friend tried to call her back later, but there was no answer.

No one has been able to contact Wang or her husband since then. Friends who had her house keys tried to get into her home last Friday, only to find the locks had been changed. They could not find any record of her husband and son’s departure from the airport. A security guard at her housing compound told them he saw someone being taken away by dozens of policemen in the early hours of last Thursday.

The incident was only the start of an unprecedented crackdown on mainland human rights lawyers over the past week, which so far has seen about 215 lawyers and rights advocates taken away, summoned or detained by police, according to figures compiled by China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. The offices of at least three law firms have been searched.

Although most have since been released, at least 14 people are feared still detained by police. And another 11 have been placed under criminal detention or “residential surveillance” either on unspecified charges, or “incitement to subvert state power” and “seeking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

Veteran China watchers say the police action is the worst since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. They also say it shows the mainland authorities’ fear of the fast-growing civil society and their wariness over the crucial role played by an expanding community of rights lawyers in the grass-roots “rights defence” movement.

Human rights lawyer Wang Yu. Photo: Kyodo

Analysts say that these rights lawyers – whose number has grown at least tenfold to 200-300 from a decade ago – have long been seen as a thorn in the side of the authorities for using litigation and advocacy to help members of the public assert their rights and seek justice under the Communist Party-controlled legal system.

But while the crackdown was nationwide, it appeared to have a specific target: the partners and lawyers at one Beijing law firm – Beijing Fengrui, where Wang works.

Fengrui has a reputation for handling prominent rights cases, including artist Ai Weiwei’s 81-day detention in 2011. It describes itself on its website as “full of passion in our pursuit of liberty, equality and democracy”.

The day after Wang disappeared, several lawyers and staff at the firm, including Zhou Shifeng, the director of Fengrui, his assistant Liu Sixin, and lawyers Li Zhuyun, Wang Quanzhang and Huang Liqun were also either taken away or disappeared. Several other people at the firm had also been taken away.

On Sunday, party mouthpiece People’s Daily went so far as to depict Wang Yu and her husband, Bao Longjun, Zhou, Liu, Huang, who were the first to be taken away in the crackdown, as “a major criminal gang” that “seriously disturbed social order”. It said they had been placed in criminal detention for “seriously violating the law”, but did not name a charge.

Analysts say the crackdown is an effort by the authorities to discredit the rights defence movement and sully the reputation of the lawyers and its advocates. They also say it is also meant as a warning to other lawyers not to take on rights cases.

Eva Pils, a China legal expert at King’s College, University of London, said that in recent years, mainland rights lawyers had formed themselves into a community, often coordinating their actions to support colleagues assaulted while working on rights abuse cases. “Since so many lawyers started openly identifying with human rights causes and coordinating their advocacy campaigns, they are one of the closest things China has to a political opposition,” she said.

This was the case with the fatal shooting in Qingan, in Heilongjiang province in May of an unarmed man. Xu Chunhe was shot dead by a policeman at a train station in front of his mother and children, leading to a public outcry over concerns the policeman used excessive force.

People’s Daily said the public outrage over the Qingan case was the result of lawyers “masterminding plots” and “colluding” with activists and petitioners to create public disorder “in the name of ‘rights defence, justice and the public interest'”.

After the shooting, lawyer Xie Yang, who represented Xu’s mother, was attacked by a gang of unidentified men. Several lawyers also travelled to Qingan but were detained. Their detentions triggered public outrage and hundreds of fellow lawyers issued a joint statement condemning police abuse. This pattern of support has been repeated over many incidents – and lawyers say the authorities now want to put a stop to this.

“What rattles [the authorities] is that civic-minded lawyers have the capacity to get together in such large numbers to protest [against] what they see as illegal behaviour on the part of the state,” Pils said. “They want to break this model of coordinated, vocal defence of human rights lawyers’ right to defend rights.”

The People’s Daily coverage on Sunday labelled the lawyers as the “black hands”, or masterminds, behind rights defence activities, accusing them of “confronting the court” and getting “troublemakers” to rally around sensitive cases they wanted to publicise.

It also accused Wu Gan, a flamboyant campaigner better known by his nickname “Super Vulgar Butcher”, of plotting with rights lawyers to draw public attention to more than 40 “sensitive cases”, including the Qingan shooting.

Wu, who also worked at Fengrui, was charged this month with “inciting subversion” and “provoking trouble”.

As in many past cases where lawyers were attacked or detained, Wang Yu’s disappearance prompted her colleagues to immediately express their solidarity. More than 110 lawyers issued a joint statement last Friday to condemn her detention and voice support for her. By late last Friday and early Saturday, many of those who signed the statement were detained one after another across the country. Those released said they had been warned against voicing support for Wang Yu and Fengrui staff.

On the mainland, because the laws meant to protect citizens’ rights are often flouted by government departments and officials, and outcomes in the party-controlled courts are often predetermined, lawyers and human rights advocates often have to resort to social media campaigns and protests to promote their cases and raise public awareness about the victims’ ordeal.

“[They] have to ensure that laws and regulations are actually adhered to: not just to give their clients justice and to hold the government accountable, but they have also used creative advocacy tools to enhance the social impact of their cases.” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

Teng Biao, a fellow at Harvard Law School, said the authorities were nervous about the large numbers of rights lawyers, who used the law to challenge the government and officials’ abuse of power. “They fear the lawyers will unite into a force to pose a challenge to the current political system,” he said.

Teng said that after the national security law was passed this month, law enforcers and security departments now also had more justification to suppress activities perceived to be a threat to national security.

The sweeping action against lawyers came amid a tightening of ideology overseen by the administration of President Xi Jinping , said political commentator Ching Cheong.

Ching, a China watcher for nearly 40 years, said the unprecedented crackdown on rights lawyers was in line with Xi’s conservative ideology, which regards human rights advocates and government critics as a threat to the regime.

He said the rhetorical foundation of the crackdown could be traced to a 2012 article in People’s Daily, which cautioned that the United States would use five categories of people – rights lawyers, underground religious followers, dissidents, opinion leaders on the internet and the underprivileged – to “infiltrate” Chinese society to push for a regime change.

Nee said the central government was pushing an “irreconcilable set of goals”, by wanting to promote the rule of law, but at the same time suppressing lawyers who held officials accountable.

“With this crackdown, the government is trying to send a clear signal to the rights lawyers: no taking on ‘sensitive’ cases, no social media advocacy, and no street protests,” Nee said.

“With strikes and other social protests growing in scale, and with the possibility of decreased economic growth … there’s no doubt that ‘maintaining social stability’ will be the government’s top priority.”

Poignantly, just days before her own detention, Wang Yu spoke against the incrimination of citizens for expressing their opinions.

As Wu Gan’s former lawyer, she argued he should have the freedom to criticise the government. “As citizens, people should be able to question the government without being accused of ‘inciting subversion’,” she said. “This is political persecution.”

‘Blood on Many Hands’: Police union president slams De Blasio after cops’ killing

December 21, 2014

.

NYPD PBA President Patrick Lynch speaks to reporters following the shooting deaths of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, 2014. (credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

The president of the NYPD union slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio in reaction to the deaths of two officers who were ambushed and gunned down in their patrol car in broad daylight Saturday in Brooklyn.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said late Saturday. “Those that incited violence on this street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did everyday.

“We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated,” Lynch continued. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”

Also on Saturday evening, video obtained by the New York Post showed several officers turning their backs on the mayor as he made his way down a hallway at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, where Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu had earlier been pronounced dead.

The Post also reported that earlier in the evening, de Blasio approached a group of officers outside the hospital and told them, “We’re all in this together.”

“No, we’re not,” an officer responded, according to the Post, which cited another policeman who witnessed the exchange as its source.

Following the shunning by officers in the hospital hallway, de Blasio spoke emotionally of meeting the families of the deceased officers and praying over their bodies.

“We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil,” de Blasio said. “They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency.”

The mayor declined to address a question about the possible political ramifications of the killings, saying it was “time to think about these families. I don’t think it’s a time for politics or political analysis. It’s a time to think about families that just lost their father, their husband, their son.”

Lynch and de Blasio have been locked in a public battle over treatment of officers following a Staten Island grand jury decision Dec. 3 to not indict a police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner. Garner was stopped by police this past July on suspicion of selling so-called “loosies”, or untaxed cigarettes. Amateur video captured an officer appearing to put Garner in a chokehold and wrestle him to the ground. Garner was heard gasping, “I can’t breathe” before he lost consciousness and later died.

Demonstrators around the country have staged die-ins and other protests the grand jury decision, which closely followed a Missouri grand jury’s refusal to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said they were investigating whether the suspect, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley had attended any rallies or demonstrations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/12/21/blood-on-many-hands-police-union-president-slams-de-blasio-after-cops-killing/

Related:

 

Shock After Two NYPD Officers “Assassinated” in Their Car

December 21, 2014

By Phil Helsel
NBC News

Investigators believe the gunman who ambushed and fatally shot two New York City Police Department officers Saturday boasted on social media that “I’m putting wings on pigs today” before the killings. The Instagram post also references Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in confrontations with police.

Police said Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, walked up to a police car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn at 2:47 p.m. and shot officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos through the passenger side window, fatally striking both in the head. Brinsley then ran to a nearby subway station where he turned the gun on himself, police said.

“Today two of New York’s finest were shot and killed, with no warning, no provocation. They were, quite simply, assassinated,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said. “Targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”

NYPD officers Wenjian Lu and Rafael Ramos were killed. Photo: DCPI

Police said Brinsley — who has an extensive rap sheet, with more than 15 arrests in the past 10 years — is suspected of shooting and wounding an ex-girlfriend in a Baltimore suburb earlier Saturday before he traveled to New York and ambushed the officers. While Baltimore County Police sent a fax warning that Brinsley was a suspect in that shooting and might be in New York, that message came in just as Brinsley was carrying out the attack, according to Bratton.

Bratton did not release a motive in the murders, but said police were looking at social media posts and examining whether Brinsley was involved in demonstrations after grand juries declined to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Brown and Garner.

Prior to Saturday’s attacks, it appeared that Brinsley had several brushes with the law — with a slew of charges in different states, mostly related to theft but including a firearms offense in 2011.

In one Instagram post that investigators are investigating, a message reads: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours … let’s take 2 of theirs.” That post is accompanied by hashtags referring to Brown and Garner.

Garner died in New York on July 17 after a police officer placed him in what the medical examiner called a “chokehold.” Large protests erupted there and nationwide this month after a grand jury declined to indict the officer in Garner’s death.

That followed on nationwide protests and outrage after a Missouri grand jury also declined to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has led protests over the deaths of Brown and Garner, denounced the officers’ killings.

“I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today,” Sharpton said in a statement. “Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases.”

Brown’s family released a statement Saturday saying it “condemns today’s senseless killing of two NYPD officers.”

“We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement,” the statement said. “It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities.”

President Barack Obama also slammed the killings saying that “two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.”

“The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day — and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day,” Obama added.

But the head of a major New York City police union struck out Saturday at the mayor and those who have “incited violence under the guise of protest,” blaming them for the officers’ deaths.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight – those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”

Before Brinsley killed the two police officers in New York, he also is believed to have shot and wounded a former girlfriend in a Baltimore suburb, New York and Baltimore County police said Saturday. A motive in that shooting has not been released.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people.”

New York City Councilman Robert E. Cornegy, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant, told reporters that despite frustration in the community over the Garner decision, “I don’t think anybody in their right mind would call for the death of an officer.” He said both officers killed Saturday were stationed in the neighborhood as part of a months-long crime-reduction initiative.

“We’re all as a community stunned,” he said. “They were not overpolicing, they were just a presence…This could not be any worse.”

Ramos, 40, leaves behind a 13-year-old son. Liu, 32, was recently married, according to the NYPD.

Meanwhile, protests over the deaths of Garner and Brown continued Saturday with demonstrations in the nation’s two largest shopping malls, on the busiest shopping day of the year. Twelve people were arrested after crowds briefly shut down parts of the massive Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and protesters staged a die-in at the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/assassinated-shock-after-two-nypd-officers-gunned-down-their-car-n272436

Related:

Chinese Nobel Laureate Sends Message From Jail — Forgives His Tormentors

December 12, 2014

.

Imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo

The Associated Press

Imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has told an overseas friend that he is relatively healthy and wants the world to pay more attention to other Chinese activists, in a rare message smuggled out of prison.

“The aura around me is enough already. I hope the world can pay more attention to other victims who are not well known, or not known at all,” said a message sent by Liu to dissident writer Liao Yiwu, who lives in exile in Berlin.

Liao, who posted the message Thursday on Facebook, did not say how he received it from Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence on charges of inciting state subversion, but Liu’s friends have said the message is genuine.

While in prison, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his calls for political reforms. The Nobel committee held Liu’s award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, with an empty chair on stage to mark his absence. Beijing condemned the award and put his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest.  

The empty chair with a diploma and medal that should have been awarded to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo  stands in Oslo City Hall

.
The empty chair with a diploma and medal that should have been awarded to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo stands in Oslo City Hall Photo: 2010 AFP

Liu Xia still can visit her husband in prison, although their meetings are under tight watch. Because she is kept largely incommunicado, it is rare for the public to hear from the Nobel laureate. The message to Liao is possibly the first of its kind.

Liao said it was the first time he had heard from Liu in more than six years.

“My eyes are suddenly moist,” Liao said on Facebook.

In the message, Liu said he was doing well and had been reading and thinking.

“Through studies, I have become even more convinced that I have no personal enemies,” Liu said, repeating a statement from his trial five years ago that he held no grudge against those who prosecuted him.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took power two years ago, the stifling of dissent has been on the rise, with authorities hauling away human rights lawyers, social activists, journalists, writers, scholars and artists, most of whom are largely unknown to the outside world.

Related:

Photo: Chinese people wear face masks with “No to Kunming PX,” paraxylene, written, chant slogans as they hold protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province Saturday, May 4, 2013. After word spread about an environmental protest that was planned for Saturday in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, drugstores and printing shops were ordered to report anyone making certain purchases. Microbloggers say government fliers urged people not to demonstrate, and schools were told to stay open to keep students on campus. Meanwhile, hundreds of people – many wearing mouth masks – gathered in Kunming to protest a planned refinery project in the area. The demonstrators demanded information transparency and that public health be safeguarded. (AP Photo)

Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli died after falling critically ill in police detention in China

Officials in eastern China must abandon plans to demolish churches and crosses and stop their

Parishioners line up outside the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou hoping to save it from demolition by the Chinese Communist government Photo: Tom
.
Related:
.
.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on her way to deliver a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China Photo: GETTY IMAGES
.

Beijing's No 1 detention centre

Outside Beijing’s No 1 detention centre. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Xi Jinping

Former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s extended family has controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion, the New York Times reported, citing corporate and regulatory records and unidentified people familiar with the family’s investments.

China: PLA reshuffle strengthens Xi Jinping’s hand in corruption fight

September 22, 2014

Two key ‘princelings’ are set for promotion as president targets corruption and aims to turn world’s largest army into a battle-ready force

India Warned Not To Participate In South China Sea Oil Projects With Vietnam

February 20, 2014

.

Saibal Dasgupta,TNN | Feb 20, 2014

BEIJING: A  Chinese government think-tank researcher has warned India against participation in oil projects with  Vietnam government on the disputed islands of South China Sea.

Indian oil companies cannot get cooperation from China in gas pipeline and oil exploration projects if they continues to work in the region, Liu Qian said in an article in the State-controlled  Global Times. Liu is a researcher with the Academy of Chinese Energy Strategy with the China University of Petroleum in  Beijing.

“If India insists on exploiting the resources in the  South China Sea with Vietnam regardless of warnings from China it is hard to see how China can be motivated to cooperate with India,” Liu sad.

China and Vietnam are locked in a dispute over ownership of the oil bearing islands.

Describing India and China as “natural rivals” in the global energy industry, Liu said the two countries should try to forge greater cooperation instead of getting involved in intense rivalry. In most cases Indian companies lose out to Chinese firms which is why they respond with “hot fighting words”, Liu said.

But China finds that the cost of intense competition is unbearable and wants cooperation with India. Intense competition is forcing Chinese companies to pay higher premium for oil assets in third countries like  KazakhstanAngola and  Ecuador, the article said.

“But this (high premium) is not sustainable for Chinese firms. And Indian companies also need to avoid too much competition to save money. This offers room for cooperation between China and India,” Liu said.

India and China are wary about each other’s attempt to exploit gas reserves in  Turkmenistan. China is expected to seek a portion of the gas from the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, Liu said.

“The current problem lies in how to avoid unnecessary competition and excessive speculation between the two and how to establish a coordinating mechanism for bilateral cooperation,” the article said while calling on the governments of the two countries to bring about cooperation between cross-border oil companies.

Chinese companies has won against Indian firms in competition for overseas oil projects because they offer more favorable returns which includes financial payments, technology support, infrastructure construction, management experience and staff training, it said.

Chinese Bloggers Ask Kerry to Help Bring Down Internet Firewall

February 15, 2014

By  Sangwon Yoon
Bloomberg

Chinese bloggers told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the push for Internet freedom in China is going backward and that the U.S. should help the country’s people overcome restrictions on online communication.

Kerry heard the comments at a meeting with four bloggers at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing today before ending his 1.5-day visit to China to head for Jakarta, the third and last stop on his trip to Asia this week. The secretary said arrests of reform advocates are counter to “all of our best interests.”

China has signaled that it sees online dissent as a threat to the governing Communist Party’s authority amid slowing economic growth. At the November policy-setting Communist Party Plenum, President Xi Jinping’s government unveiled an Internet crackdown and the creation of a new security body to combat domestic threats, alongside new limits on critics and people who may spread online reports of party cadres’ wrongdoing.

Since the plenum, Internet freedom “was going backward, there is less of it,” said Wang Keqin, a blogger known for his exposes on corruption in the Beijing taxi industry and his work on health risks related to air pollution.

U.S. companies are helping the Chinese government block access to the Internet and to Twitter, Zhang Jialong, who has a following of about 100,000 readers at a blog published by Tencent Finance (700), a division of China’s largest social media company. Kerry said it was the first time he has heard complaints of U.S. companies helping the Chinese government’s control over Internet access, adding that he would look into the matter.

Internet Freedom

Kerry told Wang that he had urged the Chinese leaders to support Internet freedom and has raised the issue of press freedom.

“The Chinese economy will be stronger with greater freedom of the Internet,” he said.

The other two bloggers in the 40-minute meeting with Kerry were Ma Xiaolin, former journalist for state-run Xinhua news agency who founded what is said to be the first private and “real name” bloggers’ community in China, and Wang Chong, director of a blog channel on a major Chinese web portal.

The crackdown on users of China’s Twitter-like microblogs, along with new punishments for online defamation, reflect a stepped-up party campaign to rein in a forum that’s challenged China’s censorship regime over the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Sina Weibo, a microblog with 60 million daily users, has been used by some dissenters. Some microbloggers using the service have been arrested after a September rule made spreading false rumors online a criminal offense punishable by jail.

Scholar Jailed

High-profile bloggers have also been interrogated or detained after posting comments critical of the government.

The Communist Party last month sentenced legal scholar Xu Zhiyong to four years in prison on charges of gathering a crowd to disturb public order. Xu, who helped Chinese families whose children were sickened by tainted milk in 2009 to file lawsuits, is the most prominent activist to be jailed since Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Xu was detained July 16 in Beijing after a group of other activists unfurled banners demanding China’s leaders disclose their assets.

Venture capitalist Charles Xue, who wrote about politically sensitive subjects to his 12 million followers, was detained in August on charges of soliciting prostitutes. China’s state television broadcast a confession by him to the charge in September. The channel later showed Xue saying he didn’t fact check what he posted online and his interaction with followers made him feel like an emperor. No information about his case has been released since.

‘Frank Discussion’

After a series of meetings with Chinese leadership, including Xi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Premier Li Keqiang, Kerry told reporters yesterday that he had with them “a frank discussion about some human rights challenges and the role of rule of law and the free flow of information in a robust, civil society and the challenges of the cyber world that we live in today.”

“I emphasized that respect for human rights and for the exchange of information in a free manner contributes to the strength of a society in a country,” Kerry said yesterday. “Recent arrests of peaceful advocates for reform run counter, in our judgment, to all of our best interests and the ability to make long term progress.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Beijing at  syoon32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at  jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

Chinese bloggers ask Kerry to put pressure on Beijing over Internet, press freedoms

February 15, 2014

By Simon Denyer
The Washington Post

BEIJING — Leading Chinese bloggers asked Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Saturday to put more pressure on their government to ease mounting restrictions on freedom of expression and Internet use and to help tear down the Great Firewall of China, as the system of censorship here is known.Reporter and blogger Zhang Jialong complained that U.S. companies were complicit in maintaining Internet restrictions in China and asked Kerry to do more for Chinese dissidents who have been jailed or peacefully expressing their views.Kerry met with four leading bloggers during a short trip to China, a visit otherwise dominated by official discussions on the thorny issues of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and climate change.

Although Kerry’s morning meeting with the bloggers was supposed to show U.S. support for freedom of expression in China, the secretary seemed to be put on the defensive by their questions and appeals for help, insisting that he had urged Chinese leaders to support expanded press and Internet freedoms.

“Obviously, we think that [the] Chinese economy will be stronger with greater freedom of the Internet,” he said.

But Kerry sidestepped a question about his view of the path China is on, after investigative reporter Wang Keqin said intellectuals were worried about growing restrictions since Xi Jinping took over as president last March.

Asked whether he would visit the wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who has herself been held under house arrest, Kerry said he typically only visits Beijing for a day and a half at a time. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in 2009 for “subverting state power” after helping to write and circulate a call for democratic reforms and human rights.

Kerry said he had consistently raised the issue of human rights during his visits to China, including in meetings with Xi. “We constantly press these issues at all of our meetings, whether it is in the United States or here, at every level, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Wang said later that he had been called in for a chat with state security officials before the meeting with Kerry but had declined to attend.

Zhang asked whether the United States would get together with the “Chinese who aspire for freedom” and help “tear down the great Internet firewall,” noting that U.S. companies were helping the Chinese government block access to Twitter and the Internet.

Kerry said that it was the first time he had heard this complaint and that he would look into it.

Zhang is a financial reporter at Tencent Finance, a division of China’s largest social media company, and has 110,000 followers on his microblog, while Wang lost his job as a reporter in 2013 for reporting on the cause of flash floods in Beijing and now works to support victims of lung disease. He has more than half a million followers.

China devotes enormous resources and manpower to Internet censorship in an effort to prevent dissent and social unrest from threatening communist rule. Facebook and Twitter are banned and Internet search-engine results heavily censored to remove Web sites or terms deemed sensitive. All Internet firms operating within the country comply with the government’s requirements.

Earlier this week, a China-based group that advocates for freedom of speech accused Microsoft of censoring searches related to the country, filtering out sensitive results about the Dalai Lama, for example, when the Tibetan religious leader’s title was entered into the Bing search engine in Chinese anywhere in the world.

Greatfire.org also accused Microsoft of not being transparent in indicating search results that had been censored.

Microsoft denied the accusations, blaming a system fault as well as search algorithms that prioritize Web sites users actually visit.

Microsoft, which has plans to build a bigger presence in China, has also drawn criticism in the past for censoring the Chinese version of Skype.

Asked what the United States could do to help build democracy in China, Kerry said that “slow progress” was being made and that the administration wants to maintain a dialogue.

“No one country can come crashing in and say, ‘Do this our way, it is better,’ “ he said.

Liu Liu contributed to this report.

Related:

Related:

China’s Xi Jinping

Former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s extended family has controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion, the New York Times reported, citing corporate and regulatory records and unidentified people familiar with the family’s investments.

US, Japan Prepare for China Attack on East China Sea Islands, China TV Says

March 22, 2013

The United States would like China to be a constructive influence on the world stage, Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear III, head of the US Pacific Command, said.

China News Broadcast, March 21, 2013: US, Japan Prepares for China Attack on Islands

New Tang Dynasty Television

http://ntdtv.org/en/news/china/china-today/

*********************************

By JULIAN E. BARNES

WASHINGTON—The U.S. and Japan are updating plans to defend East China Sea islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing, according to a defense official.

But the official emphasized that the updated plans are routine, and don’t signal a change in the U.S. stance urging a peaceful resolution to the dispute. Indeed, American policy makers say they have been heartened in recent days by comments from Beijing that they have taken as a sign that the Chinese leadership is also interested in ratcheting down tensions over the islands.

The updated plans were first reported in Japan Wednesday by the Nikkei newspaper. The U.S. defense official said the U.S. was “not happy” about the leak, and said it threatened to signal a misimpression of the American stance on the dispute.

Japan controls the islands in question and calls them the Senkakus. Beijing calls the islands Diaoyu, and has repeatedly sent maritime surveillance vessels into the territorial waters in recent months to test Japan’s control.

Washington has long acknowledged that the security treaty between the U.S. and Japan covers the disputed islands, while at the same time making clear privately that a military conflict over the uninhabited territory would be a grave mistake. While pledging to defend Japan, the U.S. doesn’t take a position on territorial disputes with China in the East or South China seas.

U.S. defense officials noted that the Pentagon routinely updates its military plans for a variety of potential conflicts. The official declined to give details of the plan, or say how it was being changed. But such plans generally include a variety of scenarios, from trying to repel an enemy force from taking an island to retaking islands after a conflict.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise we have a plan to defend our ally against aggression in a tense situation,” said a U.S. defense official.

A spokeswoman for the Defense Department, Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson, said that Adm. Samuel Locklear, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, will meet with Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, the chief of the joint staff of the Japanese Self Defense Forces, in Hawaii on Thursday and Friday, as part of their regular consultations.

“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss our military planning efforts,” Lt. Col. Wilkinson said.  “The U.S. policy on the Senkaku Islands is long-standing. We encourage the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means.”

Defense officials said Adm. Locklear and Gen. Iwasaki would discuss the islands and the contingency plans in their meetings, but it isn’t expected to be the primary focus of the meeting.

U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear (C), Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, is accompanied by Shigeru Iwasaki (R), Chief of Japan's Self-Defence Forces Joint Staff, as he arrives to inspect the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missile deployed at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear (C), Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, is accompanied by Shigeru Iwasaki (R), Chief of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces Joint Staff, as he arrives to inspect the  Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missile deployed at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Lt. Col. Wilkinson said Gen. Iwasaki and Adm. Locklear will “discuss ways to deepen operational cooperation and to improve the effectiveness of bilateral operations.”

Tensions around the islands have risen since last September, prompted by Tokyo’s purchase of some of the islands from a private owner. Raising concerns that the dispute may escalate in a military conflict through unintended collisions or accidents, cat-and-mouse chases of patrol ships, and exchanges of scrambles of planes, have continued in the area. Such tensions culminated in a January incident where a Chinese military vessel allegedly locked its radar on a Japanese ship in the vicinity of the islands, prompting protests in Japan.

After months of rhetorical saber-rattling, China appears to be suggesting a shift in tone, according to U.S. officials. They cite in particular comments made last week by Gen. Liu Yuan, a senior officer in the People’s Liberation Army close to the new Chinese leadership.

<p>               FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2012 file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, one of the small islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese is seen from a Chinese marine surveillance plane.  China plans eventually to land a survey team on the uninhabited islands at the heart of an increasingly dangerous territorial dispute with Japan, a Chinese official said Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in the latest verbal salvo intended to bolster Beijing's territorial claims. (AP Photo/Xinhua, File) NO SALES

One of the small islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese is seen from a Chinese marine surveillance plane. China plans eventually to land a survey team on the uninhabited islands at the heart of an increasingly dangerous territorial dispute with Japan, a Chinese official said Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in the latest verbal salvo intended to bolster Beijing’s territorial claims. (AP Photo/Xinhua, File)

Gen. Liu said a peaceful resolution to the dispute was in the best interests of China and Japan. He later noted that war is “very cruel and costly.” He added: “If  there is any alternative way to solve the problem, there is no need to resort to the means of extreme violence for a solution.”

Tokyo, meanwhile, says that no dispute exists since Japan legitimately maintains control of the islands. Japanese officials say they are concerned that Beijing is trying to wrest control from Japan by making the presence of Chinese ships and planes around the islands constant.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s new prime minister known for his nationalistic views, has repeatedly said in recent weeks that provocations  against Japan continues and that Tokyo will “resolutely defend our nation’s land, waters and skies.”

—Yuka Hayashi contributed to this article.

Gen. Liu Yuan, a senior officer in the People’s Liberation Army

****************************************

If there is one thing that China needs to avoid in the coming years then it is the militarization of its upper echelons of power. Just like Imperial Japan of the 1930s a stronger, more assertive military often masquerades as the panacea for the many social problems that arise after intense modernization, but in fact they are the harbinger of serious, future troubles. Who can tell which way the 2012 presidential handover will swing? However, there are credible signs coming out of China that a harder, military faction is in ascendancy. No one epitomizes this ‘tough’ military stance more than my favorite General, Liu Yuan. Below is an article written by Gordon Chang on Liu’s latest comments.

http://chinarisingblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/firebrand-general-liu-yuan.html

“Gen. Liu Yuan, a fast-rising star in Beijing political circles, this month called on China to return to its Maoist roots. A conference in the Chinese capital highlighted his essay glorifying war, sympathizing with terrorists flying planes into buildings, and criticizing China’s top leaders for betraying the country’s revolutionary heritage. The rant by the son of Liu Shaoqi, once Mao Zedong’s anointed successor, highlights the dangerous belligerence of today’s officers and their growing independence from Beijing’s civilian authorities. These senior military figures are also beginning to pose a threat to global peace.

Liu, 60, has essentially challenged the Communist Party’s control of the military. First, he called on China to rediscover its “military culture” and for the Chinese people to give in to their aggressive instincts. His diatribe, in a chilling passage, tells us that “man cannot survive without war.”

Second, he criticized the country’s last three leaders, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, the current president and party general secretary. “The Party has been repeatedly betrayed by general secretaries, both in and outside the country, recently and in the past,” Liu writes in perhaps the most inflammatory passage in his widely circulated essay. The essay itself first appeared late last year as the preface to “Changing Our View of Culture and History,” a book-length collection of political tracts by leftist Zhang Musheng, the son of another Chinese official.

Liu’s thoughts come on the heels of Gen. Chen Bingde’s visit this month to Washington, where the chief of general staff sought to calm tensions and portray China as no threat to the United States. Although American officials would prefer to listen to Chen’s soothing words, the United States has to take heed of Liu, who is more representative of thinking in the upper ranks of the People’s Liberation Army.

Liu is one of the most powerful of the so-called “princelings,” children of former and current party leaders. This year he was named political commissar of the PLA’s General Logistics Department after becoming a full general in 2009. He is soon expected to be fast-tracked to a seat on the Central Military Commission, the body that governs the military.

Liu also is believed to be close to another princeling, Xi Jinping. Xi, expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s supreme leader next year, has also advocated a return to Maoism. A third princeling, the charismatic Bo Xilai, became a Communist celebrity in recent months for leading a “Red Culture” campaign in Chongqing, where he is party secretary.

Maoism is on the rise in China. China-watchers attribute its resurgence to the ongoing political transition, in which the so-called Fourth Generation leaders are supposed to give way to the Fifth. As Bo Zhiyue of the National University of Singapore told the Sydney Morning Herald, “there is also jockeying for power among princelings in the name of the legacies of their fathers.” So the powerful offspring are trying to diminish reformers and their legacies as a means of getting ahead during the historic political transition.

Yet this explanation does not catch the full backward drift of the Chinese political system. After all, Hu Jintao, the target of the princelings, has himself been in the forefront of a Maoist revival in the last half-decade. Unfortunately, Chinese leaders are trying to respond to the widespread mood of discontent in Chinese society with a renewed emphasis on ideological indoctrination.

Most people in society, especially the young, aren’t buying Hu’s Maoist campaign. And neither are restive military officers like the outspoken Liu, who see this moment as the time to consolidate power. Now they feel strong enough to publicly take on civilians, who are viewed as weak.

And in a sense, civilian party leaders are vulnerable. First, Chinese generals and admirals are starting to look like power brokers, as Xi Jinping and other Fifth Generation civilian leaders involve themselves in factional struggles and seek PLA support for their ambitions. Second, the clout of central Communist Party officials is declining as authority diffuses throughout the country and as they lose legitimacy for various reasons. Third, civilian leaders are relying on the military to keep order — and to keep themselves in power in the face of protests across the country. And finally, the military has remained relatively cohesive while other power blocs in the Communist Party have frayed.

The result of these four trends is the partial remilitarization of politics and policy as the top brass is filling the resulting void in power. In China there now exists the same dynamic that shaped Japan in the 1930s. Officers are thinking more about what they can do, not what they should.

Washington for the longest time has tried to downplay the rise of hostile elements in the Chinese military. That is a mistake. Before Liu became a famous essay writer, he made his mark by making incendiary comments. In 2004, for instance, he called the United States a “whore.” Senior Chinese officers are now disrespecting not only their own civilian leaders but American ones as well. China’s generals are on a bender — and just about everyone else needs to watch out.