Posts Tagged ‘Weibo’

‘Read this quickly before it’s gone’: how China’s media covered or ignored the arrest of Huawei executive

December 7, 2018

Logo von Huawei (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Wednesday that Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the daughter of the founder of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, Ren Zhengfei (任正非), had been arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States on charges of violating US trade sanctions on Iran.

Meng is also the deputy chair of Huawei, which in recent months has faced an international backlash over concerns the company is linked to the Chinese state and poses a security risk.

Meng Wanzhou

Meng Wanzhou. File photo: Huawei.

Little information is available about Meng’s arrest, which reportedly occurred on December 1. Ian McLeod, a spokesman for Canada’s Justice Department, told the Globe and Mail: “As there is a publication ban in effect, we cannot provide any further detail at this time. The ban was sought by Ms Meng.”

So far, Chinese mainstream media have been largely silent on the case. A handful of media have picked up an early news release from the official China News Service that closely follows the press release from the Chinese Embassy in Canada.

That release registered a strong protest, saying that Meng’s arrest had “seriously harmed the human rights of the victim.”

The China Daily, published by the Information Office of the State Council, released an article in Chinese earlier today quoting the official release from Huawei saying that Meng has done nothing wrong and they are confident there will be a fair result.

Huawei Canada

Huawei, Canada. Photo: Wikicommons.

The official Xinhua News Agency did not release a report in English until around 5PM today Beijing time. That report again closely followed the remarks from the Chinese Embassy in Canada and the official Huawei release.

As of 8:30PM Beijing time there was still no Xinhua story in Chinese carried prominently on the service’s website, though far down the list of news was a transcript of the foreign ministry press conference.

Xinhua was focussed instead on Xi Jinping’s trip to Spain, Portugal and Latin America, and on the 40th anniversary of China’s “reform and opening” policy.

No doubt the timing of the Meng Wanzhou story, coming less than two weeks ahead of the formal anniversary on December 18, will also be a point of great sensitivity for the Party leadership.

Xinhua

Xinhua homepage, December 6 2018. Photo: Screenshot.

There were also stories on both the Chinese and English sides of Caixin. Interestingly, though, while the English report is prominent, the Chinese report was pushed lower down at around 4pm Beijing time, emphasising in the headline the fierce response from the Chinese Embassy in Canada — and two hours later that story was not visible at all on the Chinese homepage.

The English-language page at Caixin gave the Meng Wanzhou arrest story central play, and by 5pm Beijing time also paired it with the story of Huawei’s troubles in the UK.

The Chinese homepage of Caixin at around 4pm Beijing time on December 6 showed the Huawei story of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou well below other featured articles.

By 5pm Beijing time on the same day, no stories about Huawei or its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, were visible on the Chinese-language Caixin homepage.

Caixin

The English-language page at Caixin gives the Meng Wanzhou arrest story central play, and by 5PM Beijing time also pairs it with the story of Huawei’s troubles in the UK. Photo: Screenshot.

But lack of information on this breaking story, and relative silence from traditional and state-run media cannot forestall the conversation in China. There has been a flurry of chatter and speculation on Weibo and WeChat, although of course, that conversation is in a state of constant emergence and disappearance.

Here, courtesy of the Weiboscope, are a few of the more recent Weibo posts that have been removed, most dealing directly with the original report from the Globe and Mail:

  • 2018-12-06 13:29:55 | #ImmigrantObserver # MengWanzhou (Sabrina Wanzhou Meng) born 1972, is the daughter of Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, and Meng Dongbo (孟东波), the father of her mother, Meng Jun (孟军), served as deputy governor of Sichuan province. She at the very least has Chinese, American and Canadian passports!
  • 2018-12-06 07:31:11 | [Meng Wanzhou, Daughter of Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, arrested in Canada] Canada’s Global and Mail newspaper reported that the daughter of Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, has been arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the U.S. American law enforcement authorities have said that Meng Wanzhou is suspected of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran. http://t.cn/EyXG9Ao
  • 2018-12-06 07:24:50 | [Foreign Media: Ren Zhengfei’s daughter and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has been arrested in Vancouver] News, Beijing time, December 6. According to Canada’s Globe and Mail, quoting Ian McLeod of Canada’s Justice Department, Canada has arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. http://t.cn/EyXbNi9

Marco Rubio

@marcorubio

If @Huawei has been helping violate US sanctions by transferring US technology to they should be barred from operating in the US or from purchasing US technology.

488 people are talking about this

A Weibo search for “Meng Wanzhou” directs readers to two posts from state media, one from CCTV Online and the other from the Global Times. The CCTV post is a short video relaying the response from China’s Foreign Ministry, calling on Canada and the U.S. to immediate release Meng and to “protect the legitimate rights of the person involved.”

The Global Times post similarly focuses on what at present seems right now to be the core message of the leadership: Meng must be immediately released.

The battle by ordinary citizens and other non-official voices to have a say on the Meng case, over and against the official urge to control the development of the issue online, could be glimpsed openly on social media.

In a post made around 8:30pm to Weibo, Zhu Wei (朱伟), an entrepreneur with more than two million followers on the platform, posted the following message:

“This topic is so sensitive. The headline article on my WeChat public account ‘Teacher Zhu Wei’ (朱伟老师), ‘Chinese Embassy in Canada: We Demand the Immediate Return of Meng Wanzhou’s Freedom’ was deleted by the relevant departments. Right now I’m reposting it on Weibo, so read it really quickly before it’s gone.”

Huawei phone

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr.

In a Weibo post, entrepreneur Zhu Wei tells readers to quickly read his post already deleted from the WeChat platform — before it once again disappears.

The article in question by Zhu Wei, offered a rundown of the official statements from the foreign ministry and from Huawei, and then included a paragraph by paragraph translation of the original report from the Globe and Mail.

Another post from the Weibo account of the Putian Media Group (莆田广播电视台) offered readers a video from talk Meng Wanzhou gave in English on September 26 at the World Academic Summit in Singapore.

The post, which bore the hashtag “#MengWanZhouArrested,” noted that Meng’s talk had been about “how to promote industry innovation.” But the video was soon disabled, yielding the message: “We’re sorry, this video cannot be displayed. Please view another video.”

Some commenting on WeChat and other platforms voiced anger over Meng’s arrest, viewing it through the lens of US-China competition, as a provocative act and a sign that the United States and other Western countries want to keep China down, even stripping it of its “right to develop.”

Wechat

File photo: Sinchen.Lin/Flickr.

In a piece shared widely on WeChat, Mei Xinyu (梅新育), a financial writer with more than one million followers on Weibo, wrote:

“Finally, I want to emphasise again the assessment I had a few days ago: through equal and rational dialogue a new cold war between China and the US can be avoided, and this would be a great thing for both countries and for the world.

“But the sky rains when it wants to, and girls marry when the time comes, and if certain people insist on foisting a ‘new cold war’ upon us, China has sufficient courage to meet this challenge, upholding China’s right to development in the midst of this struggle.”

Republished with permission from the China Media Project. 

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/12/07/read-quickly-gone-chinas-media-covered-ignored-arrest-huawei-executive/

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China ups cash rewards for citizens who report porn

November 16, 2018

China is raising the cash rewards paid to citizens for reporting pornographic and “illegal” publications to authorities, government regulators said Friday.

Starting December 1, people can rake in up to 600,000 yuan ($86,000) for reporting illegal content, online or otherwise, double the 300,000 yuan under previous guidelines.

What counts as “illegal” content in China is broadly defined, but includes work that “endangers national unity”, “leaks state secrets”, and “disturbs social order” — umbrella terms that are also sometimes used when authorities punish or silence Chinese dissidents and rights campaigners.

Image result for China, girls, Wechat, smart phones, photos

The new rules, published by a bureau under the top media regulator, come as Beijing ramps up controls on content.

Earlier this week the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it had “cleaned up” 9,800 accounts on Chinese social media platforms which it accused of spreading “politically harmful” information and rumours.

The internet regulator also chastised popular social media platforms WeChat and Weibo for negligence and “irresponsibility”.

And on Thursday CAC published new rules requiring online platforms to save a plethora of user data, including chat logs, network addresses, and device type, by the end of the month.

The information would be included in “security assessment reports” — which police and CAC can request from platforms as needed.

The new requirements are part of CAC’s efforts to tighten control over sites that influence public opinion, such as chat groups, blogs, and Twitter-like Weibo, which was forced to roll out real-name registration in 2012.

Oversight of social media has ramped up in recent years as part of the government’s push to “promote the healthy, orderly development of the Internet, protect state security and public interest”.

AFP

China’s nouveau riche rolling in their own wealth in viral meme

October 26, 2018

In the meme, which originated in Russia, social media users post pictures of themselves falling face down on the pavement as they exit their cars, the ground strewn with their cash, credit cards, jewellery, designer bags and shoes, and other luxury items and electronics.

Image result for #fallingstars2018, photos

Decades of skyrocketing economic growth have given China the most dollar billionaires of any country in the world, according to Shanghai-based magazine publisher Hurun Report, and many of China’s newly wealthy are not shy about showing off their luxury cars and accoutrements.

But the meme has inspired a wealth of parodies in China, with people seeing it as a golden opportunity to mock the rich.

In one, a man labelled as a “hard-working” staff member is shown on the ground in front of what appears to be an office building surrounded by an array of cleaning supplies, brooms and mops.

Even government agencies have joined the party, providing a propaganda bonanza.

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Shanghai’s fire department showed personnel splayed on the ground next to fire trucks and surrounded by firefighting equipment, while the Hubei province’s police department depicted a gun-toting officer standing next to his vehicle over four men on the ground in civilian clothes, representing “evil forces”.

And companies have seized on the frenzy to advertise their goods.

A woman who works for a subsidiary of China National Gold Group posed belly down with her feet up on an luxurious armchair and bullion strewn around her.

‘OUT OF THEIR MIND?’

Other tongue-in-cheek posts include a woman surrounded by an array of lipsticks with her feet resting on a white sofa, and a man on the ground with six cats.

“Everyone has something he or she thinks is the most valuable or what he or she cares about the most. To me, it’s my cats,” said Mr Li Dong, 33, the cat owner who joined the challenge on Weibo in mid-October.

“It’s an exaggerated way of expression. I think it’s fun so I showed my cats off,” Mr Li told AFP.

Mr Li Dong lying on the floor with his six cats. PHOTO: AFP/COURTESY OF LI DONG

Much of the online reaction to the wave of postings dismissed them as a waste of time compared with the altruistic objectives of the previous “Ice Bucket Challenge”, which went global.

“Are these people out of their mind? How empty must their life be so that they are figuring out different ways to prove their existence,” said one posting on Weibo.

Others, however, were more positive about posts by university students and young workers using the meme to present academic and professional accomplishments.

“It’s disheartening to see young people being impacted by the pursuit of money and power. I support the young people who are hard-working. That’s where the country’s hope lies!” read one post on Weibo.

RUSSIAN SOCIALITES

The first “Falling Stars Challenge” was posted on Instagram by Russian DJ and music producer Andrey Shirman, known as DJ Smash, on July 30, showing him in tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt sprawled face down at the foot of the gangway of a private jet.

It was quickly followed by similar posts from a succession of high-profile models and socialites – most wearing swimwear or short shorts – photographed stretched out near private jets and luxury yachts. Their posts garnered tens of thousands of likes.

One famous contributor was Ksenia Sobchak, former TV star and 2018 presidential candidate, who in mid-August put up a photo of herself in a swimsuit falling down the stairs of what appears to be a yacht.

Criticism of this public flaunting of wealth has been muted in Russia, with commentators suggesting the whole fad was just a bit of summer fun.

Like in China, as the #fallingstars2018 hashtag gained momentum, Russians started putting up parodies. One shows a young woman falling off a deckchair in a bikini; in another, a man is face down in front of a couch with his head on a fashion magazine.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/show-me-the-money-wealth-flaunting-meme-goes-viral-in-china

Chinese people on social media say US$60 billion pledge to Africa is money better spent inside China — Internet censors stop discussions

September 4, 2018

“You should first raise your own children,” one commenter wrote. “My God, there have been so many natural and man-made casualties recently, can you please take a look at our low-income people?”

Internet censors shut down debate while state media talks up the tangible efforts of its economic commitment to African nations

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 9:34pm

China has defended its decision to pledge another US$60 billion in funding to African nations amid criticism that the money should be spent at home.

Quick-fingered internet censors suspended comments on news reports about the funding on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, on Tuesday while state media outlets touted the tangible benefits of investing in Africa.

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While Beijing fended off external accusations of neocolonialism, the enormous financing promise drew ire at home over China’s expanding foreign investments, in the midst of an economic slowdown and the spectre of further battering from the escalating US-China trade war.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made the funding pledge at the start of the three-yearly Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing on Monday.

The commitment included an exemption for some nations’ existing debts and added to US$60 billion in loans and grants already promised to Africa in 2015.

In separate microblogging posts, online commenters angrily compared Monday’s pledge with domestic spending on education and the disadvantaged.

“You should first raise your own children,” one commenter wrote. “My God, there have been so many natural and man-made casualties recently, can you please take a look at our low-income people?”

“US$60 billion is money that we earned!” another wrote. “Tell me who is causing the suffering of China’s everyday people?”

In one biting meme on social media, netizens set Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s comments that China would not waver in its economic commitment to Africa alongside Education Minister Chen Baosheng’s quotes that the country had limited funds and could not “exceed its own stage of development”.

In reference to Xi, another commenter wrote: “It is better to teach a person to fish than to fish for them. What Africa is lacking most is a wise leader. Maybe we can donate this one to Africa.”

In response to the criticism, state media outlets ran commentaries focusing on the win-win benefits of China’s cooperation with Africa, noting the continent’s large market potential and abundant natural resources, such as crude oil, manganese and copper.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner, with Beijing expanding its presence on the continent in recent years beyond trade and investment to include military and political interests.

“People often ask why China wants to partner with Africa,” a post from Xiakedao, a social media platform run by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, said on Tuesday. “China and Africa have very strong complementarity, and Africa’s development potential will bring a large market.”

Delegates listen to Xi Jinping’s speech at the Forum On China-Africa Cooperation in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: AFP

It added that China had imported more cotton and copper from Africa than it produced domestically, and that oilfield projects by Chinese enterprises in Africa “greatly helped” China’s energy security.

People’s Daily article on Sunday said assistance to Africa “gave China concrete ‘rewards’, since even though China’s aid did not have any political preconditions, many African countries have consistently reciprocated by helping China”.

The article also referenced African aid during the devastating 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and rhetorical support to Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, saying: “This brotherhood is not something that even money can buy. For China-Africa cooperation, one cannot just look at the financial accounts, but must look towards the future from a developmental perspective.”

But Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economics professor, said Beijing should at least consider the public outcry against the foreign financing, even if there were gains for China from energy cooperation and trade relations with Africa.

“Trade numbers and industrial revenues are going down, and most Chinese still cannot afford proper medical care or education,” he said.

“There are many critically ill Chinese who cannot do anything but wait for death, so the scepticism online is quite natural … Aid to Africa is necessary but needs to be done within China’s capabilities.”

Additional reporting by Jun Mai

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2162745/china-defends-extra-us60-billion-pledge-africa-critics-home

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Back-to-school ceremony fail: Pole Dancing kindergarten principal in China sent home without a job

September 4, 2018

A kindergarten principal in China trying to liven up a formal back-to-school ceremony with a racy pole dancer was fired after angry parents lit up social media with complaints.

Like most schools across China, the Xinshahui Kindergarten in the southern city of Shenzhen marks the start of the school year with a ceremony, usually consisting of performances and speeches.

But Monday’s edition, which included the risque pole dance, cost principal Lai Rong her job.

© AFP | A headteacher in China has been sacked for bringing a pole dancer to a back to school ceremony

Videos circulating on social media showed a scantily-clad dancer in hot pants shimmying up and down a pole to thumping music as stunned children in marching band uniforms looked on.

Others tried to mimic the sultry moves, with several small boys gyrating their hips and dancing around each other. In the background, shocked parents could be heard commenting about the suitability of the performance.

Many took to social media to express their outrage, threatening to pull their children out of school and calling for Lai’s resignation.

“Pole dancing at a school welcome ceremony? How can I trust my children with them? I’m going to pull my kid out and ask for a refund,” one parent wrote on social media platform WeChat.

“Is the principal an idiot?” another commented on the Twitter-like site Weibo.

In a text message to parents, Lai apologised for the “horrific viewing experience” and for not checking the dancer’s performance, adding that the dance was intended to liven up the atmosphere.

Hours later, local education authorities announced they had fired the principal and put Xinshahui under investigation.

“Other schools in the district should reflect on this incident and strictly uphold education standards,” the Bao’an education bureau said in a statement.

“I may as well be dead. I already lost the hope to live,” Lai told state-run tabloid the Global Times.

This was just one of several incidents in a shaky start to the Chinese school year.

Over the weekend, parents complained that a television programme deemed mandatory viewing by state educators on Saturday night included 12 minutes of advertisements, mostly promoting online tutoring courses and stationery sales.

Earlier the same day, police arrested 46 people in central Hunan province after hundreds gathered to express dissatisfaction with the local school system.

According to posts on social media, parents were incensed when they were told they would have to move their children into dormitories at a local private school, dramatically increasing tuition fees.

AFP

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Photo from the China National Pole Dancing Team

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A stripper performing at a funeral in the rural northern Chinese province of Hebei 

A stripper performing at a funeral in the rural northern Chinese province of Hebei

China: Zidan Duanxin takes on WeChat — China’s most downloaded free app in the Apple store

September 2, 2018

New Chinese messaging app Zidan Duanxin takes on WeChat
Challenger is barely 2 weeks old but has already been downloaded 7.2m times

By Louise Lucas in Hong Kong and Sherry Fei Ju in Beijing

China’s growing band of challengers to Tencent and Alibaba has added a new member to its ranks: an app that is taking aim at the messaging world dominated by WeChat.

Zidan Duanxin is barely two weeks old but it has already become China’s most downloaded free app in the Apple store, according to market data company App Annie. This has prompted WeChat, the Tencent-owned platform with 1bn user accounts, to improve its own voice to text translation, according to analysts.

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The app had been downloaded about 7.2m times by Friday, according to Qimai Data, a provider of online data services.

Zidan Duanxin, which means “bullet message” in Chinese, raised Rmb150m ($22m) in just seven days ahead of its launch. It is the brainchild of Luo Yonghao, a 46-year-old former English teacher who also goes by the nickname “Fatty Luo”.

Mr Luo has built a wide following as an entrepreneur, in part through the novel product launches deployed by Smartisan, the smartphone maker he founded, that witnessed customers buying tickets to attend the events.

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Zidan Duanxin is the brainchild of Luo Yonghao, a former English teacher

He has also won plaudits for his championing of consumer rights, most notably when he took a sledgehammer to a refrigerator in protest against manufacturer Siemens’s alleged lax quality controls.

Messaging is a challenging sector to disrupt, with even Alibaba struggling repeatedly to build a social network capable of taking on WeChat. Mr Luo, in a post on social media site Weibo, conceded that “uninstalling WeChat is not realistic”.

But like analysts and hardcore fans, Mr Luo believes Zidan Duanxin can become a niche product without needing to topple its biggest rival.

Matthew Brennan, of China Channel consultancy, pinned the company’s early success on three factors: the personality of its founder, resentment among some users over WeChat’s market dominance and a number of superior features, including its voice to text translation capability.

“This is definitely not a WeChat killer,” he said. “But you could see it being a niche thing with hardcore followers.”

Being a minnow also has the advantage, at least temporarily, of being below the radar. WeChat is heavily monitored, making Zidan Duanxin “a much safer place to send sensitive information”, he said.

This year has seen a spate of challengers taking on China’s tech giants.

Douyin, the short-form video streaming app, sent ripples across the industry, winning users’ time not just from competing video services but also from other entertainment such as Tencent’s gaming.

In retail, three-year-old Pinduoduo has wooed shoppers and merchants and launched an initial public offering recently, giving it a market valuation of nearly $30bn.

https://www.ft.com/content/9086c046-ab65-11e8-89a1-e5de165fa619

China’s battle with ‘dark water armies’

August 1, 2018

Hiring fake commenters is widespread
Hordes of fake online accounts are used by companies and celebrities to inflate their followings

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© Pâté

By Yuan Yang

Chinese state media had hailed it as the country’s answer to Lord of the Rings. The fantasy film Asura was meant to be the biggest hit of the year but became its fastest flop. Despite costing more than $110m, the most expensive film wholly made by a Chinese studio was pulled from cinemas after earning just over $7m in its opening weekend.

Equally unprecedented was the film-makers’ explanation for the flop, blaming it on a mysterious “dark water army”. That’s the name given in China to the hordes of fake online accounts used by companies and celebrities to inflate their social media followings or criticise rivals — so-called because they “pour water” into the online discourse.

Asura’s producers, which include the film division of tech giant Alibaba, alleged that an influential ratings platform had hosted many fake comments, which brought the movie’s rating down.

In corporate China, the practice of hiring fake commenters is widespread. As one former employee of a big Chinese tech company put it: “Hiring water armies is part of every public relations manager’s toolkit.”

The problem of politically motivated fake news articles and Twitter bots is well-documented in the west, but what is surprising in China is the vast scale of the “fake web”, and how it is an open secret in the corporate world. Philip Beck, a veteran of China’s marketing industry, estimates that a fifth of most Chinese companies’ social media followers are fake.

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Chinese fakery is part of the culture

There are many pressures that have led to this. Tightening political censorship means many citizens take it for granted that public opinion is manipulated. Whether perpetrated by the government or by powerful companies, the fakery is the same.

The media also find it difficult to police the fakes. Journalists’ salaries are so low that they need topping up by corporate PRs, who give out cash-stuffed envelopes at press briefings. This is particularly prevalent for tech companies, whose businesses are growing faster than their communications expertise. I handed back the equivalent of £200 over two recent conferences — a few days’ wages for many domestic journalists. PRs who deal with international media for the first time are known to ask what the going rate is for publishing a good-news story.

If companies are used to buying journalists, why not buy online posters too? A friend who runs her own “water army” company, selling fake followers, says: “Before the internet, there was the human equivalent — paid-for fans to pad out crowds for politicians or film stars.” Today’s bot farms were presaged by French “claques” in the 16th century — crowds paid to applaud theatre performances.

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Now that all the world’s a social media stage, everyone needs a claque. My friend says clients include those from remote branches of companies trying to get the attention of their directors in Beijing, as well as party officials wanting to give their kids a social media boost. She’s under no illusions about her job: “It’s rich people’s games.”

Although she is a sole trader, a whole industry has evolved to “brush” reviews on ecommerce platforms such as Alibaba’s Taobao. The platforms started using logistics records to eliminate reviews left by those who did not actually receive products. As a result, there is now a side-industry of people sending empty boxes to each other to fool the new, improved systems.

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While companies race against fakes, people are reverting to what they used before mass social media: private recommendations. The volume of fake posts on microblogging site Weibo has led some users to shift to messaging app WeChat, “where there are direct relationships between users”, says Jason Ng of Toronto university. Faced by likely fake product reviews, friends are simply asking each other what they think of products. The internet was meant to widen friendship circles and amass the wisdom of crowds. Although the tools are there, the trust is not.

Yuan Yang is an FT correspondent in Beijing

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https://www.ft.com/content/b4f27934-944a-11e8-b67b-b8205561c3fe

Businessman jailed after helping expose Chinese judges’ illicit activities

July 19, 2018

Campaigner convicted of violating the judges’ privacy even though he argued he was answering President Xi Jinping’s call to expose corrupt officials

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 2:58pm

A businessman from central China has reportedly been sentenced to four years in prison for violating the privacy of judges after he hired detectives to photograph them indulging in activities like gambling and extramarital affairs.

Wu Zhengge, a property developer from Yiyang city in Hunan province, hired private detectives to follow and take undercover photos of several judges from January 2015 to May 2016, whom he then reported to the police for breaking the law.

The case, which ignited local debate, highlights the difficulties faced by so-called citizen journalists seeking to expose corruption by local officials in the spirit of the nationwide anti-corruption drive spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Wu was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 30,000 yuan (US$4,465) by the People’s Court of Anxiang County for “illegally obtaining a citizen’s personal information”, including travel and accommodation details, China Youth Daily reported on Tuesday. The private investigator he hired, Zhang Lili, was also fined 30,000 yuan and sentenced to three years in prison.

An additional detective, Zhou Liang, was given “lighter treatment” by the law since the court ruled that he served as an accomplice, according to the report.

The detectives used undercover cameras and GPS trackers to follow the movements of a number of Yiyang and Heshan District Court judges.

Wu paid each investigator more than 10,000 yuan for their services. His exact motives for hiring the investigators were not known but his trial subsequently heard that in 2014 he had sent allegations of corruption at the Yiyang court to the local authorities.

His lawyer told court that these complaints had either been dismissed or passed to lower-level departments and Wu had decided to investigate further after being told to provide more detail about the claims, Thepaper.cn reported.

As a result of his investigation, Wang Maohua, deputy judge of the People’s Court of Heshan District, was photographed holidaying in Guangzhou and Hainan Island with an unidentified woman, presumed to be his mistress.

The leak of the photographs online prompted a public outcry, according to China Youth Daily, and the local district’s disciplinary commission began an investigation.

Soon afterwards, online rumours flew about Xie Deqing and Xia Xiaoying, judges from Heshan District and Yiyang City municipal courts, gambling in a clubhouse, as well as another Heshan District judge, Cao Deqin, sharing a hotel room with a married woman.

These reports were picked up by local media, igniting further public outrage over the state of the local judiciary system and sparking intense speculation over the real identity of the source, “Wu Zheng”.

Wang Maohua and Cao Deqin were both suspended as the result of a joint investigation by Yiyang city disciplinary committee and Yiyang City Intermediate People’s Court.

Xia Xiaoying has also been placed under investigation but further details of the case are not known.

In July 2016, Xie Deqing and Wang Maohua were officially charged with judicial corruption as part of the same investigation.

Earlier this year People’s Daily reported that the pair had been convicted of helping to falsify evidence in a bribery case involving a corrupt party boss, with Xie being jailed for two years and Wang for 18 months.

Despite this, Wu was arrested by local police in June 2016 on suspicion of being the whistle-blower quoted in local media reports. He was charged with illegally obtaining the personal information of individuals and loan fraud.

His defence lawyer, Wu Danhong from the China University of Political Science and Law, argued that the men had not used the information they obtained for criminal purposes and legally reported the judges’ activities.

However, the court held that since Wu and his co-defendants obtained the information illegally, that already constituted a crime.

Wu Danhong told China Youth Daily that Wu Zhengge had travelled long distances to report corruption in public or semi-public spaces, and immediately provided the incriminating material to the local disciplinary commission and the media, resulting in the prosecution and suspension of the judges involved.

He further argued that Wu was heeding the state’s call for citizens to report corruption as part of President Xi’s widespread anti-corruption drive.

Wu Danhong added that there was no clear legal distinctions on the means of obtaining conclusive evidence of corruption.

The newspaper likened the case to a 2013 case involving five Shanghai judges who were suspended by the party disciplinary committee after being caught on camera visiting prostitutes and having extramarital affairs at a high-end hotel. The citizen who secretly filmed the judges participating in these activities was not charged with a criminal offence.

Reactions to the whistle-blower’s sentence were mixed on the Chinese internet.

“Public officials should be supervised by the public,” said one commenter on news portal Sohu.com.

“Who told him to report people indiscriminately? The judges were not standing on the wrong side. Which public officials should step down should be determined by the authorities, it’s not up to you,” said another user on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

HBO website and comedian John Oliver censored in China

June 24, 2018

It was one Winnie the Pooh joke too far.

After mocking censors working over time to delete comparisons of President Xi Jinping with the cartoon bear, comedian John Oliver and now the website of TV giant HBO have fallen victim to China’s censorship machine.

Image result for Winnie the Pooh, Xi Jinping

Chinese authorities blocked HBO’s website in China, just days after Oliver took Xi to task, anti-censorship and monitoring group GreatFire.org said on Saturday.

HBO joins a long list of Western media outlets that have had their websites blocked in China including The New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter.

“China: the country responsible for huge technological advances but it still can’t seem to get pandas to f***,” Oliver opened the episode of “Last Week Tonight” that is causing the problems.

Those technological advances include draconian surveillance and censorship measures which appear to have made HBO and Oliver their latest victims.

Oliver’s name and that of the show he hosts were censored on China’s popular twitter like Weibo.

Image result for emperor for life Xi, photos

“Send failure” Weibo returned when AFP attempted to post Oliver’s name.

“Content is illegal!” the service said.

YouTube, which also airs “Last Week Tonight”, has long been blocked in China.

Oliver’s segment dug into Xi’s distaste at comparisons to the self-described “bear of very little brain” and introduced viewers to repressive changes underway in the world’s most populous country.

Chinese netizens have often compared Xi to A.A. Milne’s most famous creation, something that censors have been quick to purge inside the Great Firewall.

Image result for Great Firewall, pictures

The segment also recounted recent headlines: from Xi becoming “emperor for life” to a corruption purge that targeted his political rivals, to a crackdown on freedom of expression, human rights, and religion, to an ongoing suppression and imprisonment campaign against China’s Uighur ethnic minority.

“Xi is actively removing the post-Mao guardrails that were put in place,” Oliver said of changes to China’s constitution which allow him to remain in power indefinitely.

“China is becoming more authoritarian just as it has major plans for expansion onto the world stage,” Oliver said as the segment neared an end.

“The era of do as we say may be dawning.”

AFP

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Brace for an Even Bigger Bubble in China’s Stock Markets

June 18, 2018

Rocky ride ahead if a new financial instrument fashioned after American Depositary Receipts that lets Chinese investors dabble in the country’s tech champions gets too popular

BY TOM HOLLAND

Alibaba, Baidu, JD.com, Weibo: they are among the biggest giants of China’s internet. Providing everything from search and messaging to shopping and financial services to hundreds of millions of users each day, these and other Chinese technology companies dominate Chinese cyberspace every bit as much as Amazon, Facebook and Google monopolise the web in the rest of the world.

But there is one important difference between China’s tech behemoths and their US counterparts. The likes of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google don’t just dominate the online lives of their users in the US. They also dominate the stock portfolios. Last year, the benchmark US S&P 500 stock index climbed 19 per cent. Of that performance, a quarter was delivered by this small quintuplet of tech stocks, the so-called FAANGs, which on average rose 57 per cent.

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In sharp contrast, China’s own national internet champions don’t figure at all in the portfolios of mainland Chinese investors. Shares in Alibaba, Baidu and Weibo, to name three, are publicly listed, but on US, rather than mainland Chinese stock exchanges.

That hasn’t detracted from their share price performance, which has been just as impressive as that of the FAANGs. Last year, shares in Weibo, for example, leapt by 149 per cent. But with access to US markets forbidden by China’s regulations, mainland investors, who love nothing better than a hot tech stock, have badly missed out.

Traders on the floor of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: AFP

Until now. Earlier this month, the Chinese authorities published regulations to govern the listing on mainland exchanges of so-called Chinese depositary receipts, or CDRs. These instruments will, for the first time, allow ordinary Chinese investors to buy a stake in their favourite technology giants.

The first CDRs will hit the market in the middle of July, when Xiaomi, the world’s fourth largest smartphone maker, launches its US$10 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong. As part of that deal, the company plans to issue CDRs worth up to US$3 billion in the mainland market. Other Chinese technology stars are tipped to follow in rapid succession.

But there is a catch. The new securities are called CDRs in emulation of the American Depositary Receipts, which, over recent decades have so successfully allowed US shareholders to invest in the equity of non-US companies. However, there is a crucial difference between ADRs and CDRs, which will greatly complicate the CDR investment story.

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ADRs are fully fungible with their underlying shares. This means new ADRs can be created (or deleted) in line with market demand. If the demand is there, brokers bundle up shares listed in the company’s home country and lodge them with a depositary bank, which then issues receipts that can be traded in the US. As a result, ADRs always trade in line with the price of their underlying shares, as any significant divergence in price would instantly be arbitraged away.

In contrast, a company’s CDRs will not be fungible with its primary shares listed offshore. In effect they will be an entirely new class of stock, not securities created by bundling together underlying shares. That means their supply will be inflexible, not adjustable like the supply of ADRs. And because arbitrage between the mainland’s markets and markets offshore is difficult at best, and often impossible, large price discrepancies are likely to open up between a company’s CDRs and its primary shares.

Baidu is trading in the US on a price-earnings ratio of 35. Photo: AP

It’s not difficult to guess which way these discrepancies will tilt.

Demand for the new CDRs will be enormous. Chinese investors are just as keen on tech stocks, probably keener, than their US counterparts. But supply will be limited. For one thing, issuing companies will be anxious not to overly dilute their existing shareholders in offshore markets. And not only will brokers be prohibited from creating new units on demand, but a sizeable proportion of CDR issues will be reserved for six new “unicorn funds” backed by state institutions.

In theory, retail investors will be able to invest in these funds. But a cap on investment and their mandatory three-year lock-up period will put many off. As a result, most ordinary investors will either have to be lucky enough to win an allocation in the initial offering, or they will be left to scramble for CDRs in the secondary market.

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An initial allocation is highly unlikely: last month’s mainland Chinese IPO for Foxconn Industral Internet was oversubscribed by almost 300 times. And competition in the secondary market will be intense. China’s regulators cap the valuation of new issues. And in any case, CDR issuers will be careful to issue the new securities at the same valuation as their offshore shares, lest they be accused of gouging investors. As a result, to Chinese investors, the new securities will look like a steal.

Baidu, for example, is trading in the US on a price-earnings ratio of 35. In contrast, Chinese-listed information technology stocks are trading at a median valuation of 52. And many are trading at much, much richer valuations.

For example, Shenzhen-listed satellite positioning services company Beijing BDStar Navigation is currently on a price-earnings ratio of 139.

An investor at a security firm in Anhui province after the stock market crashed in Shenzhen in 2015. Photo: Imaginechina

As a result, when CDRs hit the market, we can expect the same sort of buying frenzy that pushed shares in Foxconn’s subsidiary up by 44 per cent on its first day of trading. And it won’t just be the first day. Such spectacular gains generate a momentum of their own as they attract still more buyers to the market.

The typical new listing on the mainland trades limit-up for 10 days in a row, rising 150 per cent. The most popular new issues – which will surely include CDR offerings from well-known tech giants – typically trade limit-up for almost four weeks in a row after listing, rising by more than 400 per cent in price.

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That might not sound like a problem. But there is a big probability that a spate of popular CDR issues coming to market in quick succession will inflate the sort of broader momentum-driven stock market bubble that in 2015 saw the entire Shenzhen market climb double in just three months.

If so, it is likely that the authorities will again step in to try and dampen the market with ill-advised comments, mass stock suspensions, and heavy-handed regulatory tightening. In 2015, they precipitated a 50 per cent crash that saw many investors, locked in by suspensions, wiped out entirely. So if you are tempted to try and participate in the mainland’s coming CDR boom, be prepared for a wild ride. 

Tom Holland is a former SCMP staffer who has been writing about Asian affairs for more than 20 years