Posts Tagged ‘Xinjiang’

China warns against ‘bullying’ of its citizens — after arrest of a Huawei executive

December 11, 2018

 

Canada is probably not the new Xinjiang — (Even the Uighurs could agree to that!)

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China’s foreign minister warned Tuesday against the “bullying” of any Chinese citizen, amid a diplomatic fracas over the arrest of a Huawei executive on a US warrant in Canada.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications behemoth Huawei, was on December 1 arrested in Vancouver on US fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking dealings with Iran, infuriating China.

“The safety and security of Chinese compatriots are our priority, China will never sit idly by and ignore any bullying that violates the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a speech in Beijing, without directly referring to the Huawei case.

Image result for Wang Yi, pictures

“We will fully safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese citizens and return fairness and justice to the world,” he said at the opening of a diplomatic symposium.

The detention has raised tensions following a truce in the US-China trade war, with Beijing summoning both the Canadian and US ambassadors over the weekend.

Meng, who faces a possible extradition to the United States, is seeking her release on bail from a court in Vancouver.

Image result for Huawei,Aly Song/Reuters, pictures

China has accused Canada of treating Meng in an “inhumane” manner, citing reports in Chinese state-run media alleging she was not given adequate medical care.

Beijing has also claimed that the Chinese embassy was not immediately notified of her arrest.

“The Canadian government did not do this and the Chinese government learned this through other channels,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a daily briefing.

In his speech, Wang also touched on tensions with the US, calling on Washington to stop seeing trade between the countries as a “zero-sum game”.

“Take a more positive look at China’s development, and constantly expand the space and prospects for mutual benefit,” he said.

“There is no need to artificially create new opponents, and an even greater need to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies.”

AFP

Related:

See:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/business/huawei-meng-arrest-travel.html

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Photographer Missing in China — After Being Invited to Xinjiang, State Security Picked Him Up

December 9, 2018

Lu Guang’s images have shown the world China’s dark side:  AIDS, environmental destruction, pollution and poverty

For five weeks, the world has had no idea where Lu Guang is.

A factory worker in Wuhai City, Inner Mongolia, in 2005. Due to a lack of environmental safety standards they would get ill after one or two years on the job.CreditCreditPhotographs by Lu Guang/Contact Press Images

Lu Guang is an internationally acclaimed photographer from China, and he has been my friend for more than 15 years. I’m proud that the agency I co-founded represents and distributes his work. We first met in Beijing in 2002. He was already a well-known and widely awarded documentary photographer in his country, and he would soon win a slew of international awards, including some of the world’s most prestigious.

By Robert Y. Pledge
The New York Times

Five weeks ago, he was invited to travel to Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, in Western China. He went there to share his passion for photography by leading an informal, weeklong workshop with local photographers. The Chinese government has been conducting what it describes as a large-scale antiterrorism campaign in Xinjiang, targeting the Uighur ethnic group.

According to local sources, the security services detained Lu Guang, along with his local host, on or about Nov. 3. He was supposed to travel a day or two later to Sichuan Province, where he regularly does charity work. He never made it.

Lu Guang lives with his wife, Xu Xiaoli, and their son, Michael, in New York, where they are permanent United States residents. Xu Xiaoli has attempted multiple times to learn about her husband’s status and his health from the Chinese authorities, calling officials both in Xianjing and in Lu Guang’s hometown province, Zhejiang. The Chinese authorities have not responded to her.

Lu Guang is a deeply concerned citizen. He works almost solely in China, for both linguistic and cultural reasons. His photographs have depicted some of the harsher sides of life in China — AIDS, environmental destruction, pollution and poverty.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/sunday/lu-guang-photographer-missing-china.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

See also:

22 Photos That China Don’t Want You To See By A Photojournalist Who Just Vanished In China

https://www.demilked.com/missing-photographer-lu-guang/

(A heavy truck carrying coal and lime drives away, causing dust to fly and harming the nearby residents. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Eleven-year-old Xu Li of Hutsou is diagnosed with bone cancer. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Children also live in the industrial district. China is now the world’s second-largest economy. Its economic development has consumed lots of energy and generated plenty of pollution. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(On 16 July 2010, the pipeline of the Newport Oil Wharf of Dalian Bay exploded, sending lots of oil into the sea. Many fishing boats were assigned to clean up the oil contamination for 8,150 times. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Gao Rongsheng (13) at the grave of his parents. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(A woman carrying her severely ill grandson implores the sky to prevent the devil of pain returning. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Disabled orphans adopted by charitable farmers. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Children with cerebral palsy licks milk powder off a bed to feed. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Laseng Temple has an over 200-year-old history, which includes the study of Mongolian medicines. It was seriously polluted by the surrounding factories, so few pilgrims go there now. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Many factories have been moved from the country’s east to its central and western parts. Employees work in the dust. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(The Baotou Steel plant dumps mineral processing sewage into the tailings dam. Image credits: Lu Guang)

Image credits: Lu Guang

(The chemical industrial park of Yanwei Port in the city of Lianyungang dumps sewage in the sea. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(In the jeans-producing village of Xintang Town, in Guangdong, workers gain the stone for grinding the denim every morning. Image credits: Lu Guang)

Image credits: Lu Guang

(A wife cares for her dying husband. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Qi Guihua, held here by her husband, fell ill when she returned to the village from Beijing to celebrate the Spring Festival. She died two hours after this photograph was taken. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Families such as this one have sold almost everything valuable in their home to help meet medical expenses. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(A young girl warms her hands in winter. Her father is infected with HIV and still cares for five children and his elderly parents. Image credits: Lu Guang)

(Two girls prepare for the funeral of their six-year-old brother, who died from AIDS. Image credits: Lu Guang)

Ex-Prisoner Says China’s ‘Vocational Training Centers’ a Complete Lie

December 7, 2018
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The ongoing repression in China is about “protecting the Chinese Communist Party.”
Uyghur Reveals Chinese Communist Party’s Crimes in Xinjiang
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December 6, 2018

China’s claims that Xinjiang’s mass internment camps—where at least one million predominantly ethnic Uyghurs are being held—are “vocational training centres” are completely “fake and made up,” a former Uyghur camp detainee has told The Epoch Times.

Countering claims made by the China’s ruling Communist Party, who in October described the facilities as “free vocational training centers” that make life more “colorful,” the former detainee, Gulbukhar Jalilova, said “they are lying through their teeth,” adding that she “never saw a single classroom.”

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir told state-run Xinhua news agency that people detained in the camps “will advance from learning the country’s common language to learning legal knowledge and vocational skills.”

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir

But 54-year-old Gulbukhar said instead of learning vocational skills, “I moved from camp to camp, room to room, and never saw anybody spending any time learning something.”

Gulbukhar, a Kazakhstan national and businesswoman, was held in an all-female camp in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, for just over 15 months before she was released in September this year. She was detained after being falsely accused of transferring $17,000 into a company called Nur. She was released by officials after they said they had been told she was innocent.

She was tricked into traveling to Urumqi after receiving a phone call from her business associate’s daughter. She was told there were “big problems” and that she needed to come to the capital immediately from her home in Kazakhstan. She was arrested upon her arrival.

Uyghur woman Gulbukhar Jalilova who was released from Xinjiang reeducation camp
Businesswoman Gulbukhar Jalilova, 54, a former Uyghur detainee in Xinjiang, China. (Gulbukhar Jalilova)

The CCP’s narrative of providing detainees with “vocational skills” to help with employment does not add up, the 54-year-old said, because the types of women held in camp with her were “very rich, educated people,” such as “businesswomen, doctors, nurses and teachers.”

“They weren’t homeless people or those with no money who needed training—that’s a lie from the CCP,” she told The Epoch Times.

“They could afford to go overseas and then when they came back, they were detained.”

But amongst the claims Zakir made, as the CCP moved to legalize the facilities, is that detainees are offered “practical opportunities,” such as learning about “businesses in garment making, mobile phone assembly, and ethnic cuisine catering.”

The CCP has long justified its measures against Uyghurs, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim, saying the facilities aim to “educate and transform” those that it deems at risk of the “three evil forces” of “extremism, separatism, and terrorism.”

Uyghurs, alongside other ethnic minorities like the Tibetans, as well as faithful believers who remain outside state control, including house Christians and Falun Gong, have long been targeted by the CCP for transformation through “re-education.”

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired a 15-minute segment in October, offering a glimpse into life inside one of the centers—the Hotan City Vocational Skills Education and Training Center.

The “trainees” can be seen reading from large textbooks in the clip and are shown learning various skills such as baking, woodworking, sewing, and cosmetology.

“Whatever the CCP shows on TV and videos—it’s all fake and made up. There are no classrooms. We just sit in our rooms and stare at the wall. The door only opens to punish you, that’s it,” Gulbukhar added.

While China’s state TV footage showed rooms with air conditioning, decorated with bunting and balloons, Gulbukhar said it is a depiction far from reality. Detainees are confined to their rooms, poorly treated, and kept in shackles in overcrowded conditions, she said.

Those in her camp were forced to ingest unknown medicine daily and were injected with a substance every month which “numbs your emotions.” They were also subject to various forms of torture including food and sleep deprivation, physical punishments, while some were even killed, she said.

Chairing a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing on Nov. 29, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said given the daily realities in communist China, where “Uyghur Muslims are rounded up and interned in camps, Tibetan monks and nuns are forced to undergo political re-education sessions, Falun Gong practitioners are reportedly sent to legal education centers for indoctrination, and Christian believers are harassed and imprisoned,” many observers are describing the current wave of repression in China as “the most severe since the cultural revolution.”

Rubio added he believes the CCP’s motivation behind the escalating crackdown “is an obsessive desire … to create a sort of unified, national identity, which must be stripped of anything that competes with it—ethnicity, religion, ethnic cultural tradition.”

China analyst Dr. Samantha Hoffman from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute added at the hearing that the ongoing repression in China is about “protecting the Chinese Communist Party.”

The CCP’s “concept of what we would call national security I think is better translated as party state security,” she said. “[T]here are dimensions … dealing with the internal struggle for power … and then dealing with everything outside the party; controlling the narrative, controlling the ideological space.

“That means that the state security methods extend far beyond China’s borders and that’s why you see the harassment of overseas Chinese.”

https://www.theepochtimes.com/ex-prisoner-says-chinas-vocational-training-centers-a-complete-lie_2731988.html

Will Trump Speak Up Against China’s Oppression?

December 1, 2018

In Argentina, President Trump has a chance to confront Xi Jinping on human rights abuses against the Uighurs.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Image result for cha, swat, uighurs, photos

As President Trump prepares to meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the G-20 gathering in Argentina this weekend, tough American tariffs and a broader bilateral trade relationship are at the top the agenda.

But what about concerns that the Trump administration has expressed in the past over Beijing’s repression and mass internment of Uighurs and other Muslims? Some of Mr. Trump’s top lieutenants, like Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have called attention to the Uighurs’ plight, but given the president’s fixation on tariffs, he may well decide to hold his fire about the Uighurs to appease Mr. Xi in pursuit of a trade deal. So it’s no surprise that the White House is refusing to say whether the Uighurs will be on the agenda.

The dilemma Mr. Trump faces has some faint echoes from 1989, when President George H.W. Bush had to figure out how to recalibrate relations with China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Of course, Mr. Trump lacks the experience or subtlety that Mr. Bush — a former director of the C.I.A. and envoy to China — brought to that fraught diplomatic moment.

Mr. Bush “wanted to safeguard the underlying geopolitical relationship,” his secretary of state, James Baker, wrote in October. Still, Mr. Baker added, “The United States could not be viewed as a cynical paper tiger on human rights.”

At that time, China was just beginning the economic reforms that would eventually make it an international force to be reckoned with, and relations with the United States were at a peak. Responding to pressure from Congress and international outrage over the widely publicized Tiananmen Square killings, the Bush administration imposed limited sanctions on Beijing while maintaining dialogue with Chinese officials.

Today, when another, more hostile strategic realignment between Beijing and Washington seems to be underway, there is again an urgent need to address at the highest levels of the American government what have been described as China’s worst human rights abuses in decades. They are largely happening in secret to a group of people who are little known outside China.

Mr. Xi has imposed China’s most sweeping internment program since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, when more than a million people were killed and millions of others were imprisoned, tortured and humiliated.

As Mr. Pompeo and other senior officials have acknowledged, Chinese officials are forcibly holding hundreds of thousands — perhaps more than one million — Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims in camps across the northwest Central Asian border region of Xinjiang without any formal legal process.

There have been credible reports of torture, starvation and death in the camps. There are, as well, accusations that officials have forced detainees to renounce traditional Islamic practices and swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party. On Thursday, CNN reported that a Chinese photojournalist, Lu Guang, had disappeared in China after being seized by authorities in Xinjiang.

Overlaying all of this is a sophisticated surveillance system that uses cameras, biometric data and phone apps to reinforce state control. Officials reportedly have also deployed more than a million Chinese civilians, mostly members of the country’s Han majority, to occupy the homes of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang in order to indoctrinate and monitor them. The Uighurs, numbering about 11 million, are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang.

Beijing argues that the crackdown is needed to combat extremism and terrorism on its western frontier and says that many of those detained are common criminals. But Mr. Pompeo has said that Uighur “religious beliefs are decimated.

And Mr. Pence, in a hard-hitting speech in October, lambasted a “new wave of persecution” that is “crashing down on Chinese Christians, Buddhists and Muslims.” He said the Uighurs “endure round-the-clock brainwashing” as part of a “deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uighur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith.”

Such rhetoric helped focus more international attention on the campaign of oppression against the Uighurs, but it’s not nearly enough. While Western countries have begun to speak out, where is the outrage from Muslim countries? Why aren’t China’s neighbors demanding an end to the abuses?

The world can ill afford to remain mute, as it did for too long when the generals in Myanmar began unleashing genocide against the Rohingyas, members of a Muslim ethnic group that have been killed by the thousands and forced to flee to Bangladesh.

For several months, administration officials have been discussing whether to impose punitive measures on China over its treatment of Uighurs. In mid-November, lawmakers in Washington introduced legislation that would level sanctions on specific Chinese officials and limit the sales of American technology products to certain Chinese state agencies.

If Mr. Trump refuses to confront Mr. Xi in Argentina and take strong measures against Chinese officials for their mass repression, Congress will be obliged to act.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/30/opinion/xi-trump-uighurs-human-rights.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Related:

China will retaliate ‘in proportion’ to any U.S. sanction over Muslim Uighurs, ambassador says

November 28, 2018

China will retaliate “in proportion” if the United States sanctions its top official in the restive region of Xinjiang over alleged human rights abuses, China’s ambassador to the United States said on Tuesday, adding that Beijing’s policies in the region are to “re-educate” terrorists.

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Chinese paramilitary police on patrol in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai said in an interview that China’s efforts to combat international terrorism are held to a double standard, comparing Chinese actions in Xinjiang to U.S. troops battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“Can you imagine (if) some American officials in charge of the fight against ISIS would be sanctioned?” Cui said, adding “if such actions are taken, we have to retaliate.”

Cui did not elaborate on specific actions China might take.

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Cui Tiankai

Beijing has faced an outcry from activists, academics, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received many credible reports that a million or more Uighurs in China are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

U.S. officials have said the Trump administration is considering sanctions targeting companies and officials linked to China’s crackdown on minority Muslims, including Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who, as a member of the powerful politburo, is in the upper echelons of China’s leadership.

Cui said that while the United States was using missiles and drones to kill terrorists, “we are trying to re-educate most of them, trying to turn them into normal persons (who) can go back to normal life,” Cui said.

“We’ll see what will happen. We will do everything in proportion,” he said, responding to a question on how China would retaliate to possible U.S. sanctions on Chen.

Cui’s comments are the strongest response yet to U.S. threats on the issue.

Any such U.S. sanctions decision against so senior an official as Chen would be a rare move on human rights grounds by the Trump administration, which is engaged in a trade war with China while also seeking Beijing’s help to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

U.S. sanctions could be imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, a federal law that allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators around the world with freezes on any U.S. assets, U.S. travel bans, and prohibitions on Americans doing business with them, U.S. officials have said.

Chinese authorities routinely deny any ethnic or religious repression in Xinjiang. They say strict security measures — likened by critics to near martial law conditions, with police checkpoints, the detention centers, and mass DNA collection — are needed to combat the influence of extremist groups.

After initial blanket denials of the detention facilities, officials have said that some citizens guilty of “minor offenses” were sent to vocational centers to improve employment opportunities.

At a briefing in Washington on Monday, a Uighur woman, Mihrigul Tursun, 29, told reporters she had experienced physical and psychological torture, including electrocution while strapped to a chair, during 10 months in Xinjiang detention centers.

Tursun, who wept and shook as a translator read her prepared statement, said her three children were taken from her while she was in detention and that her four-month-old son had died without explanation in government custody.

Rejecting Chinese government claims that the detention facilities serve vocational purposes, she said many of the dozens of other women in her cell were “well-educated professionals, such as teachers and doctors.”

Tursun said she witnessed nine women die during one three-month period she spent in detention, including from sickness after being denied medical treatment.

Reuters could not independently verify her account, though numerous former detainees have begun to share similar first-hand details with media. China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tursun’s statement.

Independent assessments of the conditions in Xinjiang are nearly impossible given restrictions on journalists from openly reporting from the region.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called on China to allow monitors in Xinjiang, though Beijing has responded by telling her to respect China’s sovereignty.

Reuters

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Hundreds of scholars condemn China for Xinjiang camps — “Psychological torture of innocent civilians.”

November 27, 2018

Countries must hit China with sanctions over the mass detention of ethnic Uighurs in its western Xinjiang region, hundreds of scholars said on Monday, warning that a failure to act would signal acceptance of “psychological torture of innocent civilians.”

Beijing has in recent months faced an outcry from activists, academics and foreign governments over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the Muslim Uighur minority and other ethnic groups that live in Xinjiang.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received many credible reports that a million or more Uighurs and other minorities are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy” in the region.


Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Representatives from a group of 278 scholars in various disciplines from dozens of countries called on China at a news briefing in Washington to end its detention policies, and for sanctions directed at key Chinese leaders and security companies linked to the abuses.

“This situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion,” the group said in a statement.

Countries should expedite asylum requests from Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities, as well as “spearhead a movement for UN action aimed at investigating this mass internment system and closing the camps,” it said.

China rejects criticism of its actions in Xinjiang, saying that it protects the religion and culture of minorities, and that its security measures are needed to combat the influence of “extremist” groups that incite violence there.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi

The country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the world should ignore “gossip” about Xinjiang and trust the government.

But after initial denials about the detention camps, Chinese officials have said some people guilty of minor offences were being sent to “vocational” training centers, where they are taught work skills and legal knowledge aimed at curbing militancy.

Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Australian National University who signed the statement, told reporters that China sought international respect for its weight in global affairs.

“The international community needs to demonstrate to Beijing that it will not actually get that while it’s doing this to a significant portion of its own citizenry,” Clarke said.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Reuters

See also:

China is creating concentration camps in Xinjiang. Here’s how we hold it accountable.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/china-is-creating-concentration-camps-in-xinjiang-heres-how-we-hold-it-accountable/2018/11/23/93dd8c34-e9d6-11e8-bbdb-72fdbf9d4fed_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0d09103d7a08

Chinese city urges those ‘poisoned by Muslim extremism’, who follow conservative Islam to confess crimes

November 19, 2018

China rejects all criticism, saying that it protects the religion and culture of minorities…

A city in China’s far-western Xinjiang region has ordered people who are “poisoned by extremism, terrorism and separatism”, in contact with overseas terror groups or act in a conservative Islamic manner, to turn themselves in to authorities.

Image result for China, soldiers, Xinchang

Those who surrender to judicial organs within 30 days and confess to their crimes will be treated leniently and might avoid punishment, said a notice posted on Sunday on the official social media account of the Hami city government.

Beijing has in recent months faced an outcry from activists, academics and foreign governments over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the Muslim Uighur minority and other ethnic groups that live in Xinjiang.

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China rejects the criticism, saying that it protects the religion and culture of minorities in the region and that its security measures are needed to combat the influence of “extremist” groups that incite violence there.

“All individuals involved in terrorist crimes and poisoned by the ‘three evil forces’ are urged to surrender themselves to the judicial organs within 30 days and to confess and hand over the facts of your crime,” said the Hami city notice.

The notice issued by the municipal “leading small group for stability maintenance” says that actions ranging from being in contact with overseas “terror” groups to conservative Islamic behavior should prompt individuals to turn themselves in.

Advocating that people live their entire lives in accordance with the Koran, stopping other people from watching television, or banning alcohol, smoking and dancing at weddings are listed as behaviors that should warrant informing the authorities.

Indian Muslims hold placards during a protest against the Chinese government over the detention of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang

The list also included openly destroying, rejecting or thwarting the government identification system, as well as rejecting government provided housing, subsidies and cigarettes or booze as being “haram” or forbidden.

Those who turn themselves in on time will be treated leniently, and if the information provides a significant clue, then they might avoid all punishment, the notice said.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received many credible reports that a million or more Uighurs and other minorities are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy” in Xinjiang.

China says it is not enforcing arbitrary detention and political re-education.

Aside from the mass detentions, rights groups also say that the Chinese government has significantly raised limitations on everyday religious observances in the region.

Last month, the region’s capital Urumqi launched a campaign targeting halal products, like food and toothpaste, which are produced according to Islamic law, in order to prevent what it sees as the incursion of Islam into secular life.

(This version of the story has been refiled to fix spelling in paragraph 8, “haram” not “harem”)

Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry

Reuters

Hong Kong pro-democracy protest leaders go on trial

November 19, 2018

Three leading Hong Kong democracy campaigners pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges related to their involvement in massive rallies calling for political reform, as room for opposition in the semi-autonomous city shrinks under an assertive China.

The pioneering trio are among nine activists all facing “public nuisance” charges for their participation in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests. The charges are based on colonial-era law and carry jail terms of up to seven years.

Sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 74, founded the “Occupy Central” movement in 2013 and joined with the student-led Umbrella Movement which brought parts of the city to a standstill for months, calling for free elections for the city’s leader.

The activists were welcomed outside court by hundreds of supporters shouting: “Peaceful resistance! I wanted real universal suffrage!”

© Reuters / Bobby Yip | Occupy Central pro-democracy movement founders Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man chant slogans outside a court in Hong Kong, China November 19, 2018.

Prosecutor Andrew Bruce argued that the mass protests had caused a “common injury done to the public”, who had been affected by the blockage of major roads.

He accused the trio of taking part in and supporting the demonstration “by way of unlawful obstruction of public places and roads”.

Occupy Central called for the occupation of Hong Kong‘s business district if the public was not given a fair vote for the city’s leader, who is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee.

It was overtaken by the student movement that exploded in September 2014 when police fired tear gas on gathering crowds.

The Occupy trio urged people to join what became known as the Umbrella Movement as protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray.

The movement failed to win reform and since then activists have been prosecuted, with some jailed.

‘Chilling prosecution’

Professor Chan gave a farewell talk Wednesday night to a full house of more than 600 people at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he has been teaching for over two decades.

“So long as we are not crushed by imprisonment and trial and do not become overly frustrated and angry, then we will become stronger and we can inspire many more people,” he told the audience, announcing his early retirement from next year.

“Only in the darkest hours, we can see the stars.”

He told AFP that he had prepared for the physical and mental challenges of possible jail time by taking up marathon running.

Chu, who has been unwell but attended Chan’s talk, said the trio had “prepared to walk on this path”.

“We were always willing to be sacrificed in order to wake up the people,” Chu told AFP.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” arrangement since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

It allows far greater civil liberties than on the Chinese mainland, but there are growing fears those freedoms are being eroded.

Ahead of the trial, rights groups had urged authorities to drop what Amnesty International called the “chilling prosecution” of the nine activists, a group that includes lawmakers, student leaders and pro-democracy party campaigners.

Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, warned there would be a “real danger” of more prosecutions for peaceful activism if the case was successful.

Human Rights Watch said the prosecutions raised further questions about how far authorities are trying to “politicise the courts”.

The trial at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court is expected to last 20 days.

(AFP)

Related:

(Steady erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under President Xi Jinping — “We are all Uighurs now.”)

China’s Social Credit System is Nothing To Worry About

November 17, 2018

China’s sweeping, data-driven “social credit” initiative is sounding alarms. In a speech on Oct. 4, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described it as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.” But there’s a small problem. The system doesn’t actually exist—at least as it’s generally portrayed.

It’s not surprising that myths about the system are spreading, given the shrinking space in China for civil society, rights lawyering, speech, investigative journalism, and religious belief; its increasingly ubiquitous, invasive surveillance capability; and the Chinese Communist Party’s push to apply big data and artificial intelligence in governance. China’s party-state is collecting a vast amount of information on its citizens, and its social credit system and other developments internally and overseas raise many serious concerns. But contrary to the mainstream media narrative on this, Chinese authorities are not assigning a single score that will determine every aspect of every citizen’s life—at least not yet.

Opinion
By 
Foreign Policy
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AI (Artificial Inteligence) security cameras using facial recognition technology are displayed at the 14th China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security at the China International Exhibition Center in Beijing on October 24, 2018. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s true that, building on earlier initiatives, China’s State Council published a road map in 2014 to establish a far-reaching “social credit” system by 2020. The concept of social credit (shehui xinyong) is not defined in the increasing array of national documents governing the system, but its essence is compliance with legally prescribed social and economic obligations and performing contractual commitments. Composed of a patchwork of diverse information collection and publicity systems established by various state authorities at different levels of government, the system’s main goal is to improve governance and market order in a country still beset by rampant fraud and counterfeiting.

Under the system, government agencies compile and share across departments, regions, and sectors, and with the public, data on compliance with specified industry or sectoral laws, regulations, and agreements by individuals, companies, social organizationsgovernment departments, and the judiciary. Serious offenders may be placed on blacklists published on an integrated national platform called Credit China and subjected to a range of government-imposed inconveniences and exclusions. These are often enforced by multiple agencies pursuant to joint punishment agreements covering such sectors as taxation, the environment, transportation, e-commerce, food safety, and foreign economic cooperation, as well as failing to carry out court judgments.

These punishments are intended to incentivize legal and regulatory compliance under the often-repeated slogan of “whoever violates the rules somewhere shall be restricted everywhere.” Conversely, “red lists” of the trustworthy are also published and accessed nationally through Credit China.

The scope, scale, diversity, and language of the evolving system have caused a lot of confusion, particularly with respect to the existence of a single social credit scoreThere is no such thing as a national “social credit score.”

There is no such thing as a national “social credit score.”

A few dozen towns and cities in China, as well as private companies running loyalty-type programs for their customers, do currently compute scores, primarily to determine rewards or access to various programs. That was the source of at least some of the confusion. Alibaba’s Sesame Credit program, for instance, which gives rewards on Alibaba’s platforms and easier access to credit through a linked company, was often cited as a precursor of a planned government program, despite being a private enterprise.

The government does assign universal social credit codes to companies and organizations, which they use as an ID number for registration, tax payments, and other activities, while all individuals have a national ID number. The existing social credit blacklists use these numbers, as do almost all activities in China. But these codes are not scores or rankings. Enterprises and professionals in various sectors may be graded or ranked, sometimes by industry associations, for specific regulatory purposes like restaurant sanitation. However, the social credit system does not itself produce scores, grades, or assessments of “good” or “bad” social credit. Instead, individuals or companies are blacklisted for specific, relatively serious offenses like fraud and excessive pollution that would generally be offenses anywhere. To be sure, China does regulate speech, association, and other civil rights in ways that many disagree with, and the use of the social credit system to further curtail such rights deserves monitoring.

China’s credit reporting system, whose financial reports comprise a core component of what is considered “social credit,” may also have contributed to the  myth. The Chinese term for credit reporting (xinyong zhengxin) is often translated as “credit scoring.” However, the primary financial credit reporting system for companies and individuals overseen by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, does not provide credit scores or assessments with its standard reports and does not mention “scoring” in its definition of credit reporting. The PBOC’s Credit Reference Center, like licensed private credit reporting agencies, does offer financial credit scores (xinyong pingfen).

Widely reported private credit scoring programs launched not by credit reporting agencies but by some payment platforms such as Alibaba’s, which consider e-commerce and social media interactions as well as financial histories to determine customer scores, likely also contributed to the misconception of a social credit score. The PBOC, looking to expand its consumer credit coverage by sourcing data from online lenders and other nontraditional sources, in 2015 authorized eight companies—some of which, including Sesame Credit, ran customer scoring programs—to seek credit reporting agency licenses. None of those companies qualified.

However, this year the PBOC did license a national agency called Baihang Credit (Baihang Zhengxin), with those eight companies as shareholders, to provide credit reporting services to clients and contribute data from online microlenders and peer-to-peer lending platforms to the PBOC for compiling more accurate consumer credit histories. Baihang may offer credit scoring products, but those scores, as opposed to the data on which they are based, are not part of the official social credit system yet.

Source:https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/16/chinas-orwellian-social-credit-score-isnt-real/

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Hong Kong lawyers demand explanation over journalist ban — Beijing is running Hong Kong now

November 16, 2018

Steady erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under President Xi Jinping — “We are all Uighurs now.”

Hong Kong’s powerful bar association, a group of the city’s top lawyers, has upped pressure on the government to explain the blacklisting of a British journalist in what was widely seen as an unprecedented attack on press freedom.

Victor Mallet, a senior journalist with the Financial Times, was refused a work visa extension and then barred from entering the city as a tourist after he chaired a talk by an independence activist at the city’s press club.

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Carrie Lam and Xi Jinping

The government has refused to explain the decision despite calls from the public and rights groups, and criticism from foreign governments including Britain and the United States.

The effective blacklisting of Mallet comes as concern grows that Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms are disappearing as Beijing tightens its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

In a statement late Thursday the bar association said the rights enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, including freedom of expression, should be respected “whether one agrees with the information or ideas or not”.

“The HKBA considers that the public, both domestically and internationally, is justifiably concerned whether the decisions (over Mallet’s visa and entry to Hong Kong) constitute undue interferences with the right to freedom of expression,” it added.

It urged the government to explain the decisions “so that the public can see if good reasons exist for them”.

Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland, protected by an agreement made before the city was handed back by Britain to China in 1997, but there is growing evidence those rights are being eroded.

A report from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission this week said there had been a “steady erosion” of Hong Kong’s autonomy under President Xi Jinping and cited Mallet’s visa denial as an example of challenges to freedom of speech.

“Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s political system, rule of law and freedom of expression is moving the territory closer to becoming more like any other Chinese city,” the report said.

USCC, a congressional body that monitors national security and trade issues between the US and China, also called on the US Department of Commerce to publish assessments of the safety of exporting sensitive technology to Hong Kong.

City leader Carrie Lam denied the accusations in the report, saying it saw the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing with “coloured glasses”, an expression meaning to view something with prejudice.

AFP