More Chinese officials’ relatives named in ‘Panama Papers’ investigation

More Chinese officials' relatives named in 'Panama Papers' investigation
JISHOU, HUNAN — Five more relatives of past and present China Politburo members have been identified as holders of secretive multi-million-dollar offshore assets by a worldwide group of journalists. The reports brings the number of Chinese offshore account holders to nine so far. The first four identified by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) include the brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping, and the granddaughter of former premier Li Peng. In a report today, the ICIJ named: Lee Shing Put, son-in-law of Zhang Gaoli, a current Politburo Standing Committee member, was a shareholder of three companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands: Zennon Capital Management, Sino Reliance Networks Corporation and Glory Top Investments Ltd. Jia Liqing, daughter-in-law of Liu Yunshan, another Standing Committee member, was the director and shareholder of Ultra Time Investments Ltd., a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2009. Zeng Qinghuai, brother of Zeng Qinghong, the vice president of China from 2002 to 2007, was the director of a company, China Cultural Exchange Association Ltd., that was incorporated first in the island nation of Niue and then re-domiciled in 2006 in Samoa. Hu Dehua, son of the late Hu Yaobang, who served as head of ...

Website updates took almost a whole day

Website updates took almost a whole day
JISHOU, HUNAN — What started out to be a few simple housekeeping chores turned into an all-day affair. I’d forgotten how time-consuming website maintenance can be. With a day off from classes, I wanted to clean up two things on the site that have been bothering me for months. Clean up the header, to put the site title and logo over the banner image, to recover some lost space. Refine/reinstall the PayPal and Bitcoin donation buttons. I tackled #2 first, because I naively assumed it would take less time than #1. Nope. Taking care of the PayPal donations button was not especially time-consuming, aside from dealing with PayPal’s hidden user profile page, which contains the merchant ID. I no longer have a merchant account, but the ID is still valid. Using it allows me to keep my personal email address out of reach of spammers when I use the PayPal donation button. You’d assume that PayPal would place the ID in plain sight, like on your profile page. I had to go to a usergroup discussion to find the link to it. PayPal still has the information; it’s just not included in the newly designed profile page. There will now ...

Chinese children’s book author #CaoWenXuan wins world book prize

Chinese children's book author #CaoWenXuan wins world book prize
JISHOU, HUNAN — Beijing author and literature professor Cao Wenxuan 曹文轩 has won the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen book award for children’s literature. Cao, 62, has written many children’s books, including Bronze and Sunflower (above), all of which have become beloved classics for two generations of readers. Cao is a professor of literature at Peking University 北京大学。 Born to a poor family in rural Jiangsu Province, Cao spent most of childhood barely having enough to eat, but he retains fond memories of country life. Many of his books are set in the countryside during the 1950s and 1960s. Bronze and Sunflower tells the story of a girl, Sunflower, during the Cultural Revolution. Her father is compelled to leave his job in the city to work in the countryside, and Sunflower accompanies him. When her father dies, Sunflower is taken in by the family of her friend, Bronze. Bronze is mute and illiterate, and Sunflower teaches the boy how to read and write. The process opens up a whole new world for Bronze as the two children become like brother and sister. Cao has already won several book prizes in China. This is his first international award. Details at BBC News. ...

‘Panama Papers’ leak names Chinese officials, gov’t quickly blocks web access

'Panama Papers' leak names Chinese officials, gov't quickly blocks web access
JISHOU, HUNAN — Family members of Chinese party officials — including President Xi Jinping — are among the very rich named in a massive exposé of secretive offshore financial accounts, but Chinese citizens will probably never hear about it. Within hours of the “Panama Papers” reports released today by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), China’s Internet censors blocked the ICIJ domain and any search engine queries for “Panama Papers.” (See screencap, above.) State news agencies likewise have no mention of the reports, which have so far named Xi’s brother-in-law and relatives of past and present Politburo members as only a few of the holders of offshore accounts sheltering billions of dollars internationally. English language news sites are so far not affected, but Chinese language sites are blocked or censored. Online discussion is also being monitored and blocked, the BBC reports. Chinese holders of overseas accounts whom the ICIJ has so far named are: Li XiaoLin, businesswoman and daughter of former Premier Li Peng. ICIJ revealed in 2015 she held nearly $2.48 million in a secret HSBC account in Switzerland. Deng Jiagui, brother-in-law of sitting President Xi Jinping. Bloomberg had already reported in 2012 that Deng and his wife ...

Controversial Hong Kong indie film, #TenYears, wins Asian film award

Controversial Hong Kong indie film, <em>#TenYears</em>, wins Asian film award
An independent film depicting a dystopian Hong Kong in the year 2025 won top honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards this weekend. The film, Ten Years, reflects the fears Hong Kongers have about the effects of reunification with mainland China. In five vignettes, the film suggests oppression familiar to readers of George Orwell’s 1984 will be normal, and that the freedoms present-day Hong Kong enjoys will slowly be eroded away. Needless to say, the film is banned on the mainland. According to the BBC, censors have blocked reports referring to the film’s award. Limited screenings are planned for the USA, and other countries. Produced on a HK$500,000 budget, the film has made HK$6 million so far, despite HK theaters limiting or canceling screenings, fearing government interference. No such interference occurred, however. Hong Kong citizens have been increasingly worried that the mainland government will exert more control over the special autonomous region (SAR), despite formal agreement in 1997 of the “one country, two systems” policy. That agreement, reached as Britain returned its former colony to China, assured that the mainland government would not interfere with the politics and laws already established in Hong Kong. But mainland authorities have so far ...

N. Korean defector told to leave China after she criticizes gov’t policy

N. Korean defector told to leave China after she criticizes gov't policy
Author and human rights activist Hyeonseo Lee was told yesterday to cut short her visit to Beijing, after her sharp criticism of the Chinese policy of repatriating North Korean defectors got wide media attention. In a Facebook post, Lee, a North Korean defector herself, said Chinese authorities told her she had to return to Seoul, South Korea, a day ahead of schedule. “Honestly, I was hiding in the bathroom at the airport in Beijing waiting for my flight. When I arrived in South Korea, I felt so relieved and grateful for a country that will accept and protect me,” she says in her Facebook post. Lee had come to Beijing for a “meet the author” event Sunday at The Bookworm-Beijing. Her memoir about her own escape from North Korea, The Girl With Seven Names, was published last year. During her talk, she criticized the Chinese policy of sending North Korean defectors back home, where human rights activists say they will be imprisoned or tortured for attempting to leave. Chinese authorities, for their part, claim the North Koreans are “illegal migrant workers,” who must be deported. Although Lee spoke to a mostly Western audience, a Chinese translation of an Agence France-Presse ...

Movie review: Batman v. Superman waits too long to show Wonder Woman

Movie review: <em>Batman v. Superman</em> waits too long to show Wonder Woman
JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve never posted a movie review here before, because there’s so many other people reviewing movies, why bother? But I went to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice tonight with an entirely Chinese audience, accompanied by six of my freshmen. So this review will have a different perspective than others out there. For those who have not seen the movie (or read the reviews), I’ll cut to the chase and skip all the story commentary. (1) For whatever reason, director Zack Snyder felt it necessary to provide Batman’s complete back story, though it was hardly necessary for an understanding of this movie. (2) The first half of the movie was just plain dull, despite the fight sequences. One student, Lee, said it was boring. Another, Meredith, just fell asleep. I almost did myself. I sat through the first half comparing it unfavorably to a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick, waiting for something exciting that would advance the main plot. (3) My students were all female, with no previous knowledge of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. They all really enjoyed seeing WW in uniform, kicking ass alongside the boys. They said she was cool, and powerful. And I thought, why ...

Mother Nature throws us a curveball

Mother Nature throws us a curveball
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA — Classes began last week, and the spring-like temperatures encouraged me to believe I had dodged most of Hunan’s winter. Wrong-o! Temperatures began to fall over the weekend, and when I woke up at 6:30, there was this white stuff falling from the sky. And it was about 33 degrees F out — just a tad colder than it was the night before. Hunan rarely gets snow, especially in March, so everyone was just a little surprised, and excited. One of my students is from southern China, and this is the first time she has seen snow. Ever wonder what happens when a stand of bamboo gets covered in wet snow? This is the road leading down from my apartment building to the main part of campus. It’s lined with stands of bamboo on either side, which usually stand straight and tall. This morning, they were arching over the road. Here’s another view. By lunchtime, most of the snow had melted, and spring-like temperatures are supposed to return tomorrow or the day after. My classes this term are the same as last, Listening Comprehension and Oral English. Not much to report that’s news there. The university has ...

Hong Kong bookseller’s email says he feared mainland police abducted friend

Hong Kong bookseller's email says he feared mainland police abducted friend
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA — Hong Kong bookseller Lee Po said his colleague Gui Minhai was probably abducted by mainland police agents, according to an email obtained by the South China Morning Post. Both men have since denied any abduction occurred, but the email to Gui’s daughter raises concerns about the involvement of mainland authorities in the sudden disappearances of Lee, Gui and three of their colleagues from Thailand and Hong Kong, and their later re-appearance on the mainland. The five booksellers published books that were highly critical of the Chinese Community Party and its officials, including President Xi Jinping. Under Hong Kong law, they were free to publish, but Hong Kongers suspect mainland authorities — contrary to treaty agreements — scooped up the five men surreptitiously. Gui was vacationing in Pattaya, Thailand, at the time of his disappearance in October. In his Nov. 10 email to Gui’s daughter, published by the Morning Post today, he says he feared Gui had been arrested by Chinese police. I write to you concerning the whereabouts of Michael. I wonder if you have known that he has been missing for more than 20 days, we fear that he was taken by special agents from ...

Interactive map shows growing Chinese military presence in South China Sea

China has been gradually expanding its naval and air presence in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The results so far can be seen in this interactive map developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Its neighbors, including Vietnam, the Philippines, China and now even Malaysia have protested China’s expansion into what they say are international waters. Several nations lay claim to the Spratly Islands, and some also military bases there. But China has been especially aggressive recently in establishing a military presence on them. China has also built an airstrip in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, leading to tensions with Japan and Taiwan, which also claim the islands as national territory, China has recently scolded the United States for its Naval and Air Force operations in the area.

The Malaysia trip, wrapping it up

The Malaysia trip, wrapping it up
JISHOU, HUNAN, CHINA — Here are some closing thoughts and even some statistics about my month-long journey around Malaysia. I really like it. There is something for everyone in Malaysia: big cities, wilderness areas, beaches, different cuisines and cultures. In fact, the part I liked the most was the multicultural atmosphere of the country. It’s something China really cannot offer, despite its 55 minority groups. Their culture is largely being subsumed by the majority Han culture. The largest cities, Shanghai, Beijing, and others, are cosmopolitan, to be sure, but not to the extent of Kuala Lumpur, George Town or Singapore. Another big factor was the English level of the Malaysians I met. Even taxi drivers and bus drivers could speak enough English that we could communicate well. It baffles me why in China, which requires English instruction beginning in grade 3, even college graduates have trouble with ordinary English conversation. Well, it doesn’t really baffle me. The focus in China is on reading, writing and grammar, mostly for the purpose of passing competency exams. Conversation is an afterthought, and only English majors get any real practice in it. Native English teachers at the secondary level may try to get their ...

Another Malaysia trip SIDEBAR: North Borneo Railway videos

Another Malaysia trip SIDEBAR: North Borneo Railway videos
There are the videos I took on the North Borneo Railway steam excursion Feb 13. I was trying to capture the sounds of the experience, as well as the operation of the locomotive. I have omitted the rather long video of the locomotive on the turntable, as it’s fairly easy to imagine what it looks like. The engine backs in, get turned around 180 degrees, backs out. I took the first video with my cellphone, and the others with my camera, a Nikon D3300. YouTube did the conversions. Looking out the window as the scenery passes by. You can hear the engine’s whistle as we approach road crossings. A view of the Vulcan Foundry 2-6-2 as we prepare to leave. The crew has been stoking the firebox to build up steam for the last few hours. On arrival at Papar, the final destination, passengers disembark, while the engine crew disconnect the locomotive from the front of the train, pull onto a siding, and back the engine onto the turntable. With the locomotive facing the other way, the crew has filled it up with water and is now ready to move it to the other end of the train for the ...
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