UK accuses China of treaty infringement over missing booksellers; China replies, ‘MYOB’

UK accuses China of treaty infringement  over missing booksellers; China replies, 'MYOB'
KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA — British and Chinese officials have engaged in a war of words over the detention of five Hong Kong booksellers, with UK’s foreign minister accusing China of interfering in Hong Kong affairs and Chinese officials replying that the UK should mind its own business. When Britain handed over its former colony, Hong Kong, to China in 1997, all three governments agreed to the “one country, two systems” policy, in which the Beijing government agreed to leave Hong Kong free to deal with its own citizens, as well as honor Hong Kong’s longstanding guarantees of free speech and a free press. But, when five Hong Kong men who publish and sell books critical of Communist Party officials abruptly disappeared over the last few months, Hong Kongers quickly suspected mainland authorities were behind it. One of them, Lee Bo, holds dual citizenship in the UK and China. British, Swedish and American officials have tried to persuade Chinese officials to explain what’s going on, but China, per its usual habit, has not obliged those requests. Yesterday, The Guardian reported UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond stated to Parliament that it was apparent that mainland officials had clearly interfered with Hong ...

HK indie dystopian film outperforms Star Wars VII on opening night, disappears

HK indie dystopian film outperforms <em>Star Wars VII</em> on opening night, disappears
KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA — An independent film set in a dystopian Hong Kong of 2025 opened last month, and outsold the latest Star Wars episode. Then, it quickly disappeared from theatres, probably because it’s very critical of the mainland government. Ten Years (十年 shi nian) consists of five shorts, all set ten years in the future, when Cantonese has been outlawed and an oppressive government rules with 1984-like efficiency. One short depicts the self-immolation of a protester, which has been a common form of protest on the mainland by Tibetan and other dissidents. There’s no evidence the Beijing government has banned the film in Hong Kong. But its disappearance may be a form of “self-censorship” by theatre operators unwilling to deal with government censors. Links for further information: CNN Jan. 20 Radio Free Asia Feb. 10 Wikipedia entry Filmmakers’ interview with HK magazine TimeOut

How China’s “harmonizing” of the Internet works

How China's
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — The Huffington Post media mavens did this hilarious mashup of Donald Trump saying the word “China” over and over again. He really seems to be obsessed with it. CHI-NA! It’s HUUUGGE! Anyway, I thought I’d share the video with friends in China. So I grabbed the video off YouTube and uploaded it to, China’s homegrown version of YouTube. The upload was successful, but it was not made public. Here’s the message that comes up on my user page. Has been shielded, according to the provisions of audio-visual management 已屏蔽,根据视听管理规定处理 Putting it more bluntly, “Your video was too political and we nuked it.” In China, this is euphemistically called “being harmonized,” a reference to the previous president’s deeply held wish that Chinese people live in a “harmonious society.” Or, in other words, in a society where people don’t make waves. My timing was probably off, as the current leadership prepares for a gala celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Japanese Occupation. China’s net nannies typically go into full swing before any major national event, including holidays and anniversaries they’d prefer to forget, like the June 4, 1989, suppression of Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. ...

Dissident artist Ai WeiWei gets his passport back after 4 years

Dissident artist Ai WeiWei gets his passport back after 4 years
Chinese authorities returned artist Ai WeiWei’s passport this week, four years after they confiscated it for unspecified reasons. Ai is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, which has responded by harassing him in various ways. In April 2011 authorities seized the passport as Ai was on his way to Hong Kong, and detained him for 81 days for alleged tax evasion and financial misconduct. He was released on probation for those charges, then later was charged with trafficking in pornography after exhibiting photographs of himself in the nude. Security police also closely monitor his movements within Beijing, where he is essentially under house arrest. Plus, his studios outside Shanghai were bulldozed down, supposedly because he had failed to get proper permits and pay taxes on the property. This week, also for unspecified reasons, authorities gave him a new passport. Ai posted a photo of it in his Instagram account @aww. This is China. More details at CNN.

Chinese entrepreneurs create Uniqlo sex video T-shirts

Chinese entrepreneurs create Uniqlo sex video T-shirts
[UPDATE Dec. 5, 2016: Google AdSense flagged the images I included in this report as violations of AdSense policy, though none of them are particularly objectionable as they have appeared on a Chinese shopping site. Whatever. I’ve removed the photos but left the links up. Click at your own peril.] T-shirt 1 In a move sure to upset both Uniqlo’s PR department and China’s overanxious censors, several entrepreneurs are selling T-shirts commemorating the now-famous Uniqlo sex video. The video, which was shot by a young couple in a Beijing clothing store fitting room, hit the Internet last week and has sent China’s censors scrambling to wipe it off the Internet and Uniqlo spokesmen to deny the company had any part in the activity. Beijing police have arrested five people, including the couple, they say were involved in the video. The couple are both university students, although it remains to be seen how long that status will last. Following up on something I read in The Guardian, I visited and found several merchants marketing T-shirts ranging in price from 28.80 RMB ($4.60) — shown at left — to a princely 85.00 RMB ($13.78) for one with a hand drawn picture. ...

Beijing police arrest five people in connection with Uniqlo sex video

Note: Google AdSense required me to remove the image that accompanied this post. UPDATE: I missed the CNN International report from Hong Kong yesterday. I’ve added details from that below. China’s censors are not amused at all by the video of a young couple having sex in a Uniqlo fitting room. Beijing police have arrested five people in connection with the video, which went viral on Chinese social media last week. The five include the couple and three others, all but one unnamed by officials. Police have identified the bespectacled man in the video a 19-year-old university student, surnamed Sun. This report (in Chinese), identifies the couple as two students at Beijing Art University, complete with their Sina Weibo handles, but not their real names. The couple apparently made the video in April at a Beijing Uniqlo store, and shared it with their friends. One of the friends then shared it on Tencent’s WeChat, and it quickly went viral before censors pulled it off. Police are also looking for the person who uploaded the video, and state authorities are admonishing officials of China’s two social media giants, Tencent and Sina, for allowing the video online, as well as investigating whether ...

Beijing couple’s changing room video goes viral, censors busy

Beijing couple's changing room video goes viral, censors busy
Speaking of censors, Google AdSense has requested the photograph which had accompanied this post be removed. So, I have complied. You can see a different version offsite here, however. JISHOU, HUNAN — An adventurous Beijing couple filmed themselves Tuesday making love in a Uniqlo clothing store changing room, and posted the video to their social media accounts. You can predict what happened next. It went viral. And China’s censors have been working overtime trying to keep the 1m20s video off the Internet. Now that it’s on the BitTorrent network (where I found it), they have no hope of stamping it out. The government has condemned the video as being contrary to “core socialist values,” which apparently preclude having sex in changing rooms, or posting sex videos, or something. Meanwhile, Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing brand, has denied it played any role in promoting the video as a marketing ploy. It has raised its, um, visibility in the market, though. More details at The Guardian.

A week-long roller coaster for China’s viral anti-pollution video

A week-long roller coaster for China's viral anti-pollution video
Last weekend, just before an important national party congress meeting, former state media newscaster Chai Jing released her environmental video, 穹顶之下 (qióng dǐng zhī xià, or Under the Dome). By midweek, it had been viewed online more than 15 million times, and by Friday, hundreds of millions of times. Then it disappeared from China’s video streaming websites. Any residual links just give an error message saying the video is no longer available. Although Chai had obtained permission to share the self-produced video from government officials, it seems the widespread popularity of the film caught them off-guard. Discussion of the film is still being permitted online for now. Comments critical of the central government are being deleted, however. Although the movie first appeared with Chinese subtitles, common in China with scores of local languages, there were no complete English subtitles until Friday. Organized by a Chinese 12th grader and an expat, an international team translated the one hour and forty minutes of Chinese subtitles into English. The result can be seen on YouTube. Clicking the subtitles/CC button to the left of the gear icon will turn on the English subs. The future of the film, which Chai spent a year researching, ...

I have Western TV again!

I have Western TV again!
JISHOU, HUNAN — China would not be at the top of anyone’s list of entertaining television. The Chinese government strictly limits consumer access to Chinese cable and satellite TV channels, which offer a staid variety of historical dramas, reality shows, moralistic soapies and news programs — all of which must pass inspection by government censors. Foreign channels, like the BBC, CNN or HBO, are usually only available at big-city hotels that cater to foreigners. Police patrol residential areas to ensure no one has an illegal satellite dish pointing in the wrong direction. For an expat, this situation meant your only access to Western TV was through the computer, either by downloading programs or catching the rare streaming website that doesn’t black out China. (I’m looking at you, Hulu!) But, as of last month, this expat now has access to more than 200 international TV channels, because I bought an Internet settop box marketed by A2SATV. The provider also offers several hundred free TV channels from all over the world. The box with a year’s subscription to the premium package cost about $145, and subscription renewals are about $50 a year. The box runs Android, and comes with two USB ports, ...

Great adventures in high school journalism 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Wonkette has already commented on this story in its inimitable way, but I haven’t written a high school press freedom blog in years. So, suffer me this rare chance. Student journalists at Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) High School did a boffo piece on rape, rape culture, and rape jokes. Scroll to the end of this linked page and read it yourself. It was well written, informative and mature, and included helpful links for readers needing counseling or advice. I mean, it was nearly professional, the kind of piece student newspapers get state and national scholastic press awards for. The administration of FDLHS spiked it. That’s right. Right now in the 21st century high school students still cannot discuss sex in print, no matter how well written and researched their articles are. If I were the principal of this school, I’d be damned proud of these kids. But, you know, I’m not the boss. And also, sex, teenagers. OMFG! The administration did not break any laws, because the Supreme Court ruled long ago that schools have the right to censor student publications if they are part of an academic course. The best we can do as sympathetic observers ...

Chinese rocker censored, refuses to appear on New Year gala show

JISHOU, HUNAN — China’s “godfather of rock,” Cui Jian (崔健), has refused to appear in the annual CCTV New Year Gala program, because censors told him he could not perform one of his big hits. “Nothing to My Name” (一无所有 Yì Wú Suǒ Yǒu) was the unofficial anthem of the 1989 Tian’anmen Square student protest, which the government would rather the Chinese public not remember, or even know about. Nearly everyone in China watches the CCTV New Year Gala, which this year will be aired Jan. 30. That’s a lot of people. Cui, 52, wanted to perform the 1986 hit, but TV censors said no go. Rather than acquiesce to their demands, Cui canceled his appearance. In spring 1989 Beijing students took to the streets, demanding greater democracy and freedom in China. A huge crowd of students occupied Tian’anmen Square for nearly seven weeks. Martial law was declared on May 20, and on June 4 and 5, the government sent in hundreds of thousands of soldiers, some in tanks and helicopters, to crush the protests. There were reportedly thousands of casualties. Before the crackdown, Cui had given a concert to the students during their hunger strike in Tian’anmen Square. Later, ...

China’s professors cautioned against taboo topics

JISHOU, HUNAN — Beijing’s new leadership has not wasted any time in keeping China’s academics on a short leash. There is now a list of seven forbidden topics for the classroom. They include mistakes made by the Communist Party, freedom of the press and universal rights, according to the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong.(link) I haven’t about it personally yet. It seems to be targeted at outspoken Chinese profs.
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