Την ίδια ώρα, στην Κίνα...

Weibo is dying out
Bei Daijin 贝带劲 (mclc)
In November, 2014, 163.com suddenly announced that it would close down its microblog service, or Weibo. Three months ago, qq.com announced that it would not add new features to its microblog service. It is unsure how long qq’s microblog will last before it also closes down. Sohu CEO Zhang Chaoyao (张朝阳) no longer uses his own Sohu microblog account to interact with users. Chen Tong (陈彤), Sina’s vice president, left Sina with a group of key personnel, and this was regarded as the fall of the biggest internet portal in China. “Big V” Ning Caishen (宁财神) announced that he would sell his account [with 6 million followers] for only 50 yuan, or about $5, and it’s hard not to taste the dour self-mockery of the popular online opinion leader. Such is the devastated scene of social media in China backed by each major internet portal website and used by millions of Chinese. Weibo is dying. Of what?

Statistics from January, 2014, show that the number of Weibo users in 2013 declined by 27,830,000 in 2013 compared to the number of users at the end of 2012, and the level of activity had also plummeted. It is reported that 80 percent of the 500 million Weibo users have hardly ever logged in. The number of daily active users has fallen from 60 million in mid-2013 to 25 million in the beginning of June, 2014. While we cannot verify these numbers for the time being, published statistics have sufficiently shown that the popularity of Weibo has been declining since 2013.

Some people think the fall of Weibo is due to companies failing to find the right business model, and others believe that the rise of WeChat drew users away from Weibo. Still others are of the opinion that excessive advertisements, marketing accounts and “chicken-soup” postings diluted valuable information. These might all be valid causes, but more important causes seem to lie elsewhere.

Weibo have never been a pure social media platform; it has always been a form of media, and its vitality arose from disseminating and commenting on public events, known as User Generated Content (UGC). But suppression of free expression is a political reality in China, and the State Internet Information Office’s (SIIO) censorship mechanism has been strangling the Weibo. A user becomes a criminal, punishable by law, when a rumor is shared over 500 times, and reposting a “rumor” can be a liability too. One constantly hits on “sensitive words” like hitting on nail snags. Posts are frequently deleted by behind-the-scene censors, not to mention suspension or deletion of accounts altogether. More and more people join the ranks of the “Reincarnation Party,” people who come back to Weibo with new accounts after their original accounts were shut down. One can be summoned by police for interrogation, or detained, or even tried and sentenced, for a single Weibo posting. Fear puts a damper on a user’s enthusiasm, if not killing it altogether. To divert users’ attention away from sensitive public events while maintaining Weibo’s vitality, service providers have resorted to cheap entertainment, resulting in a large number of quality users leaving Weibo.

Both the quantity and quality of UGC have declined and there is no sign of a reversal. Nowadays even the comment section is often closed up either by the censor or by the users themselves.

Last November, Xinhua reported that SIIO held a conference on the management of online comment. During the conference, 29 websites, including Xinhuanet.com, People.com.cn, Sina.com, Sohu.com, 163.com and qq.com, signed a pledge, promising that they would “discipline” online comments. The Deputy Director of SIIO Ren Xianliang (任贤良) said, “[We must] use the law to manage online comments in order to direct public opinion online, build an eco-system for online public opinion, to legalize the rules of cyberspace. These are an integral part of governing the Internet according to the law. And to govern the Internet according to the law, we must put halters on the comment sections.”

Caijing’s Sina Weibo account attached a photo image of the Pledge when posting news about the conference. The Pledge contains 18 categories of information that cannot be allowed. Below is a brief analysis of each of the 18 categories.

29 websites pledged to eliminate the 18 categories of online comments. Click to enlarge.

1. Information that is in violation of the basic principles of the Constitution.

This covers comments that voice support for universal values from the comments sections.

The CCTV’s xinwen lianbo (evening news) that evening emphasized that “China’s governance according to the constitution is fundamentally different from western countries’ constitutional democracy.”

2. Information that endangers state security, divulges state secrets, subverts state power or undermines national unity.

This category prohibits those who are in the know because of their jobs to reveal the untruth perpetrated by the official media or “experts” working for the government.

3. Information that harms the national reputation and interest.

This can include all the so-called negative news. Censorship at media outlets begins from topic selection, blocking out the dissemination of negative news to begin with. Users who wish to expose government abuses and social injustice will be constrained by this rule.

4. Information that instigates ethnic hatred and discrimination, and undermines ethnic unity.

The CCP’s ethnic policies have been a focal point of increased ethnic tension. Information regarding Uighurs’ violent resistance or Tibetans’ self-immolations has always been sensitive content, and this restriction echoes the judicial interpretation issued in October by the Supreme People’s Court criminalizing separatist speeches.

5. Information that instigates regional discrimination and regional hatred.

Discriminatory comments based on geographic origins have always been a popular form of joke. It looks like jokes will be no joking matter anymore.

6. Information that undermines national policies on religion and promotes “evil cults” and superstition.

This is in sync with the government’s crackdown on “evil cults” that promote anti-totalitarian thinking. It is more about “anti-totalitarian thinking” than “evil cults.”

7. Rumors that disrupt social order or undermine social stability.

This is the “pocket crime,” a vaguely defined offences that can cover anything, and the government holds the authority to interpret what is a “rumor” that “disrupts social order and undermines social stability.”

8. Vulgarity and pornography, information about gambling, murder or terrorism, or crime abetting.

Postings of violent clashes not covered by official media outlets can fall into this category.

9. Insults, defamation, or information that harms other people’s legitimate rights and interests.

This category will probably take care of netizens’ mocking of the fifty-centers, corrupt officials, untruthful media, or verified government social media accounts.

10. Threatening violence against others, or carrying out “human-flesh” searches.

This rule make grassroots anti-corruption activities impossible, thus helping protect corrupt or abusive local officials and the much despised fifty-centers.

11. Minors’ privacy information without written consent from their legal guardians.

This rule effectively neutralizes the once wildly popular campaign “Snap a Photo and Rescue a Kidnapped Child” that encourages citizens to take photos of homeless children and post them online.

12. Abusive language bad for social order and customs.

This can be another giant “pocket” to cover a wide range of the expressions, including heated debates that often lead to use of strong language.

13. Infringement of intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights should indeed be protected. Plagiarism is rife on Weibo, but “selective enforcement” is probably inevitable.

A MOF spokesman states, “In China internet is open….” but the comment section of the official post is closed.

14. Disseminating advertisements or other marketing information。

To market on Weibo, one is required to register and pay a membership fee. Advertisers who do not want to pay membership or were unwilling to provide their true identities have been using the comment section, and from now on, they will no longer be able to do so.

15. Using languages other than commonly used languages.

This rule targets postings that use a foreign language or words to issue sensitive information to avoid censorship.

16. Information unrelated to the original posts.

As many rights activists’ postings, and even accounts, are repeatedly censored, they resort to posting their complaints in the comment section of popular posts in order to attract attention to their cases. This rule is designed to eliminate this type of information.

17. Information that is unreadable or is written in a combination of characters and marks to circumvent censorship.

This rule targets netizens’ smart use of puns and other language innovations to dodge key words censorship.

18. Other information whose dissemination is prohibited by laws and regulations.

This will take care of anything that’s missed by the 17 rules above.

Lack of confidence in state-owned media had once made Weibo a main source of information for many Chinese. However, as online censorship has steadily intensified and netizens have been criminalized for online expression, the free flow of information has been choked off, driving away a great number of users who are on Weibo for real news and information but can’t get it anymore. These 18 pledges will further render ineffective netizens’ battle-tested self-defense skills against censors, making online dissemination dangerous. Weibo is dying of suffocation, as the government is determined to occupy and control it totally, leaving no stone unturned.
Sex Expert's Secret Is Out, and China's Open to It
After a blogger accused her of being a closeted lesbian, Li Yinhe, an advocate of freewheeling sexuality in China, announced that her partner of 17 years is a transgender man.
Πριν από κάμποσο καιρό είχαμε μάθει εδώ ότι απαγορεύεται στον Δαλάι Λάμα να μετενσαρκωθεί σε κάποιον που δεν θα έχει την έγκριση της ΛΔΚ. Τώρα μαθαίνουμε ότι του απαγορεύεται να μην μετενσαρκωθεί! (ΝΥΤ)

Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

Officials have amplified their argument that the Communist government is the proper guardian of the Dalai Lama’s succession through an intricate process of reincarnation that has involved lamas, or senior monks, visiting a sacred lake and divining dreams.

Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet.

“Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” said Mr. Zhu, formerly a deputy head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which oversees dealings with religious and other nonparty groups. He now leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, or National People’s Congress.

Mr. Zhu accused the Dalai Lama of trampling on sacred traditions.

“In religious terms, this is a betrayal of the succession of Dalai Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism,” he said.

“The 14th Dalai Lama has taken an extremely frivolous and disrespectful attitude toward this issue,” Mr. Zhu continued. “Where in the world is there anyone else who takes such a frivolous attitude toward his own succession?”

The idea of Communist Party officials defending the precepts of reincarnation and hurling accusations of heresy at the Dalai Lama might have Marx turning in his grave. The party is committed to atheism in its ranks, though it accepts religious belief in the public. And President Xi Jinping has declared his fealty to Marxist-Leninist dialectical materialism.
“It’s like Fidel Castro saying, ‘I will select the next pope and all the Catholics should follow.’ That is ridiculous,” Mr. Sangay told Reuters on Tuesday. “It’s none of Padma Choling or any of the Communist Party’s business, mainly because Communism believes in atheism and religion being poisonous.”

After the 10th Panchen Lama died in 1989, the Dalai Lama confirmed a boy in Tibet as the next reincarnation in 1995. But the Chinese government hid away that boy and his parents and installed its own choice as the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama has indicated that he does not want to experience the same fate.

“Whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not is up to the Tibetan people,” the Dalai Lama said in an interview with the BBC in December. “There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama.”

“The person selected by the Chinese government is just as much a victim of the situation as anyone, so there’s nothing personal held against that person,” she said. “Communism, in theory, is atheist, so we’re just like, ‘This is too much.’ ”

Tibetans, however, remain convinced that the Dalai Lama will ultimately continue his lineage of leading monks of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, a succession that dates from the 14th century, Mr. Barnett said. The Dalai Lama’s warnings on succession, he said, are best understood as a way of encouraging Tibetans to focus on the issue and the options.

“The Tibetan people would never have faith in a so-called reincarnation appointed by the Chinese government,” Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan author based in Beijing who is critical of Beijing’s policies in her homeland, said in an online interview. “But I believe that the Dalai Lama will reincarnate.”
Australia to join China-led bank despite US opposition (FT)
Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at Australian National University, said the government’s shift was significant and it was now very likely Australia would become a full member. “This marks a very sobering moment for Australia as until now we have subcontracted to the US our policy in relation to how to respond to China’s rise,” he said. “This gives real for pause for thought in how Australia positions itself for the future.”

UK move to join China-led bank a surprise even to Beijing (FT)
The announcement by George Osborne, UK chancellor, on March 12 that Britain would join China’s answer to the World Bank — a move in defiance of US pressure and advice from its own diplomats — was not just a surprise to allies in Europe and Washington. It also caught Beijing unawares. The UK Treasury had told Chinese officials it would not announce its application to join until March 17. But once other European countries got wind of Britain’s plan to join the nascent Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the ensuing scramble to follow suit convinced London to move the announcement forward five days.

Major publisher retracts 43 scientific papers amid wider fake peer-review scandal (Washington Post)
A major publisher of scholarly medical and science articles has retracted 43 papers because of “fabricated” peer reviews amid signs of a broader fake peer review racket affecting many more publications. The publisher is BioMed Central, based in the United Kingdom, which puts out 277 peer-reviewed journals.

Όχι, δυστυχώς δεν πρόκειται για το εξαφανισμένο δελφίνι του Γιανγκτσέ...
China launches relocation of near-extinct finless porpoises - Xinhua
There are only around 1,000 finless porpoises, a dolphin-like freshwater mammal with iconic "grins" on the face, in the Yangtze River and two lakes that are linked to the busy waterway. On Friday, eight porpoises from Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province were placed in metal containers filled with water and took bus tours to two reserves in Hubei Province. The relocation project was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and three provincial governments.

Νέο βιβλίο από τον Yu Hua (Γυ Χουά)
‘The Seventh Day,’ by Yu Hua - NYTimes
In Yu Hua’s surreal, mordant novel “The Seventh Day,” the victims of China’s ­explosively expanding market economy include the still conscious, still suffering, still impoverished dead. They can’t afford burial plots. They’ve been separated from their families and uprooted from their ­ancestral homes. Unable to be mourned in the proper Chinese way, they’re fated to roam a “hazy, indistinct city” where snow swirls around their legs and they have the opportunity to reflect upon their lives and the circumstances of their deaths. The limping shades may then encounter the dead former friends and loved ones who also inhabit this characteristically ­Chinese mega-necropolis.

China’s Fear of Women With Pamphlets - NYTimes Editorial
President Xi should see that there is no place for such government thuggery in his campaign to modernize China. He has the chance to build a legacy embracing the advancement of human rights. Instead, he appears to be succumbing to the history of Communist Party leaders who fear citizens’ protests as a prelude to subversion. The Yirenping women stand as a noble opportunity for China, not a threat.

Chinese court jails Uygur for 6 years for growing beard (AFP - SCMP)
A court in China’s mainly Muslim Xinjiang region has sentenced a man to six years in prison for “provoking trouble” and growing a beard, a practise discouraged by local authorities, a newspaper reported Sunday. The court in the desert oasis city of Kashgar sentenced the 38-year-old Uygur to six years, while his wife was given a two-year sentence, according to the China Youth Daily.
Πέτρινα Χρόνια στην κομουνιστική διχτατορία της Κίνας, διηγημένα από τη σύζυγο ενός μόνιμου τρόφιμου των φυλακών της.
Always Parting: My Life with Liu Xianbin
—- Dedicated to Wives of Dissidents
By Chen Mingxian, published: March 29, 2015 (China Change)
Supporters of Detained Feminists in China Petition for Their Release
Didi Kirsten Tatlow / Sinosphere, NYT

The supporters in China of five feminists who were detained in early March are continuing to agitate on their behalf, despite intimidation and the censorship of online discussion by the authorities.

On Tuesday, the feminists’ supporters mailed a petition that they said more than 1,100 people had signed — including men and women, students and employees — to public security and other state offices, calling for the women’s release. The petition also demanded that the authorities carry on the work for which the women were detained by issuing warnings against sexual harassment in public transport. The five women — Li Tingting, Wang Man, Wei Tingting, Wu Rongrong and Zheng Churan — were taken into custody on March 6 and 7 as they were preparing to mark International Women’s Day on March 8 by distributing stickers and leaflets protesting molestation in buses and subways.

The petition also says the police action was “illegal in multiple ways.” A version of the petition seen online before the link went dead warned that the women’s detentions harm the “interests of the state,” especially in a year when China wants to be part of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. At that event, a landmark declaration said that “women’s rights are human rights,” helping ignite a new women’s movement in China, where gender equality is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The petition was sent to the Haidian District Public Security Bureau and to the Haidian District Detention Center in Beijing, where the women are being held, as well as to district and municipal prosecutors’ offices and the All-China Women’s Federation, the state women’s organization.

“It was put out by citizens and friends,” said the lawyer for Ms. Wei, Wang Qiushi, “because a lot of people really care.” He added that he was not directly involved in the action. An organizer of the petition asked not to be identified, citing fear of reprisals.

Several supporters of the women have reported official pressure to desist. Some university students who joined earlier protests against the detentions said they were warned that their actions could affect their prospects for further education and jobs. And about 10 prominent feminists have left their residences in major cities such as Beijing for smaller towns or for friends’ or relatives’ homes.

“Normal life and new projects are on hold,” one of them, Zhao Sile, said in a message from her hideaway in the south of China, as it was too risky to continue campaigning for now. “We’re still doing bits and pieces, but most everything has stopped.”

Mr. Wang, the lawyer, added that it would become clear this coming weekend — when the women will have spent 30 days in detention — whether they were to be formally charged. They were detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a criminal offense in China.

“If they’re not out this weekend, then it’s because the police are recommending to the prosecutors that they be charged,” Mr. Wang said. “And if it goes to 37 days in detention, then that means the prosecutors have agreed. This is now the really important period coming up.”

The petition says the police have told Ms. Zheng that she will face criminal charges, though they have not yet presented any supporting evidence. Her family only recently received a formal notice from the police that she had been taken into investigative detention, it says. The families of the four other women, the petition says, have not yet been officially notified. Lawyers for the women say they have been maltreated in jail and subjected to lengthy interrogations.

“We have no indications yet how this is going to go,” Mr. Wang said. “But we’re really hoping they come out at the weekend. Otherwise it’s looking bad.”

The women are core members of a small but growing feminist movement in China that is benefiting from the country’s demographic changes: After decades of one-child families in urban areas, many young women who have grown up without having to defer to brothers have high expectations for their lives and react negatively to traditional gender prejudice. The detentions of the five women, in a coordinated sweep in three Chinese cities, set off an outcry in China and abroad.

In a sign of how intently the authorities are monitoring the women’s supporters, online links to the petition were shut down almost as quickly as they popped up on Wednesday. At the time of writing, only one link to the petition could be found, on Sina Weibo, posted by the “AntiPETD Feminist PhD Group.” However, the petition was being passed around by private email and in encrypted social media messaging systems.
Άρθρο της Yaxue Cao (China Change) για το κινέζικο περιβαλλοντικό ντοκιμαντέρ Under the Dome

Under the China Dome – A Reality Check
China’s left foot wants to go north, and China’s right foot wants to go south. Both feet have the same goal, and, that is, to maintain the one-party rule.

When I first watched Chai Jing’s Under the Dome a week ago, my response was like everyone else’s: “Bravo!” In early 2013, shortly after the prolonged smog that cloaked much of China which Chai Jing mentioned at the beginning of her film, political science professor Wu Qiang at Tsinghua University wrote an article titled Amidst the Smog, I Hear the Bugle Call for a National Environmental Movement and China Change translated it. So, watching the film, my mind jumped, “the Bugle Call!”

But instantly, I had other thoughts, too, just like many others did: without the government’s acquiescence or even assistance, a private citizen, even a celebrity citizen, could not have completed the investigation in which she was able to interview government officials of various positions, make inquiries with the National People’s Congress (NPC), and follow the police during their enforcement tours. In China, the government controls who can, and who cannot, expose its failings, what can and cannot be exposed. And without an order from some office, it’s practically impossible to premier the film on the People’s Daily website and disseminate it on all internet portals under the 24/7 watch of the censors.

Regardless, I think the making and dissemination of the film is a landmark event. I agree with Ian Johnson’s assessment that the film is “the final proof that the Party is serious about the issue,” but the party has other determinations too. The film galvanized public opinion and consolidated its awareness to an unprecedented level. It peeled apart the multi-faceted causes of pollution. It is a mobilization of the public, and it sets expectations for a war against environmental disasters. The film works on many layers of the public psyche, and not all of them are welcomed by the government. This probably explains why it was spectacularly promoted and then shut down.

Μέρες που είναι, ας δούμε μια περσινή κατάληψη Βουλής που πολύ μου άρεσε, μέσα από την ακόλουθη εξαιρετικής ποιότητας μελέτη, από έναν αυτόπτη μάρτυρα:

Inside Taiwan's Sunflower Movement: Twenty-Four Days in a Student-Occupied Parliament, and the Future of the Region
Ian Rowen (PhD Candidate in Geography at the University of Colorado, Boulder) / The Journal of Asian Studies

“Say goodbye to Taiwan,” wrote political scientist John Mearsheimer in a widely read article in the March-April 2014 issue of The National Interest. Threatened by China's rising economic might and abandoned by a weakening United States, one of Asia's most vibrant democracies was facing, in his “realist” analysis, an almost inevitable annexation via economic if not military force. “Time,” he wrote, “is running out for the little island coveted by its gigantic, growing neighbor.” But only days after publication, on March 18, activists and armchair analysts alike said hello to a new reality.

That evening, the assembly hall of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan was stormed by a motley crew led by students from the “Black Island Nation Youth,” a loosely organized student political action committee formed the previous year. The several hundred occupiers repelled police efforts to eject them, escorted out the few officers on duty, and barricaded the doors with seats tied together with rope. None of them expected that the occupation, later known as the 318 or Sunflower Movement, would last twenty-four days, spawn the biggest pro-democracy protest rally in the island's history, reframe popular discourse about Taiwan's political and social trajectory, precipitate the midterm electoral defeat of the ruling party, and prefigure unprecedented protest in nearby Hong Kong.

Η επιβολή της ιστορικής αμνησίας από τον (κομουνιστικό, εν προκειμένω) ολοκληρωτισμό. Η κατάσταση όπως ήταν το 1990:

The Chinese Amnesia
Fang Lizhi, translated by Perry Link
NYRB September 27, 1990 Issue

The following was written while Fang Lizhi was staying in the American Embassy in Beijing, before his release last June.

In November 1989, during the fifth month of my refuge inside the American Embassy in Beijing, I received two letters from New York, one from the president of a group called Human Rights in China, and one from a friend. Both letters asked me to contribute my calligraphy to the title page of a book called Children of the Dragon1 that the two were currently editing. At first I was inclined not to do it. For one, I couldn’t find a writing brush or Chinese ink slab in the embassy. All I had was a Chinese typewriter, hardly appropriate for the kind of calligraphy that was needed. But second, I wasn’t very fond of the four words “Children of the Dragon.” To symbolize the Chinese people by a dragon, a creature that does not exist, may seem to imply that the Chinese people are unique in kind. This runs counter to my fundamental belief that human nature is universal and admits no distinctions of race.

Still, because I was entirely in agreement with the spirit and content of the book that the editors were planning, I eventually found a way to do the calligraphy. Sometimes book titles are only convenient tags, I thought; there was no need to get overly scrupulous about it. Now that the book is published, I am delighted that it carries my four-word contribution.

As a four-word contributor I am technically one of the authors of Children of the Dragon. Authors of course wish that their books will circulate widely. But I wish to show, in the remainder of this essay, why I will be even happier if the circulation is only modest.

There seems to be no accurate count of all the books that have appeared about the Tiananmen events of the spring of 1989. But certainly they have been many. A friend at Columbia University recently wrote me that she and one of her Chinese colleagues, both of whom were eyewitnesses at Tiananmen, had originally planned to write a book about it. But publishers told them that so many Tiananmen books were already available that the market had become “saturated.” The two reluctantly dropped their plan. It seems that a new Tiananmen book, for now, can have only a modest circulation.

In my view, a large but “saturated” market is itself one of the most important consequences to emerge from the events at Tiananmen. It signals the failure of the “Technique of Forgetting History,” which has been an important device of rule by the Chinese Communists. I have lived under the Chinese Communist regime for four decades, and have had many opportunities to observe this technique at work. Its aim is to force the whole of society to forget its history, and especially the true history of the Chinese Communist party itself.

In 1957 Mao Zedong launched an “Anti-Rightist Movement” to purge intellectuals, and 500,000 people were persecuted. Some were killed, some killed themselves, and some were imprisoned or sent for “labor reform.” The lightest punishment was to be labeled a “Rightist.” This was called “wearing a cap” and meant that one had to bear a powerful stigma. I had just graduated from college that year, and also in that year was purged for the first time.

After the 1957 Anti-Rightist purge, what worried me most was not that I had been punished, or that free thought had been curtailed. At that time I was still a believer, or semibeliever, in Marxism, and felt that the criticism of free thought, including my own free thought, was not entirely unreasonable. But what worried me, what I just couldn’t figure out, was why the Communist party of China would want to use such cruel methods against intellectuals who showed just a tiny bit (and some not even that) of independent thought. I had always assumed that the relationship between the Communist party and intellectuals, including intellectuals who had some independent views, was one of friendship—or at least not one of enmity.

Later I discovered that this worry of mine seemed ridiculous to teachers and friends who were ten or twenty years older than I. They laughed at my ignorance of history. They told me how, as early as 1942, before the Party had wrested control of the whole country, the same cruel methods against intellectuals were already being used at the Communist base in Yan’an. In college I had taken courses in Communist party history, and of course knew that in 1942 at Yan’an there had been a “rectification” movement aimed at “liberalism,” “individualism,” and other non-Marxist thought. But it was indeed true that I had had no idea that the methods of that “rectification” included “criticism and struggle”—which meant in practice forcing people to commit suicide, and even execution by beheading. People who had experienced the Yan’an “rectification” paled at the very mention of it. But fifteen years later my generation was completely ignorant of it. We deserved the ridicule we received.

After another thirteen years, in 1970, it became our turn to laugh at a younger generation. This was in the middle stage of the Cultural Revolution that took place between 1966 and 1976. In the early stage of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong had used university students, many of whom supported him fanatically, to bring down his political opponents. But in the early 1970s these same students became the targets of attack. In 1970 all the students and teachers in the physics department of the Chinese University of Science and Technology were sent to a coal mine in Huainan, Anhui Province, for “reeducation.” I was a lecturer in physics at the time. The movement to “criticize and struggle” against the students’ “counterrevolutionary words and deeds” reached its most intense point during the summer. Some students were “struggled”; others were locked up “for investigation”; a good number could not endure the torment of the vile political atmosphere and fell ill. One of my assignments was to pull a plank-cart (like a horse cart, but pulled by a human being) to transport the ill students. Of the group of forty-some students working in the same mine as I did, two were driven to suicide—one by jumping off a building, the other by lying in front of a train.

Most of these students, as innocent as I had been in 1957, never imagined that the Communist government could be so cruel in its treatment of students who had followed them so loyally. Later one of the students, who became my co-worker in astrophysical research (and who is now in the US), confided to me that he had had no knowledge whatever of the true history of the Anti-Rightist Movement. It was not until he was himself detained and interrogated that he slowly began to appreciate why some of the older people he knew lived in such fear of the phrase Anti-Rightist. The whole story of the main actors and issues of the Anti-Rightist Movement had, for this generation, become a huge blank.

This was all repeated again in 1989. According to one incomplete survey of students who participated in the Tiananmen democracy movement, more than half of them had no precise knowledge of what happened in the spring of 1979 when young activists posted independent views on the Democracy Wall in Beijing and were soon arrested for doing so. They did not know about Deng Xiaoping’s persecution of the participants in the Democracy Wall Movement, or about “the Fifth Modernization,”2 or that Wei Jingsheng, one of the most outspoken of the activists, was still serving time for what he did. Events of a mere ten years earlier, for this new generation, were already unknown history.

In this manner, about once each decade, the true face of history is thoroughly erased from the memory of Chinese society. This is the objective of the Chinese Communist policy of “Forgetting History.” In an effort to coerce all of society into a continuing forgetfulness, the policy requires that any detail of history that is not in the interests of the Chinese Communists cannot be expressed in any speech, book, document, or other medium.

The year 1987 was the thirtieth anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Movement. In November 1986 Xu Liangying, Liu Binyan,3 and I made plans for a scholarly conference that looked back on the Anti-Rightist Movement from a perspective of thirty years. Our primary aim was to establish a record of the true history of this period. Even though the movement had brought suffering to half a million people (the number persecuted to death was far greater than the number killed in the June 4 massacre), still we looked in vain for any openly published materials on the history of the movement. The only records of the movement were inside the memories of those fortunate enough to have survived it. With the passage of time, those fortunate survivors were themselves becoming fewer and fewer, and for the younger generation the impression of the Anti-Rightist Movement was growing fainter and fainter. We wished to create a record of the movement before those who could supply oral accounts disappeared.

Our plan was promptly suppressed by the authorities. In mid-December 1986, we sent out the first of our announcements of a “Scholarly Conference on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Rectification.” The response was quick. Within days some people sent us papers, while others expressed their support by sending money. But the authorities acted just as quickly. Xu Liangying and Liu Binyan were subjected to tremendous pressure (I was spared, since I was not in Beijing at the time). After two weeks there was no alternative except to announce that the conference could not be held. This showed that, even for events that had taken place thirty years earlier, the Communist authorities remained unwilling to allow the slightest opening for free discussion, and would permit only a thorough forgetfulness. Thus it remains the case today that there is no publication dealing in depth with the Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957 to be found on the open book market in China.

Regrettably, Western literature on China, so far as I know, also seems to lack such a book. Much of the history of Chinese Communism is unknown to the world, or has been forgotten. If, inside China, the whole of society has been coerced into forgetfulness by the authorities, in the West the act of forgetting can be observed in the work of a number of influential writers who have consciously ignored history and have willingly complied with the “standarized public opinion” of the Communists’ censorial system.

The work of the late Edgar Snow provides one of the most telling examples of this tendency. Snow lived many years in China; we must assume that he understood its society. And yet, in his reports on China after the Communists took power, he strictly observed the regime’s propaganda requirements—including the forgetting of history. In Red China Today he had this to say about China in the early 1960s:

I diligently searched, without success, for starving people or beggars to photograph. Nor did anyone else succeed…. I must assert that I saw no starving people in China, nothing that looked like old-time famine, [and] that I do not believe that there is famine in China at this writing.4

The facts, which even the Chinese Communists do not dare to deny publicly, are that the early 1960s saw one of the greatest famines in more than two thousand years of recorded Chinese history. In the three years between 1960 and 1962 approximately twenty-five million people in China died of hunger. As for beggars, not only did they exist, they even had a kind of “culture,” with communist characteristics. In 1973 in Anhui I listened to a report by the “advanced” Party secretary of a peasant village. One of his main “advanced” experiences was to organize his villagers into a beggars’ brigade to go begging through the neighboring countryside.

Snow’s tomb is located on a quiet and secluded little hillock on the campus of Beijing University. He was respected in China during his lifetime; no one doubted the sincerity of his love for China and the Chinese people. But his writings have not received similar respect. His books have adopted too much of the viewpoint of his old friend Mao Zedong, which is to say the viewpoint of official Communist propaganda. The works of China experts such as Snow have served, in fact, as a “Special Propaganda Department” for the Communists. They have helped the Communists’ “Technique of Forgetting History” to become a completed circle, continuous both inside and outside China.

This foreign aid has helped the Chinese Communists, over a long period of time, to carry on their activities beyond the reach of world opinion and exempt from effective scrutiny. The Communists’ nefarious record of human rights violations is not only banned from memory and discussion inside China, but has also been largely overlooked by the rest of the world, which never condemned its repression with the urgency and rigor that would have been appropriate.

The events in Tiananmen Square were the first exception to this pattern—the first time that Chinese Communist brutality was thoroughly recorded and reported, and the first time that virtually the whole world was willing to censure it.

Even though, inside China, the Communists are still doing all they possibly can to press ahead with their “Technique of Forgetting,” their “Special Propaganda Department” no longer exists. The position of the world’s opinion makers, and especially of the various reporters and observers inside China, has changed as well. In the early 1960s Edgar Snow was invited to stand next to Mao Zedong on top of the wall at Tiananmen and take part in the grand pomp and ceremony. By 1990, the lot of reporters had come to include beatings by troops at the base of that same wall. This has been one of the extremely significant changes occasioned by the Tiananmen events.

Hence, the “saturation of the market” by books about Tiananmen represents an important fact: while international concern about the regime’s repression may have to some extent faded, no longer will the Chinese Communists be able to hide beyond the reach of world opinion. Facts will no longer be so easy to cover up, and the real history of last year’s events cannot possibly be forgotten. This is an indispensable step in China’s joining the world and moving toward progress.

—translated by Perry Link

1 Human Rights in China, editor, Children of the Dragon (Collier, 1990).
2 Deng Xiaoping had advocated “Four Modernizations”: of the economy, the military, education, and science and technology. In a famous essay, the Democracy Wall activist Wei Jingsheng advocated that politics be the “Fifth Modernization,” meaning democracy.
3 Xu Liangying, a scientist, and Liu Binyan, a journalist, were both victims of the Anti-Rightist Movement and, in the 1980s, widely respected intellectual leaders in China. See Liu Binyan’s autobiography, A Higher Kind of Loyalty (Pantheon, 1990).
4 Edgar Snow, The Other Side of the River: Red China Today (Random House, 1961), p. 619.
Ιστορική αμνησία σε σχέση με την Καμπότζη των Κόκκινων Χμερ:

China Is Urged to Confront Its Own History
Dan Levin / ΝΥΤ

The tour guide outside the bloodstained classrooms of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the high school in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh transformed into a prison and torture center by the Khmer Rouge, paused to ask whether any tourists in the group were from China. Visibly relieved when no hands were raised, he went on to describe the enabling role that Beijing played in the Khmer Rouge’s murderous rampage that claimed the lives of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians beginning in 1975.

Later, he explained why he asked whether there were Chinese among his audience. “They get very angry when I say it was because of China that Pol Pot was able to kill so many people,” he said with evident frustration. “They claim it’s not true, and then say ‘We are friends now. Do not talk about the past.’”

As China prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II with a military parade in Beijing in September, the state news media has been hammering away at a central theme underpinning the government’s narrative about the suffering China endured under Japanese occupation: Tokyo must “face history,” goes the storyline and reaffirm its admitted wrongdoings. But China’s insistence that Japan face history is raising uncomfortable questions about Beijing’s own practice of suppressing historical truths about trespasses domestic and abroad.

Last week, People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, published a series of articles that accused the Japanese government of “whitewashing its wartime past” and warning that right-wing nationalists were plotting to return the country to its militaristic ways, potentially jeopardizing regional stability.

Premier Li Keqiang of China raised the issue during a televised news conference this month. “For leaders of a country, while inheriting the historical achievements made by their predecessors, they also need to shoulder the historical responsibilities for crimes committed by past generations,” he said.

Pivoting off such statements, a number of independent Chinese historians have tried to highlight the Communist Party’s role in the deaths of tens of millions during man-made famines and the political terror that marked its first decades in power — episodes that are erased from the nation’s official history.

“The Chinese government propagandizes the parts which it finds useful while ignoring aspects that could draw criticism,” said Zhang Lifan, a prominent historian who has sought to illuminate the party’s selective approach to its history, which is enforced through media censorship and book-publishing bans.

In recent months, the Japanese, too, have been calling on China to acknowledge its role in some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century.

Writing for the Japanese website JBpress, Kuni Miyake, a retired Japanese diplomat, castigated the Chinese government for mocking “the global standard of intellectual fairness” by refusing to accept accountability for the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s failed industrialization effort during the 1950s that some historians say led to the death of 45 million people by famine and other causes, as well as the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution that killed thousands and traumatized a generation.

“If China asks others not to whitewash the history of 80 years ago, Beijing should be able to also face the modern history of China in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and, of course, in 1989,” Mr. Miyake wrote, the last date a reference to the year Chinese troops gunned down unarmed civilians during the protests at Tiananmen Square. “So far, there are no history museums in China that face such history.”

In recent months, Beijing has repeatedly expressed consternation with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, a conservative who has sought to play down his country’s wartime atrocities in Asia while denying that thousands of “comfort” women and girls were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers.

Yet the Chinese government has been just as adamant in rejecting any parallels between Tokyo’s revisionist tendencies and its own refusal to acknowledge the tragedies that scar the nation’s recent past. “They are like wind, horse and cow, completely unrelated,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in response to faxed questions.

But in Cambodia, a small band of historians has been clamoring for Beijing to acknowledge its role in one of the worst genocides in recent history.

In the 1970s, Mao wanted a client state in the developing world to match the Cold War influence of the United States and the Soviet Union. He found it in neighboring Cambodia. “To regard itself as rising power, China needed that type of accessory,” Andrew Mertha, author of “Brothers in Arms: China’s Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979,” said in an interview.

According to Mr. Mertha, director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies program at Cornell University, China provided at least 90 percent of the foreign aid given to the Khmer Rouge, from food and construction equipment to tanks, planes and artillery. Even as the government was massacring its own people, Chinese engineers and military advisers continued to train their Communist ally.

“Without China’s assistance, the Khmer Rouge regime would not have lasted a week,” he said.

In 2010, the Chinese ambassador to Cambodia, Zhang Jinfeng, offered a rare official acknowledgment of China’s support of the Khmer Rouge, but said that Beijing donated only “food, hoes and scythes.”

Citing records and testimony from former Khmer Rouge officials, Youk Chhang, a survivor of the genocide and executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, disagreed. “Chinese advisers were there with the prison guards and all the way to the top leader,” Mr. Youk said. “China has never admitted or apologized for this.”

The Chinese government’s effort to shape the narrative about the nation’s past begins in schools. Four of the most widely used high-school history textbooks avoid any mention of the Khmer Rouge. They also omit China’s 1979 invasion of Vietnam, a monthlong war launched by Deng Xiaoping to punish the Vietnamese for toppling Pol Pot’s regime.

Unlike China’s battles against the Japanese, which often dominate prime-time television slots, the invasion of Vietnam gets scant screen time. The effort has been so successful that many university students in China have no idea that the war even took place.

The enforced historical amnesia about China’s invasion of Vietnam has come at a price. For years, thousands of the war’s veterans have complained of being denied benefits and adequate compensation for their role in the conflict. Many have been detained for protesting.

“I don’t think the government values us enough,” said Li Zizhong, 60, a veteran from the coastal city of Qingdao who has been petitioning the government for six years to increase his 350 renminbi (about $57) monthly subsidy. “Apart from that I have nothing.”

By contrast, Chinese textbooks go into great detail about the Korean War, officially known in China as “The War to Resist America and Aid Korea.” But Chinese textbooks ignore one pivotal detail of that conflict: that it started when North Korea invaded the South in June 1950. Instead, they state only that war “broke out.”

According to “War and Peace in the Twentieth Century,” a textbook published by the Chinese Ministry of Education, after United States troops “lit up the flames of war,” China was forced to secure the country’s “national safety and support the just cause of North Koreans which greatly enhanced the international status of China.”

Mr. Zhang, the historian, says the Communist Party’s refusal to permit an honest historical reckoning ultimately undermines China’s global standing.

“If China acknowledged its past one day and stopped hiding from history,” he said, “it would help on the world stage and win the party a lot more support from the Chinese people.”
Taking Feminist Battle to China’s Streets, and Landing in Jail

BEIJING — The young Chinese feminists shaved their heads to protest inequality in higher education and stormed men’s restrooms to highlight the indignities women face in their prolonged waits at public toilets.

To publicize domestic violence, two prominent activists, Li Tingting and Wei Tingting, put on white wedding gowns, splashed them with red paint and marched through one of the capital’s most popular tourist districts chanting, “Yes to love, no to violence.”

Media-savvy, fearless and well-connected to feminists outside China, the young activists over the last three years have taken their righteous indignation to the streets, pioneering a brand of guerrilla theater familiar in the West but largely unheard-of in this authoritarian nation.

Now five of them — core members of China’s new feminist movement — sit in jail, accused of provoking social instability. One of the women, Wu Rongrong, 30, an AIDS activist, is said to be ailing after the police withheld the medication she takes for hepatitis. Another, Wang Man, 33, a gender researcher, was said to have had a mild heart attack while in custody.

Lawyers for the detainees, who include Zheng Churan, 25, affectionately known as Big Rabbit, say the women have been subjected to near-constant interrogation.

The detentions took place early last month on the eve of International Women’s Day as the women planned a public awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transportation.

Now, as security agents from Beijing fan out across the country hunting down the volunteers who took part in the women’s theatrical protests, many young feminists have gone into hiding. “We’re so afraid and confused,” said one of them, Xiao Meili, 26, who recently completed a 1,200-mile trek across China to draw attention to sexual violence. “We don’t understand what we did wrong to warrant such a ferocious backlash.”

Despite government efforts to keep reporting of the crackdown out of the domestic news media, the jailing of the five women has not gone unnoticed here. Word has spread across college campuses, and more than 1,100 people took the risky step last week of adding their names to a petitiondemanding the women’s release.

Outside China, campaigners have used Facebook and Twitter to publicize the detainees’ plight, and Western governments have been issuing statements to protest their incarceration.

“If China is committed to advancing the rights of women, then it should be working to address the issues raised by these women’s rights activists — not silencing them,” said Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations.

From Morocco to India to New York, supporters have been posting images of themselves wearing masks that bear the photos of the jailed women. Because two of the detainees are lesbian and another is bisexual, overseas gay rights organizations like All Out have jumped into the fray, collecting more than 85,000 signatures and popularizing the hashtag #freethefive on Twitter.

As international attention to the women’s case mounts, some rights advocates see echoes of the public relations maelstrom surrounding the female Russian dissident group, Pussy Riot, whose members were arrested in 2012 for their protests against President Vladimir V. Putin.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said the five jailed feminists have drawn far more international attention than the scores of Chinese activists who have been detained during the previous two years of an intensified government drive against political dissent.

“Many people find it mind-boggling that the government of the second-largest economy and the world’s largest standing army is afraid of a group of women trying to draw attention to sexual harassment,” she said. “The combination of power and paranoia on display is very telling.”

Analysts say the effort to quash China’s nascent feminist movement represents a dismal milestone in the Communist Party’s war on grass-roots activism, a campaign that has gained momentum since President Xi Jinping came to power in November 2012. Unlike the government critics and political reform advocates jailed in earlier sweeps, the five detained women confined their activities to matters like domestic violence and discrimination against people with H.I.V. — issues that the government claims to have also embraced.

But rights advocates say security officials were evidently alarmed by the women’s skillful use of social media to organize volunteers, their links to foreign organizations, and the inventive protests and flash mobs that often drew favorable coverage in the Chinese media.

In contrast to the state-affiliated feminists and academics who have long dominated China’s gender-equality landscape, experts say the young mavericks prompted a seismic shift in women’s activism that yielded measurable results, including a landmark bill on domestic violence that is being considered by the national legislature.

“They have been very successful in using performance to provoke social dialogue on gender issues,” said Zeng Jinyan, a blogger who studies Chinese feminist activism. “I think we can call them the first modern, independent, feminist, grass-roots actors in Chinese history.”

Soon after coming to power in 1949, Mao Zedong outlawed forced marriages, prostitution and foot binding, and he introduced a groundbreaking marriage law that gave women the right to file for divorce. Women were considered equal to men, but only as a collective force for economic production, Ms. Zeng said. But in recent decades, as market economics took hold in China, unapologetic male chauvinism re-emerged, and with it, traditional notions of a woman’s role in the family. Women’s incomes have been falling compared with those of their male counterparts in recent years; just over 2 percent of Chinese women hold managerial positions; and all but two of the 25 Politburo members are men.

Many of the young activists, born in the 1980s and the coddled and well-educated offspring of China’s one-child policy, discovered in college that the Communist Party dictums on gender equality had become little more than window dressing.

Raised in China’s rural south, Wei Tingting, 26, is typical of the new brand of socially conscious women who have challenged the status quo. Soon after gaining a spot at the prestigious Wuhan University, Ms. Wei was drawn to feminist provocateurs in the West; during her sophomore year, she staged a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” drawing the ire of some male students, according to friends.

In 2012, as she, Li Tingting and another woman prepared for a Valentine’s Day protest against domestic violence in Beijing, she described the childhood trauma of watching men pummel their wives in public — including her own father. “People thought that women deserved beating,” she said, according to a video made at the time. “The worst thing is people tolerate it and accept it as a natural part of life, but no one believes beating a man is O.K.”

As a project manager at the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, Ms. Wei helped stage an annual AIDS Walk on the Great Wall, attended women’s conferences in India and South Korea, and started collecting footage for a documentary about bisexuality in China.

“She has so much passion and energy. You can find her at every event, whether it be about H.I.V., gender issues or bisexuality,” said Fan Popo, a filmmaker who made a movie about the staging of “The Vagina Monologues” and subsequently became Ms. Wei’s roommate after she moved to Beijing. “I would always joke that she has more film projects than me.”

In early March, Ms. Wei and the other detained women were preparing to stand outside subway stations and distribute stickers and leaflets to highlight the scourge of men who grope women on crowded trains and buses. But beginning on March 6, the police moved in, detaining nearly a dozen people in several cities. After a few days, all but Ms. Wei and the four others were released.

Lawyers for the women say the police have repeatedly flouted Chinese law. In addition to denying the women medication, the authorities failed to notify their families about the detentions, and in one instance, the police sat in on a meeting between Ms. Wei and her lawyer, Wang Qiushi.

“The interrogations have been exhausting,” Mr. Wang said by phone. “The police keep asking her the same questions over and over again and are pressuring her to sign a confession, which she refuses to do because she has not broken any law.”

The charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” carries a maximum five-year sentence in China, although it can be extended to 10 years if a defendant is convicted of organizing multiple public disturbances.

Officials at the Haidian District detention center where most of the women are being held declined to comment.

In the meantime, friends, relatives and fellow feminists are reeling. If the women are not released this week, it is likely they will be tried and convicted.

Mr. Fan, Ms. Wei’s roommate, said none of the women ever imagined they could be jailed for their work. He said that Ms. Wei had been doing laundry on the day she was summoned by the police and had left a load of clothing in the washing machine. “Clearly she thought she would be returning home in a few hours,” he said.

Mia Li and Patrick Zuo contributed research.
Εγγειοβελτιωτικά έργα...Άραγε πόσα τέτοια θα 'χουν κάνει και οι Αμερικανοί αλλού, ε;

Piling Sand in a Disputed Sea, China Literally Gains Ground (μετά ωραίων δορυφορικών φωτογραφιών)
While other countries in Southeast Asia, like Malaysia and Vietnam, have used similar techniques to extend or enlarge territory, none have China’s dredging and construction power.
Η σκατολογία δεν απαρέσκει στο κινέζικο χιούμορ (πβ. το πρώτο κεφάλαιο του Brothers, του Yu Hua). Εδώ, μαζί με άλλα ανέκδοτα, σχολιάζει τον "πόλεμο εναντίον της διαφθοράς".

Fun side of war on corruption
(Austin Ramzy / ΝΥΤ μέσω MCLC)
For officials under scrutiny, China’s corruption crackdown is no laughing matter. But for many others, it is.

President Xi Jinping’s aggressive effort to curb graft has inspired a wave of political jokes, most of which are generally supportive of the campaign and mock the unscrupulous officials targeted by investigators. Some hint at the shortfalls in the system that have allowed graft to thrive. Others paint the crackdown as a farce.

But the growing comedic collection suggests that the Chinese have realized that the crackdown is no passing fad, and that they might as well have some fun with it.

Even the Communist Party’s main anticorruption body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, has in a roundabout way acknowledged the significance of graft-inspired humor, saying that such jokes indicate a dangerous gap between officialdom and the public.

Below are some of the corruption jokes traded online via Sina Weibo and Wexin. Where possible, a source is identified, although most jokes have unclear origins.

One example:

Surplus funds were left over after a project was completed, and the local standing committee met to discuss whether it should be used to renovate the elementary school or the prison. Everyone had a different opinion.

Finally, one old committee member set everyone straight: “In this life, will we have any more opportunities to attend elementary school?”

There was silence. Some people wiped sweat from their brows. Others drank tea.

Soon after, everyone reached an agreement: Fix up the prison.

Some jokes refer to the bleakest aspects of the corruption crackdown, such as the deaths of suspects under investigation. The following was written in the form of an emergency warning:

With the gradual increase in the number of officials jumping from buildings, objects occasionally fall from a height, causing great casualties among people and animals. Therefore, everyone is solemnly reminded that when you go outdoors, be vigilant and pay attention to these things:

1. When walking on the street, avoid party committee, government and administrative buildings.
2. Keep far away from all upscale guesthouses, hotels and buildings.
3. When you are walking on the street, don’t keep your head down looking at WeChat on your phone. Instead, concentrate on objects falling from the sky. (After all, these objects weigh far more than ordinary people.) If you are a little bit careless, who knows if a party secretary, governor or minister might come falling down on you?

Other jokes express misgivings with the system as a whole:

A few days ago, a group of former classmates got together. One of them was a low-level boss in an Internet-monitoring office. I asked him what his office did. He said it was responsible for finding people who picked quarrels online and were unhappy with the government.

Another classmate said to him, “You mean there are people who are satisfied with the government?” He said, “Yes, there are, but we don’t deal with them. They’re the responsibility of the Discipline Inspection Commission.”

Xu Caihou, a former People’s Liberation Army general who admitted to taking bribes and who died of cancer in March while under investigation, is the subject of several jokes:

Some people asked, “Who was behind Gen. Xu Caihou?”

General Xu replied: “It’s the people. All my power has been entrusted to me by the people. So the people should think things over. They’re really the ones who should apologize.”

The Chinese comedian Joe Wong posted on Sina Weibo a screenshot of a 2008 interview by the Xinhua news agency that quoted General Xu as saying: “Only a clean military can be a victorious military.”

Mr. Wong added his own commentary: “There are some spoofs you can only laugh at seven, eight years later.”

Some of the jokes are a bit vulgar:

At the end of a meeting, Wang Qishan [who heads the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection] said suddenly, “After today’s meeting, there are two people who will have to stay behind!”

He then took a sip of water, lowered his head and looked at a list of names. There was complete silence in the room, and gradually the smell of urine filled the air.

Wang spoke again: “These two people, one is an executive at a state-owned enterprise, the other is a government official.”

Then he stopped again. Gradually the stench in the room worsened.

Finally, he said slowly, one word at a time: “These two people are Xu Jianyi of China FAW Group and Qiu He of the Yunnan provincial government. Those two stay. Everyone else can leave.”

After they left, the room was a mess. Wang told his deputies: “Comrades, if I can trouble you. Check the waste matter on the floor, and match it with the seating chart.”

“Secretary Wang,” said a deputy, “there was one who seemed to have left quite a bit more, Liao Yongyuan of PetroChina.”

Wang lifted his hand: “Investigate him.”

Last year, an article in the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s newspaper analyzed the tradition of political jokes in the Soviet Union, saying they reflected how the Communist Party in that country had failed to protect the interests of the people. The article called on cadres not to fall into such a trap, and cited a joke to show that China’s Communists were not about to collapse as their Soviet brethren did:

A Ukrainian got a phone call from a K.G.B. officer, who asked, “Why do you get so many packages from Israel?”

The Ukrainian replied, “During World War II, I sheltered a Jew, and now he sends me food.”

The officer replied that a Soviet citizen should not do such a thing. “Have you thought about your future?”

“I have,” the Ukrainian replied. “Next time, I plan to shelter a Chinese.”

Mia Li contributed research.


Staff member
China’s foreign ministry has threatened to punish a prominent non-governmental organisation that lobbied for the release of five women’s rights activists, saying the group must be held accountable for “breaking the law”.
Yirenping, an anti-discrimination NGO, has defended the rights of women and people with HIV, Hepatitis B and disabilities.
President Xi Jinping’s administration has detained hundreds of activists in the past two years, in what some rights groups say is the worst clampdown on dissent in two decades.

The women are still considered suspects in an ongoing criminal investigation and may face charges in the future, Wu's lawyer Liang Xiaojun told CNN.
They will be under surveillance for a year with their movements and activities restricted, and police can summon them for questioning at any time, Liang added.