Twitter Removes 936 Chinese Accounts in a Disinformation Crackdown

The News Lens
Date: 2019/08/21
By: Oiwan Lam, Global Voices

On August 19, Twitter revealed that 936 accounts originating from China were "attempting to sow political discord” in Hong Kong in order to "undermine the legitimacy and political positions” of the anti-extradition movement on the ground.

Upon investigations, Twitter believed that the information operation was state-backed in a coordinated manner.

Although Twitter is blocked in China since 2009, some of the above accounts had accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China, the company explained. Moreover, the 936 accounts were merely the most active ones and there existed a larger network of approximately 200,000 accounts created as part of this operation. The company said that it suspended all of the accounts for a number of violations of its "platform manipulations policies”, including spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts, attributed activity, and ban evasion.

Although Twitter stated that the company was "committed to understanding and combating how bad-faith actors use [their] services”, a simple search could still bring the audience to a huge number of disinformation about the protests in Hong Kong on the platform.    [FULL  STORY]

UNIQLO says logo was added without permission

Taiwan News
Date: 2019/08/21
By: Zin Kao, Taiwan News, Staff Writer

Zhao Bang’s T-shirt promotion picture (Source: Wechat)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Chinese artist Zhao Bang (趙邦) was arrested for a T-shirt design hinting at the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, HK01 reports.

The design uses emojis to depict police surrounding and shooting civilians, which are arranged in a way that suggests the Chinese characters for “six" and "four” (六四) or “June 4,” the date the massacre took place. It is sold on Wechat @dixiaowei456 (繪畫藝術壞蛋店), an online shop with the same name as its owner, Di Xiaowei (邸小偉).

T-shirt design hinting at Tiananmen Square massacre (Source: Zhou Fengsuo Twitter)

Both Zhao and Di were arrested by the Chinese police. Overseas Chinese democratic activist Wang Zhongxia (王仲夏) took to Twitter to warn that the police are now investigating the buyers of the shirts, and called on the public to be aware of the Chinese government’s suppression of art expression.

Japanese apparel retailer UNIQLO has denied cooperation with Zhao and pointed out that its logo was added to the promotional photo without its permission, though UNIQLO said that it understood it as part of the artist’s creation. Another overseas Chinese activist, Zhou Fengsuo (周鋒鎖), who first revealed Zhao’s arrest, also confirmed on Twitter that the T-shirt was not UNIQLO's.

Date: 4th June 2019
By: James Griffiths, CNNHong Kong

Credit: Badiucao

For years, Chinese artist Badiucao has operated anonymously, wearing a mask whenever he appears in public. But now, on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, he has revealed his face for the very first time.

Badiucao's name is a pseudonym adopted years ago, when he began posting caustic political cartoons lampooning the Chinese Communist Party online. He was quickly banned from Chinese social media and forced to operate outside the Great Firewall, China's vast online censorship apparatus.

In 2009, Badiucao moved to Australia, where he has since become a citizen, renouncing his Chinese passport. But even then, he did not reveal his identity. Like the UK-based graffiti artist Banksy, he operated in the shadows, carrying out most of his work online or on the streets, and only appearing at exhibitions in heavy disguise.

During the filming of a documentary about his work — which aired Tuesday night on Australian television — Badiucao and director Danny Ben-Moshe initially went to extreme measures to maintain this secrecy. At home in Melbourne and during a year working with world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Berlin, Ben-Moshe filmed Badiucao from behind, or in disguise, taking care to avoid anything that could be used by the Chinese authorities to identify him.

Chinese dissident artist's Hong Kong show canceled over 'safety concerns'
"Most of the shots were of my back, avoiding showing the shape of my body," Badiucao told CNN in a phone interview. "We were also aware of showing my fingerprints or the shape of my ear. AI technology has evolved so much that I was worried even a bit of my body could compromise my identity."    [FULL  STORY]

The Chinese government has said the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, which left hundreds of protesters dead, was not a mistake. The defense came days ahead of the 30th anniversary of the killings.

Deutsche Welle 
Date: June 2, 2019     

Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe on Sunday defended the bloody crackdown on protesters Tiananmen Square  almost three decades after it took place.

The response was a rare acknowledgment of the killings, which had followed seven weeks of protests in 1989 by students and workers calling for democracy and an end to corruption.

Hundreds, possibly more than 1,000 people were killed when soldiers and tanks chased protesters and onlookers in the streets around the square. One secret British diplomatic cable put the possible number of dead at up to 10,000.

Wei said the action was necessary to avoid political instability, and questioned why people still said that China has not handled the situation well.

“That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy,” Wei told a regional security forum in Singapore.

“The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” Wei said in response to a question from the audience. He said that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development.”    [FULL  STORY]

The way officials have responded to the spread of African swine fever has brought back uncomfortable memories of SARS. 

Date: April 23, 2019
By: Adam Minter

Chinese pig farms have been devastated.  Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a familiar and ominous story. A deadly pathogen with no known cure begins spreading in China. Rather than acknowledge the problem, officials throughout the Chinese government shut down media coverage, while underreporting infection and mortality rates for fear of career and political repercussions. Just as the true scale of the epidemic emerges, Chinese officials declare victory.

In 2002 and 2003, that was roughly the course of the deadly, incurable SARS pandemic that emerged in southern China and disrupted global travel, commerce and health. In 2018 and 2019, it’s an accurate description of how China has mismanaged an epidemic of African swine fever that’s on course to kill 130 million pigs — or roughly one-third of China’s herd, the biggest in the world.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Post-SARS, China supposedly reformed its system so that secrecy, careerism and concerns over China’s international image wouldn’t again take precedence over public health. Thankfully African swine fever only affects pigs. But the epidemic highlights how hard old habits die, and how systemically unprepared China is to report and manage the inevitable next epidemic that kills people.

For decades, the Chinese government’s top priority has been the preservation of social stability. Mainly this is promoted through economic development policies designed to enrich and placate China’s vast population, especially in the countryside. Meanwhile, events that the government views as potentially threatening tend to be suppressed. For example, in 1976, the government censored reporting on the Tangshan earthquake, a catastrophic event that killed more than 500,000 people, for fear of how the public would react to the death toll and the government’s inadequate response.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: Feb 19, 2019
By: Joshua Keating

Side-by-side photos of Ai Weiwei and the poster for Berlin, I Love You.
Ai Weiwei; Berlin, I Love You promotional poster
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for PEN America.

Artists working under authoritarian governments often face a heart-wrenching choice between three not-so-appealing options: Cooperate with the censors, defy them, or flee to a country with a more permissive political climate. For Chinese filmmakers, the third may no longer be an option: The Communist Party’s censorship extends beyond the country’s borders.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that a segment from the anthology film Berlin, I Love You directed by the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, while he was under house arrest in Beijing, was cut from the film’s final version released this month due to concerns about offending the Chinese government. The film, part of the Cities of Love series in which multiple directors are commissioned to create shorts set in a particular city, features Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, and Diego Luna in other segments. Ai’s short, which was directed remotely from China in 2015 and featured his 5-year-old son, who lived in Germany, was, he claims, not overtly political. (Ai has since relocated to Germany himself.) The next installment of Cities of Love is planned for Shanghai, which may have made investors particularly skittish.

Ai has had success as a filmmaker outside China: His documentary Human Flow, which I interviewed him about in 2017, was distributed globally. But he’s somewhat radioactive for producers and distributors who want to stay in the good graces of the Chinese authorities.

This report came a few days after news that the new film by Chinese director Zhang Yimou had been withdrawn from competition in the Berlin Film Festival for “technical reasons,” which in China is frequently a euphemism for censorship. Zhang, the best known of the “Fifth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers who emerged in the 1980s, struggled with censorship early in his career but has long been considered an officially approved establishment figure in China. Internationally, he’s best known for martial arts epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, as well as directing the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics (in a stadium designed by Ai Weiwei). The new film, One Second, takes place during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, a politically sensitive period, but it’s odd that censors waited so long to step in. Under new regulations, Chinese films need to obtain a “travel permit” to be shown internationally, in addition to passing through normal domestic censorship. One Second was one of two Chinese films withdrawn from Berlin this year for censorship reasons.    [FULL  STORY]