Human Rights

Ren Zhiqiang appears to be the latest government critic silenced by the Communist Party as it cracks down on dissent over the epidemic.

NY Times
Date: March 14, 2020
By: Javier C. Hernández

His nickname in China was “The Cannon,” and Ren Zhiqiang’s latest commentary was among his most explosive yet.

Mr. Ren, an outspoken property tycoon in Beijing, wrote in a scathing essay that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, was a power-hungry “clown.” He said the ruling Communist Party’s strict limits on free speech had exacerbated the coronavirus epidemic.

Now Mr. Ren, one of the most prominent critics of Mr. Xi in mainland China, is missing, his friends said on Saturday.

His disappearance comes amid a far-reaching campaign by the party to quash criticism of its slow, secretive initial response to the epidemic, which has killed over 3,100 people in China and sickened more than 80,000.

The Chinese government is working to portray Mr. Xi as a hero who is leading the country to victory in a “people’s war” against the virus. But officials are contending with deep anger from the Chinese public, with many people still seething over the government’s early efforts to conceal the crisis.

Mr. Ren, a party member, is well known for his searing critiques of Mr. Xi. In 2016, the party placed him on a year’s probation for denouncing Mr. Xi’s propaganda policies in comments online.

The government has monitored Mr. Ren’s movements intensely ever since, friends said, preventing him from leaving the country and deleting his social media accounts, where he had built a wide following.

His whereabouts was unclear on Saturday, and the police in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We’re very worried about him,” said Wang Ying, a retired entrepreneur and friend of Mr. Ren’s. “I will continue to look for him.”    [FULL  STORY]

A new set of laws from CCP set out to exert further control in Tibet under guise of 'ethnic unity'

Taiwan News
Date: 2020/01/16
By: Chris Chang, Taiwan News, Staff Writer

Fewer Tibetan children have chance learning Tibetan language (Unsplash photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A new law passed by China's leaders in Tibet that systemizes ethnic unity in the region has drawn concerns about the future of Tibetan culture and identity.

"Regulations on the Establishment of a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress in the Tibet Autonomous Region" (Regulations), will go into effect on May 1. The law lists the duties of officials, schools, and social groups in the region to promote ethnic unity; as well as the penalties for separatists.

The regulations state: "Tibet has long been an unsplittable part of China and the country will insist on ethnic equity for the entire nation while using the correct methods to fix any ethnic conflicts in a Chinese way."

In response, Kunga Tashi, Chinese Communication and Outreach Officer for the New York-based Tibet Fund, told RFA on Tuesday: "China’s new law masks the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) hidden agenda to completely wipe out Tibetan culture and ethnicity.”

To achieve this, the authorities require, "Religious groups and schools to 'Chinalize' the religions and integrate ethnic unity into the doctrines to develop a religious culture that contributes to social development and harmony," Article 19 says.

Schools and officials should also enhance the promotion of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the "China Dream." Any organizations or individuals that "produce or disseminate ideas which damage ethnic unity" and "encourage separatism and influence social stability" will be reeducated or face criminal charges.    [FULL  STORY]

Voice of America
Date: January 13, 2020
By: VOA News

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, January 16, 2019. Picture taken January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke – RC1B472FE830

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, says China’s decision to deny him entry into Hong Kong shows "the downward trajectory of Beijing’s respect for human rights."

In an interview with VOA's Mandarin Service Monday, Roth said that his case illustrates the problem in Hong Kong which he said is Beijing’s undermining of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that China agreed to when Hong Kong was returned from Britain.

Roth had traveled to Hong Kong on Sunday with plans to launch the organization's “World Report 2020”.

Human Rights Watch was scheduled to release the report Wednesday at a news conference in Hong Kong. Roth said his introductory essay to the 652-page report "focuses on the way in which the Chinese government has not simply violated the rights of its citizens but is also making increasing efforts to undermine the enforcement of human rights around the world."

Roth said he was told by immigration officials that the reason he was being denied entry into Hong Kong was for “immigration reasons” but was given no further explanation.    [FULL  STORY]

BBC News
Date: 12 January 2020

Image captionKenneth Roth has been allowed to enter Hong Kong in the past

The head of US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says he has been denied entry to Hong Kong, where he had been planning to launch a report focusing on China's "assault" on human rights.

HRW said the move to block Kenneth Roth highlighted "vanishing freedoms" as a result of pressure from Beijing.

Hong Kong has been gripped by months of anti-government protests.

China had threatened sanctions on HRW and other American NGOs, which it said supported "anti-China" forces.

In a video filmed at Hong Kong International Airport and shared on Twitter, Mr Roth – a US citizen – said officials told him he was barred for "immigration reasons", even though he had visited the city before.

The BBC has contacted Hong Kong's immigration department for comment.

This year's HRW annual World Report, Mr Roth said, focused on "how the Chinese government is trying to deliberately undermine the international human rights system, not simply to suppress the rights of people at home but also undermine the ability of anybody else to try to hold China to human rights standards".    [FULL  STORY]

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

The Daily Beast
Date: Jan. 03, 2020
By: Nanfu Wang

Nanfu Wang, who co-directed the doc “One Child Nation” exploring China’s one-child policy, writes about how state media has scrubbed mentions of her film.

Courtesy Amazon Studios
Courtesy Amazon Studios[/caption]
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an experience I had as a 13-year-old vocational school student in China. Each night, every class in the school would have to watch Xinwen Lianbo, a daily news program produced by the state-run broadcaster, China Central Television. The same program was broadcast in every city in China, and in schools like mine, it was required viewing for everyone. 

To ensure that each student actually paid attention to the broadcast, we were required to write down 20 of the news stories mentioned during the program—10 domestic and 10 international. At the end of the week, every student’s news notebook would be carefully inspected, and anyone who failed to properly record the news reports would be publicly shamed on “Notice of Criticism” billboards positioned around main pathways throughout the campus. I remember being very afraid of seeing my name on those billboards. 

My news notebook became a fixation for me; it became a point of pride. I was proud of my meticulous reporting, the neatness of my handwriting, and the speed at which I could copy every detail. I memorized the format of the broadcasts—first 10 minutes: national leaders are having important meetings. Second 10 minutes: everyone in China is living a happy, prosperous life. Final 10 minutes: outside of China there are gunshots, misery, natural disasters, and Western anti-China forces are relentlessly trying to destabilize China and induce chaos in Chinese society. I carefully wrote it all down. 

The broadcasts became the lens through which I saw my country. It was my responsibility to internalize them, and I did. So did my friends, so did my family. Years later, I left China and began a reckoning with the image of China that had been presented to me. After studying abroad for a few years, I returned to China to make my first documentary Hooligan Sparrow, and in the process I was personally subjected to interrogations, police harassment, and physical threats. In subsequent years my family in China has withstood repeated inquiries from national security agents about me and my work.

Naturally, my perception of China has changed since the days when I copied down those nightly news broadcasts. The memory of those days has resurfaced recently, I suppose, because of my experience reckoning with the Chinese news media’s coverage of my most recent film, One Child Nation, a documentary about China’s one-child policy.

Most of China’s major entertainment publications thoroughly cover the Oscars each year, so when the Academy announced its 15 shortlisted films for the 2020 Best Documentary Feature award, many Chinese publications covered it. But each paper had a peculiarity in common: they each listed only 14 films.

One Child Nation, the documentary about China’s one-child policy that I co-directed with my friend Jialing Zhang, is included in this year’s shortlist, but no Chinese publication has made any mention of it. Any person living in China who might be following the Oscars would have no way of knowing that a Chinese film is a contender in this year’s documentary category. Even for people who have heard of the film, searching for the Chinese translation of the film’s title (独生子女国度 or 独生之国) within China generates no results, except for this message: “the result of this search cannot be displayed because it violates related laws and regulations.” 


This is nothing new. Several weeks ago, when the Producers Guild announced its seven nominees for Best Documentary Feature, Chinese media reported that six films had been nominated. And at the beginning of 2019, Chinese entertainment media’s coverage of the Sundance Film Festival awards excluded the detail that One Child Nation had won the Grand Jury prize for Best U.S. Documentary. 

In my work as a filmmaker, I’ve become familiar with the startling and perplexing reality of how carefully shaped and managed the flow of information is within China, so the censorship of my film wasn’t particularly surprising to me. The real surprise came when I posted about it on Chinese social media.

I took a screenshot of the 14 shortlisted films reported in Chinese publications. I posted the screenshot on my WeChat account (WeChat is a Chinese messaging app with more than 1 billion monthly active users) and wrote a caption, “15 films were on the short list, but one doesn’t exist in China.” A few minutes after I posted the screenshot, a good friend commented on the post, “Chinese documentaries about our fight against Uighur terrorists don’t exist on YouTube.” 

It took me a minute to make sense of what he said. Then I realized that he was referring to two documentaries, Fighting Terrorism and Black Hand, produced by China Global Television Network. I was surprised that my friend brought up these films, so I looked into them more deeply. 

The documentaries were released in late 2019 and show graphic images of terrorists in Xinjiang to justify China’s crackdown on Uighurs. The films were widely promoted online, and Chinese news media denounced how Western media had “censored” them. 

I’ve become familiar with the startling and perplexing reality of how carefully shaped and managed the flow of information is within China, so the censorship of my film wasn’t particularly surprising to me. The real surprise came when I posted about it on Chinese social media.

On Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper controlled by the state-run People’s Daily, an article appeared with the title: Xinjiang Documentary released, Western media collectively chose to be silent. It said, “Western media did not refute our facts, but downplayed and marginalized the film, preventing mainstream western audiences from hearing the Chinese voice. We must now break through this strategy of the western media and have our own independent channels to report these facts …”

In a video on Global Times, the spokesperson for the foreign minister address6ed Western media: “What I want to emphasize is that whether you report it or not, whether you want to report it or not, the facts and truths about Xinjiang are there, and the evidence is strong. Lies can’t cover the truth, just like dark clouds can’t cover the sun after all. I think as the media, you have such a social responsibility to present the most basic facts and truths to the readers objectively and fairly, rather than preconceived and selective deafness and blindness, misleading the audience.”

After reading about these two documentaries justifying China’s treatment of Uighurs, my friend’s point became evident to me: sure, Chinese media were complicit in the censorship of One Child Nation, but Western media are guilty of the same kind of censorship.     [FULL  STORY]

China’s Communist party is intensifying religious persecution as Christianity’s popularity grows. A new state translation of the Bible will establish a ‘correct understanding’ of the text

The Observer
Date: 13 Jan 2019
By: Lily Kuo in Chengdu

 Rush hour in the centre of Chengdu, home to the Early Rain Covenant Church, which has just been closed. Photograph: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images\

In late October, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning the Early Rain Covenant Church suddenly disappeared from the city of Chengdu, if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” said Wang Yi, leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. “I don’t know.”

Almost three months later, Wang’s hypothetical scenario is being put to the test. The church in south-west China has been shuttered and Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Now the hall Wang preached from sits empty, the pulpit and cross that once hung behind him both gone. Prayer cushions have been replaced by a ping-pong table and a film of dust. New tenants, a construction company and a business association, occupy the three floors the church once rented. Plainclothes police stand outside, turning away those looking for the church.

One of the officers told the Observer: “I have to tell you to leave and watch until you get in a car and go.”

Early Rain is the latest victim of what Chinese Christians and rights activists say is the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion.

Researchers say the current drive, fuelled by government unease over the growing number of Christians and their potential links to the west, is aimed not so much at destroying Christianity but bringing it to heel.

“The government has orchestrated a campaign to ‘sinicise’ Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party,” said Lian Xi, a professor at Duke University in North Carolina, who focuses on Christianity in modern China.    [FULL  STORY]

Leader of Early Rain Covenant, which is not sanctioned by Communist party, swept up in crackdown on religion under Xi Jinping

Reuters in Shanghai
Date: 30 Dec 2019

Wang Yi, pastor of the Early Rain Covenant church, has been jailed in China after being accused of inciting subversion. Photograph: Early Rain

A Chinese court has sentenced the pastor Wang Yi to nine years in prison on charges of inciting subversion of state power and illegally operating a business.

Wang was among dozens of churchgoers and leaders of the Early Rain Covenant church detained by police in December 2018. Most were subsequently released.

The church is one of China’s best-known unregistered Protestant “house” churches. Chinese law requires that places of worship register and submit to government oversight but some decline to do so and are called house churches.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom but since Xi Jinping became president six years ago the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the Communist party.    [FULL  STORY]

In Xinjiang the authorities have separated nearly half a million children from their families, aiming to instill loyalty to China and the Communist Party.

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 28, 2019
By: Amy Qin

Children leaving school in Hotan, China, this month. Beijing has used schools in the city and across the region of Xinjiang to indoctrinate Uighur children.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

HOTAN, China — The first grader was a good student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why.

“The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog. “When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.”

The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl’s father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in a state-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China’s far western Xinjiang region.

As many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population’s devotion to Islam. Even as these mass detentions have provoked global outrage, though, the Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region’s children.

Nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools so far, according to a planning document published on a government website, and the ruling Communist Party has set a goal of operating one to two such schools in each of Xinjiang’s 800-plus townships by the end of next year.

The party has presented the schools as a way to fight poverty, arguing that they make it easier for children to attend classes if their parents live or work in remote areas or are unable to care for them. And it is true that many rural families are eager to send their children to these schools, especially when they are older.

But the schools are also designed to assimilate and indoctrinate children at an early age, away from the influence of their families, according to the planning document, published in 2017. Students are often forced to enroll because the authorities have detained their parents and other relatives, ordered them to take jobs far from home or judged them unfit guardians.The schools are off limits to outsiders and tightly guarded, and it is difficult to interview residents in Xinjiang without putting them at risk of arrest. But a troubling picture of these institutions emerges from interviews with Uighur parents living in exile and a review of documents published online, including procurement records, government notices, state media reports and the blogs of teachers in the schools.

A boarding middle school in Hotan. A government document says such schools immerse children in a Chinese-speaking environment away from the influence of religion.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times\

State media and official documents describe education as a key component of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to wipe out extremist violence in Xinjiang, a ruthless and far-reaching effort that also includes the mass internment camps and sweeping surveillance measures. The idea is to use the boarding schools as incubators of a new generation of Uighurs who are secular and more loyal to both the party and the nation.

“The long-term strategy is to conquer, to captivate, to win over the young generation from the beginning,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington who has studied Chinese policies that break up Uighur families.

To carry out the assimilation campaign, the authorities in Xinjiang have recruited tens of thousands of teachers from across China, often Han Chinese, the nation’s dominant ethnic group. At the same time, prominent Uighur educators have been imprisoned and teachers have been warned they will be sent to the camps if they resist.

Thrust into a regimented environment and immersed in an unfamiliar culture, children in the boarding schools are only allowed visits with family once every week or two — a restriction intended to “break the impact of the religious atmosphere on children at home,” in the words of the 2017 policy document.

The campaign echoes past policies in Canada, the United States and Australia that took indigenous children from their families and placed them in residential schools to forcibly assimilate them.

“The big difference in China is the scale and how systematic it is,” said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado who studies Uighur culture and society.

Public discussion in China of the trauma inflicted on Uighur children by separating them from their families is rare. References on social media are usually quickly censored. Instead, the state-controlled news media focuses on the party’s goals in the region, where predominantly Muslim minorities make up more than half the population of 25 million.

Visiting a kindergarten near the frontier city of Kashgar this month, Chen Quanguo, the party’s top official in Xinjiang, urged teachers to ensure children learn to “love the party, love the motherland and love the people.”

Abdurahman Tohti, a Uighur living in Istanbul, saw his son in a video shared by a stranger on a Chinese social media platform.Credit…The New York Times

Indoctrinating Children

Abdurahman Tohti left Xinjiang and immigrated to Turkey in 2013, leaving behind cotton farming to sell used cars in Istanbul. But when his wife and two young children returned to China for a visit a few years ago, they disappeared.

He heard that his wife was sent to prison, like many Uighurs who have traveled abroad and returned to China. His parents were detained too. The fate of his children, though, was a mystery.

Then in January, he spotted his 4-year-old son in a video on Chinese social media that had apparently been recorded by a teacher. The boy seemed to be at a state-run boarding school and was speaking Chinese, a language his family did not use.

Mr. Tohti, 30, said he was excited to see the child, and relieved he was safe — but also gripped by desperation.

“What I fear the most,” he said, “is that the Chinese government is teaching him to hate his parents and Uighur culture.”

Beijing has sought for decades to suppress Uighur resistance to Chinese rule in Xinjiang, in part by using schools in the region to indoctrinate Uighur children. Until recently, though, the government had allowed most classes to be taught in the Uighur language, partly because of a shortage of Chinese-speaking teachers.

Then, after a surge of antigovernment and anti-Chinese violence, including ethnic riots in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital, and deadly attacks by Uighur militants in 2014, Mr. Xi ordered the party to take a harder line in Xinjiang, according to internal documents leaked to The New York Times earlier this year.

In December 2016, the party announced that the work of the region’s education bureau was entering a new phase. Schools were to become an extension of the security drive in Xinjiang, with a new emphasis on the Chinese language, patriotism and loyalty to the party.

In the 2017 policy document, posted on the education ministry’s website, officials from Xinjiang outlined their new priorities and ranked expansion of the boarding schools at the top.

Without specifying Islam by name, the document characterized religion as a pernicious influence on children, and said having students live at school would “reduce the shock of going back and forth between learning science in the classroom and listening to scripture at home.”

By early 2017, the document said, nearly 40 percent of all middle-school and elementary-school age children in Xinjiang — or about 497,800 students — were boarding in schools. At the time, the government was ramping up efforts to open boarding schools and add dorms to schools, and more recent reports suggest the push is continuing.

Mahmutjan Niyaz, a Uighur businessman living in Istanbul, learned last year that his 5-year-old daughter was sent to a boarding school in Xinjiang after his relatives were detained.Credit…The New York Times

Chinese is also replacing Uighur as the main language of instruction in Xinjiang. Most elementary and middle school students are now taught in Chinese, up from just 38 percent three years ago. And thousands of new rural preschools have been built to expose minority children to Chinese at an earlier age, state media reported.

The government argues that teaching Chinese is critical to improving the economic prospects of minority children, and many Uighurs agree. But Uighur activists say the overall campaign amounts to an effort to erase what remains of their culture.

Several Uighurs living abroad said the government had put their children in boarding schools without their consent.

Mahmutjan Niyaz, 33, a Uighur businessman who moved to Istanbul in 2016, said his 5-year-old daughter was sent to one after his brother and sister-in-law, the girl’s guardians, were confined in an internment camp.

Other relatives could have cared for her but the authorities refused to let them. Now, Mr. Niyaz said, the school has changed the girl.

“Before, my daughter was playful and outgoing,” he said. “But after she went to the school, she looked very sad in the photos.”

The Kasipi Village Elementary School near Hotan was converted into a full-time boarding school last year, according to an online diary of a Chinese language teacher there. Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times\

‘Kindness Students’

In a dusty village near the ancient Silk Road city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang, nestled among fields of barren walnut trees and simple concrete homes, the elementary school stood out.

It was surrounded by a tall brick wall with two layers of barbed wire on top. Cameras were mounted on every corner. And at the entrance, a guard wearing a black helmet and a protective vest stood beside a metal detector.

It wasn’t always like this. Last year, officials converted the school in Kasipi village into a full-time boarding school.

Kang Jide, a Chinese language teacher at the school, described the frenzied process on his public blog on the Chinese social media platform WeChat: In just a few days, all the day students were transferred. Classrooms were rearranged. Bunk beds were set up. Then, 270 new children arrived, leaving the school with 430 boarders, each in the sixth grade or below.

Officials called them “kindness students,” referring to the party’s generosity in making special arrangements for their education.

The government says children in Xinjiang’s boarding schools are taught better hygiene and etiquette as well as Chinese and science skills that will help them succeed in modern China.

“My heart suddenly melted after seeing the splendid heartfelt smiles on the faces of these left-behind children,” said a retired official visiting a boarding elementary school in Lop County near Hotan, according to a state media report. He added that the party had given them “an environment to be carefree, study happily, and grow healthy and strong.”

But Mr. Kang wrote that being separated from their families took a toll on the children. Some never received visits from relatives, or remained on campus during the holidays, even after most teachers left. And his pupils often begged to use his phone to call their parents.

“Sometimes, when they hear the voice on the other end of the call, the children will start crying and they hide in the corner because they don’t want me to see,” he wrote.

“It’s not just the children,” he added. “The parents on the other end also miss their children of course, so much so that it breaks their hearts and they’re trembling.”

The internment camps, which the government describes as job training centers, have cast a shadow even on students who are not boarders. Before the conversion of the school, Mr. Kang posted a photo of a letter that an 8-year-old girl had written to her father, who had been sent to a camp.

“Daddy, where are you?” the girl wrote in an uneven scrawl. “Daddy, why don’t you come back?”

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she continued. “You must study hard too.”

Students in Hotan playing soccer in a schoolyard with a dormitory in the background. Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

Nevertheless, Mr. Kang was generally supportive of the schools. On his blog, he described teaching Uighur students as an opportunity to “water the flowers of the motherland.”

“Kindness students” receive more attention and resources than day students. Boarding schools are required to offer psychological counseling, for example, and in Kasipi, the children were given a set of supplies that included textbooks, clothes and a red Young Pioneer scarf.

Learning Chinese was the priority, Mr. Kang wrote, though students were also immersed in traditional Chinese culture, including classical poetry, and taught songs praising the party.

On a recent visit to the school, children in red and blue uniforms could be seen playing in a yard beside buildings marked “cafeteria” and “student dormitory.” At the entrance, school officials refused to answer questions.

Tighter security has become the norm at schools in Xinjiang. In Hotan alone, more than a million dollars has been allocated in the past three years to buy surveillance and security equipment for schools, including helmets, shields and spiked batons, according to procurement records. At the entrance to one elementary school, a facial recognition system had been installed.

Mr. Kang recently wrote on his blog that he had moved on to a new job teaching in northern Xinjiang. Reached by telephone there, he declined to be interviewed. But before hanging up, he said his students in Kasipi had made rapid progress in learning Chinese.

“Every day I feel very fulfilled,” he said.

A Uighur child doing his Chinese homework at a bus stop. The government says minority children will have better prospects if they are fluent in Chinese, but Uighur activists worry about losing their culture.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

‘Engineers of the Human Soul’

To carry out its campaign, the party needed not only new schools but also an army of teachers, an overhaul of the curriculum — and political discipline. Teachers suspected of dissent were punished, and textbooks were rewritten to weed out material deemed subversive.

“Teachers are the engineers of the human soul,” the education bureau of Urumqi recently wrote in an open letter, deploying a phrase first used by Stalin to describe writers and other cultural workers.

The party launched an intensive effort to recruit teachers for Xinjiang from across China. Last year, nearly 90,000 were brought in, chosen partly for their political reliability, officials said at a news conference this year. The influx amounted to about a fifth of Xinjiang’s teachers last year, according to government data.

The new recruits, often ethnic Han, and the teachers they joined, mostly Uighurs, were both warned to toe the line. Those who opposed the Chinese-language policy or resisted the new curriculum were labeled “two-faced” and punished.

The deputy secretary-general of the oasis town of Turpan, writing earlier this year, described such teachers as “scum of the Chinese people” and accused them of being “bewitched by extremist religious ideology.”

Teachers were urged to express their loyalty, and the public was urged to keep an eye on them. A sign outside a kindergarten in Hotan invited parents to report teachers who made “irresponsible remarks” or participated in unauthorized religious worship.

Officials in Xinjiang also spent two years inspecting and revising hundreds of textbooks and other teaching material, according to the 2017 policy document.

Some who helped the party write and edit the old textbooks ended up in prison, including Yalqun Rozi, a prominent scholar and literary critic who helped compile a set of textbooks on Uighur literature that were used for more than a decade.

Mr. Rozi was charged with attempted subversion and sentenced to 15 years in prison last year, according to his son, Kamaltürk Yalqun. Several other members of the committee that compiled the textbooks were arrested too, he said.

“Instead of welcoming the cultural diversity of Uighurs, China labeled it a malignant tumor,” said Mr. Yalqun, who lives in Philadelphia.

There is evidence that some Uighur children have been sent to boarding schools far from their homes.

Kalbinur Tursun, 36, entrusted five of her children to relatives when she left Xinjiang to give birth in Istanbul but has been unable to contact them for several years.

Last year, she saw her daughter Ayshe, then 6, in a video circulating on Chinese social media. It had been posted by a user who appeared to be a teacher at a school in Hotan — more than 300 miles away from their home in Kashgar.

“My children are so young, they just need their mother and father,” Ms. Tursun said, expressing concern about how the authorities were raising them. “I fear they will think that I’m the enemy — that they won’t accept me and will hate me.”    [SOURCE]

American universities need to show Beijing—again and again—that they reserve the right to unfettered debate.

The Atlantic
Date: December 28, 2019
By: Rory Truex

The 14th Dalai Lama arrives to deliver the commencement speech to the 2017 graduating class at UC San Diego in San Diego, California, U.S. June 17, 2017. REUTERS/ Mike Blake – RC1479F59EE0

About five times a year, the U.S. military conducts freedom-of-navigation operations, or FONOPs, in the South China Sea to challenge China’s territorial claims in the area. American Navy vessels traverse through waters claimed by the Chinese government. This is how the U.S. government registers its view that those waters are international territory, and that China’s assertion of sovereignty over them is inconsistent with international law.

Americans are witnessing a similar encroachment on territory equally central to our national interest: our own social and political discourse. Through a combination of market coercion and intimidation, the Chinese Communist Party is trying to constrain how people in the United States and other Western democracies talk about China.

This encroachment needs a measured response—what we might call freedom-of-speech operations, or FOSOPs for short. American universities can take the lead. They should routinely hold events on the fate of Taiwan, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, and other topics known to be sensitive to the Chinese government. These events can be organized by students, faculty, or research centers. They need not originate from university administration. If anything, the message that FOSOPs send—everything in the United States is subject to open debate, especially on college campuses—is even stronger if the pressure comes from the grass roots.

Last month’s NBA-China spat crystallized the basic problem. After the Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protesters, Rockets games and gear were effectively banned in China, costing the team an estimated $10 million to $25 million. It has become common for the Chinese government to force Western firms and institutions to toe the party line. Gap, Cambridge University Press, the three largest U.S. airlines, Marriott, and Mercedes-Benz have all had China access threatened over freedom-of-speech issues. This list will continue to grow. Recently, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV canceled the showing of an Arsenal soccer game because the club’s star, Mesut Özil, had criticized the ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government regularly uses coercive tactics to affect discourse on American campuses, including putting pressure on universities that invite politically sensitive speakers. This is precisely what happened at the University of California at San Diego, which hosted the Dalai Lama as a commencement speaker in 2017. The Chinese government, which considers the Tibetan religious leader a threat, responded by barring Chinese scholars from visiting UCSD using government funding.

There is also disturbing evidence that the Chinese government is mobilizing overseas Chinese students to protest or disrupt events, primarily through campus chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. These groups exist at more than 150 universities and receive financial support from the Chinese embassy in the United States. As Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reported last year in Foreign Policy, the embassy can exert influence over the chapters’ leadership and activities.

The goal of freedom-of-speech operations is safety in numbers. Other universities remained largely mum after the Chinese government moved to punish UCSD, effectively inviting Beijing to deploy similar tactics against other schools in the future. But imagine if instead there had been an outpouring of events on Tibet or invitations for the Dalai Lama. Coordination is key. An affront to one American university should be taken as an affront to all.

At Princeton, where I teach, we held three FOSOPs in recent weeks: the first on Xinjiang, sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions; the second on Hong Kong, sponsored by a student group that promotes U.S.-China relations; and a third on Xinjiang, also sponsored by students. These events were not labeled as FOSOPs, of course; I, not the organizers, am applying the term. The panels occurred independently, organically, and with no real interference or involvement from university administration, other than to ensure the safety and security of our students.    [FULL  STORY]

Contrary to what many in the West think, many Chinese citizens appreciate the social credit system for instilling a sense security and certainty in the society.

The News Lens
Date: 2019/12/18
By: Xinyuan Wang

Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

The Chinese social credit system has been given an unequivocally negative reception by the media in the West. Set to be rolled out nationwide in 2020, the system has even been described by one journalist as China’s “most ambitious project in social engineering since the Cultural Revolution.”

On the surface, this reaction is understandable. Once the system is fully implemented, Chinese citizens will be given a social credit score based on their deeds. For example, failure to pay a court bill or playing loud music in public may cause a low score. This score can dictate what rights people have. Those on the “blacklist” are prevented from buying plane or train tickets, for instance, as well as working as civil servants or in certain industries.

The fact that big data and facial recognition technology will be applied for the purpose of monitoring citizens raises various human rights concerns. Not surprisingly, the scheme has been described as a “digital dictatorship” and a “dystopian nightmare straight out of Black Mirror.”

But what these accounts lack is a sense of how the system is perceived from within China, which turns out to be rather complicated. My 16-month ethnographic study found that ordinary Chinese people perceive and accept the system differently — and most of them seem to welcome it.
[FULL  STORY]