Human Rights

Focus Taiwan
Date: 2019/03/13 
By: Li Jiabao (李家寶)

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) A Chinese student in Taiwan said recently that he hoped China would

Li Jiabao (李家寶)

one day become a democratic nation like Taiwan and he expressed the view that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) ambition was to be like the emperors of the past.

“The current situation in China is even worse than before the 1911 Xianhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty in China),” Li Jiabao (李家寶) said in a live stream Monday on Twitter from National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan.

Li Jiabao (李家寶)

In the video titled “I oppose,” Li criticized Xi’s decision last year to remove the two-term limit on the presidency.

With that move, modern politics in China has become an extension of the past autocratic empires, Li said, adding that Xi is now “Emperor Ching Feng (慶豐帝).”

China’s global kidnapping campaign has gone on for years. It may now be reaching inside U.S. borders.

Foreign Policy
Date: Marxch 29, 2018
By: Zaxch Dorfman

ILLUSTRATIONS BY ANTHONY FREDA FOR FOREIGN POLICY

Before he disappeared from his luxury apartment at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong on Jan. 27, 2017, Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-Canadian billionaire, favored female bodyguards. Why, exactly, was unclear: Perhaps he simply liked being surrounded by women; perhaps he trusted them more than men.

Whatever the reason, those guards weren’t much help when a group of mysterious men showed up at his apartment that January day and took him away. According to anonymous sources who viewed the hotel’s internal video feed and later spoke to the New York Times, Xiao, who may have been sedated, was rolled through the Four Seasons lobby in a wheelchair, a sheet covering his head. He was then reportedly loaded onto a boat and ferried to the Chinese mainland.

In what has become a familiar script for such disappearances, an initial police report filed by a family member was quickly withdrawn, and Xiao later issued a statement denying that he had been kidnapped. More than one year later, he remains in mainland China, and though he has not yet been charged with any crime, his businesses, under government direction, are expected to sell almost $24 billion in investments, which will reportedly be used to repay state banks.

Such stories are not unique. In October 2015, Chinese government operatives kidnapped Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-based book publisher and bookstore owner, from his apartment in Thailand. Months later, Gui, a Swedish citizen, resurfaced in China, declaring on state television that he had turned himself in to face decade-old drunk driving charges. Gui’s colleague, Lee Bo, a dual Chinese-British national, also appears to have been kidnapped in Hong Kong in December 2015 by Chinese security forces and brought back to the Chinese mainland.

Over the years, the cases have started to pile up. In 2002, Wang Bingzhang, a prominent pro-democracy activist, was seized in Vietnam by Chinese operatives and thrown into prison on the mainland, where he remains to this day. Two years later, another well-known dissident, Peng Ming, was kidnapped in Myanmar and jailed in China; in late 2016, he died under suspicious circumstances in prison.    [FULL  STORY]

Hudson Institute
Date: September 17th, 2014
By: Michael Pillsbury

Image of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong at ‘Fun and Art’ Festival on December 13, 2008 in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China. (China Photos/Getty Images)

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China while standing atop Beijing’s Gate of Heavenly Peace. In the decades that followed, many China watchers in the West confidently predicted the fall of his regime. Others hoped that a cadre of moderates in the Beijing government would lead to a kinder, gentler, more democratic China.

As China turns 65 in a couple weeks, its ruling Party appears nowhere close to planning its retirement party. It is stronger, more nationalistic and more committed to maintaining one-party rule than at any time since Mao’s death.

Nor has President Xi Jinping been the moderate reformer some hoped for. Under the cover of anti-corruption, Mr. Xi has consolidated his power over the party and squelched talk of democracy. In a speech to the National Congress earlier this month, he said that preventing the government from becoming “leaderless [and] fragmented” with “political fighting and wrangling between political parties” was among his top priorities. Even in Hong Kong, the last bastion of political freedom in China, Mr. Xi has ruled out free elections for 2017.

What happened? How did Western policy makers and academics repeatedly get China so wrong? To this day there is no expert consensus on China’s economic growth and GDP, the size of its military and intelligence budgets, or even its intentions toward the West. Much less is there consensus on what direction China will take, even though most evidence points to political retrenchment, surging nationalism and opposition to the postwar international system.

Western governments failed to understand Mao’s China from the beginning. The experts in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations believed it would not enter the Korean War. Kennedy and Johnson believed that China would stay out of Vietnam. Every American administration up to that point also believed that China would be permanently aligned with the Soviet Union as something of a junior partner. Then a Sino-Soviet border war broke out in 1969, shocking the U.S. foreign policy establishment.    [FULL  STORY]

Can a political system be democratically legitimate without being democratic?

The Atlantic
Date: May 29, 2015
By: Daniel A. Bell

JERRY LAMPEN / REUTERS

The flaws in China’s political system are obvious. The government doesn’t even make a pretense of holding national elections and punishes those who openly call for multiparty rule. The press is heavily censored and the Internet is blocked. Top leaders are unconstrained by the rule of law. Even more worrisome, repression has been ramped up since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, suggesting that the regime is increasingly worried about its legitimacy.

Some China experts—most recently David Shambaugh of George Washington University—interpret these ominous signs as evidence that the Chinese political system is on the verge of collapse. But such an outcome is highly unlikely in the near future. The Communist Party is firmly in power, its top leader is popular, and no political alternative currently claims widespread support. And what would happen if the Party’s power did indeed crumble? The most likely result, in my view, would be rule by a populist strongman backed by elements of the country’s security and military forces. The new ruler might seek to buttress his legitimacy by launching military adventures abroad. President Xi would look tame by comparison.

A more realistic and, arguably, desirable outcome would involve political change that builds on the advantages of the current system. But what exactly are the good parts of the Chinese political model? And how can they be advanced without repression? I believe the model can be improved in a more open political environment and, eventually, put before the people in a popular referendum.    [FULL  STORY]

Activists are speaking out for those imprisoned in Xinjiang—even if their own government doesn’t like it.

Foreign Policy
Date: March 4, 2019
By: Reid Standiah,Aigerim Toleukhanova

Gulnur Kosgeulet shows a photo of her husband, Ekpor Sorsenbek, who she believes is in a re-education camp in Xinjiang, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 21. (Reid Standish for Foreign Policy)

ALMATY, Kazakhstan—Gulzira Auelkhankyzy remembers little about the January day when she was released from Xinjiang’s vast network of re-education camps. Auelkhankyzy, an ethnically Kazakh Chinese citizen, spent 15 months inside an internment camp, where she was regularly interrogated, forced to give blood, and required to learn Chinese and Communist Party songs. Auelkhankyzy was then coerced into signing a contract and sent to a “black factory” in October 2018, where she worked long hours sewing gloves for a measly wage. By the time Auelkhankyzy was taken to the border with Kazakhstan, she said, she was so exhausted and sick from her ordeal that she can barely remember the crossing.

Now back in Kazakhstan, she has joined the growing chorus of voices speaking out against the sweeping internment program in China’s western region of Xinjiang, where United Nations human rights officials estimate the authorities currently hold a million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities. It’s causing uproar among Kazakhs—and sparking heavy-handed pushback from a government that critics say is more interested in maintaining good relations with Beijing than protecting its own people.

Auelkhankyzy credits her freedom to her husband, who is a Kazakh citizen, and his efforts in lobbying the Kazakh government for help and raising attention to her case on social media and by speaking to local and international journalists. Like many Kazakhs and Uighurs in China, Auelkhankyzy does not read Chinese. When she first learned of her release, Auelkhankyzy was forced to sign pages of documents that she did not understand before having her passport returned to her. She was told by Chinese officials that her relatives in China would face consequences if she spoke about the camps once back in Kazakhstan. Her two daughters and her elderly parents are still in Xinjiang. Despite the threats, however, she insists on speaking out about what she experienced.

“I know how awful these camps are, and I want the world to know about them,” Auelkhankyzy said during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. “In Kazakhstan I can speak about this, so I am doing it on behalf of those still trapped in Xinjiang.”    [FULL  STORY]

The Sidney Morning Herald
Date: March 6, 2019
By Kirsty Needham

A passenger at Beijing Railway Station goes through a self-service ticket checking machine by getting his face recognised and ID card scanned. This is then linked to data to see if the person is on a black list.CREDIT:SANGHEE LIU

Beijing: The vast scale of China’s evolving social credit system has been detailed by the government, with officials revealing on Wednesday that 3.59 million people had been forced to repay debts after being “restricted everywhere”.

Academics at universities who have plagiarised others’ work have been blocked from promotions or receiving awards, and an actress was prevented from boarding a plane at Beijing airport because of an unpaid fine from a defamation case she lost in court, in just two examples to come to light.

Lian Weiliang, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, which is overseeing the project, said all Chinese individuals and organisations now have a unique social credit code.

He said that “untrustworthy behaviour” had fallen by 60 per cent after 19 government departments began sharing the information on their black lists and enforcing punishments.
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In the past year, reports on the social credit of individuals had been accessed two billion times.

The debts owed by blacklisted people totalled 4.4 trillion yuan ($931 billion). Of this, 10 billion yuan in unpaid taxes had been recovered, and 16 billion yuan in unpaid wages for migrant workers had been paid by employers after they were blacklisted.

First conceived in 2014, China’s social credit system aims to harness data to reward good behaviour and punish rule breaking. Trials of the scheme have focused on punishing tax evasion, fraud, fine defaulters and unpaid court debts.

“Let the trustworthy travel smoothly and let the untrustworthy be restricted everywhere,” Lian told reporters on Wednesday, adding that implementation of the system would accelerate this year.

The Paper, a Shanghai newspaper, reported that actress Michelle Ye had been prevented from leaving China last month by border authorities after a Shanghai court put her on a blacklist in December for failing to pay a fine in a social media defamation case.

Ye was ordered back to Shanghai to submit an apology letter to the court and pay the 80,000 yuan fine, after being intercepted at Beijing airport.

Lian said academic misconduct was also covered by the system.    [FULL  STORY]

Researcher discovers servers in China collecting data on 364 million social media profiles daily.

ARS Tchnica
Date: 3/5/2019
By: Sean Gallagher

BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 05: Deputies of the 13th National People’s Congress listen to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speech during the opening of the Two Sessions at The Great Hall of People on March 5, 2019 in Beijing, China. According to the government report, the target GDP growth for 2019 is 6-6.5%. In 2019, China’s defense budget will be 1189.9 billion yuan, an increase of about 7.5%. (Photo by Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

As the National People’s Congress gathers in Beijing for the beginning of China’s “Two Sessions” political season, state media is making an international propaganda push on social media—including on platforms blocked by China’s “Great Firewall”—to promote China’s “system of democracy.”

That system of democracy apparently involves mass surveillance to tap into the will of the people. While China’s growth as a surveillance state has been well-documented, the degree to which the Chinese leadership uses digital tools to shape the national political landscape and to control Chinese citizens has grown even further recently. That’s because authorities have been tapping directly into Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members’ and other Chinese citizens’ online activities and social media profiles.

The little red app
The China Media Project reports that the CPP has mandated party members download a new smartphone application called “Xi Study (Xue Xi) Strong Nation” (学习强国)—an application that provides a library of articles and videos carrying the teachings of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Party and government groups were to institute mandatory group training periods using Xi Study—similar to the periods of study of Mao’s “Little Red Book” once required by the party.

The application also tracks how much time each party member spends on each Xi-related activity. Points are awarded every time they complete an activity, with bonus points awarded for completing “Xi Jinping Thought” articles or videos watched during “lively intervals,” or huoyue shiduan (活跃时段)—Monday through Friday from 8:30pm to 10pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30am to 10:30am and 3:30pm to 4:30pm.”    [FULL  STORY]

The New York Times
Date: March 6, 2019
By: Nick Cumming-Bruce

Michelle Bachelet, center, before a speech in Geneva on Wednesday detailing the state of global human rights.CreditCreditSalvatore Di Nolfi/EPA, via Shutterstock

GENEVA — The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet mentioned potential rights violations in China and Israel in an address on Wednesday that condemned a litany of “gross inequalities” at play across the world today.

Ms. Bachelet pressed China to allow an independent inquiry into reports of abuses and enforced disappearances in the country, particularly in the western region of Xinjiang, where the Muslim Uighur minority resides.

Stability and security in Xinjiang, an area at the center of China’s $1 trillion “Belt and Road” initiative, “can be facilitated by policies which demonstrate the authorities’ respect of all people’s rights,” she said.

Ms. Bachelet also had harsh words for Israel’s blockade of Gaza, saying the policy had left “more than 70 percent of people on humanitarian assistance, primarily food.”

Ms. Bachelet’s statement to the United Nations Human Rights Councilin Geneva was her first annual assessment of global rights since she took up her post in August.

Here are some of the major cases she cited.

China’s mass re-education program

While Ms. Bachelet praised the rapid economic progress that has lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty in recent years, she was critical of Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang. Uighurs there have increasingly been targeted by the authorities, including being rounded up en masse.

Ms. Bachelet’s highlighting of the situation in Xinjiang will probably annoy Beijing, which sharply denies that it has forcibly detained upward of one million Uighurs. The government says the camps are intended to eliminate the risk of Islamist radicalization.

But academic research and news reports have challenged those claims. After the issue was brought to global attention last year, China embarked on an intensive information campaign including guided tours to Xinjiang for diplomats stationed in Beijing. The visits were carefully choreographed to reinforce the official narrative that the camps provided vocational training to improve livelihoods in one of China’s poorest regions.

Rights groups say Ms. Bachelet should continue to push for access for independent monitors.

“We should expect a firm rebuke from the Chinese delegation” Sarah Brooks, a China specialist at the nonprofit International Service for Human Rights, said. “The High Commissioner should be prepared to stand her ground on these demands.”    [FULL  STORY]

Business Insider
Date: Feb. 23, 2019
By: Alexandra Ma 

A map showing some Belt and Road Initiative land routes that run through China’s Xinjiang. BI Graphics
  • China is assembling a massive trade project — the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — which aims to connect the country with new infrastructure.
  • Many of these projects pass through Xinjiang, a region in western China home to the beleaguered Uighur Muslim people.
  • Beijing has been cracking down on Uighur life in on Xinjiang. Officials say its repression is a necessary counter-terror operation, but experts say it’s actually to protect their BRI projects.

The Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang, western China, are living in one of the most heavily-policed and oppressive states in the world. This map helps explain why.

People in Xinjiang are watched by tens of thousands of facial recognition cameras, and surveillance apps on their phones. An estimated 2 million of them are locked in internment camps where people are physically and psychologically abused.

China’s government has for years blamed the Uighurs for a terror, and say they saying the group is importing Islamic extremism in Central Asia.    [FULL  STORY]

The Washington Post
Date: February 23, 2019
By: Editorial Board

The Chinese database that Victor Gevers, a Dutch cybersecurity researcher, found online has given a rare glimpse into China’s extensive surveillance of Xinjiang, a remote region home to an ethnic minority population that is largely Muslim. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

AT A minimum, the minority Muslim Uighur population of Xinjiang province in China is about 11 million people, and probably significantly higher. So consider the scope of surveillance over Uighurs in light of a recent database leak that indicated about 2.5 million people in Xinjiang are being tracked by cameras and other devices, generating more than 6.6 million GPS coordinates in one 24-hour period, much of it tagged with locations such as “mosque” and “hotel.”

Victor Gevers, a security researcher for the GDI Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to defend Internet freedom, found the database, belonging to SenseNets, a Chinese company that provides facial recognition and other monitoring systems to the police. The company had left the database unguarded but closed it off when Mr. Gevers inquired. It included records such as identification numbers, gender, nationality, address, birth dates, photographs, employers and which cameras or trackers they had passed. Mr. Gevers suggests that more than a quarter of those in the database appear to be ethnic Uighurs, although it also included Han Chinese and others.

The data provides another glimpse into the darkening world of Xinjiang, which China’s authorities have turned into a zone of repression. In addition to ubiquitous electronic and physical surveillance, an estimated 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims have been incarcerated in concentration camps where, witnesses say, they are being brainwashed to wipe out their traditional culture and language.    [FULL  STORY]