Category Archives: intimidation

“China Launches ‘Strike Hard’ Campaign in Tibetan Areas”

TCHRD reports that Chinese authorities in northeast Amdo have started one of their much-loved Strike Hard movements in response to the self-immolations:

This public notice, written in Tibetan and Chinese languages, was issued on 9 March 2012, a politically sensitive month for the Chinese authorities in Tibet. This notice, issued in all eight counties of Kanlho Prefecture, is prominently displayed in the streets, on the walls and even on the tree trunks.

The ‘Strike Hard’ campaign, also known as Yanda in Chinese, was first launched in China in 1983 to crack down on crimes such as gun and gang crime, telecom fraud, human trafficking, robbery, prostitution, gambling and drugs, etc. But in Tibet, the campaign is used for political purposes to forewarn Tibetans from taking part in any of protests and demonstrations during politically-sensitive months. Human rights activists have said that many human rights violations in Tibet occur during the implementation of the Strike Hard campaigns.

Below is a translation of the Notification:

Notification of Kanlho Public Security Bureau Encouraging the Masses of Kanlho Prefecture to Expose and Report on Anyone Committing Illegal Activities Harming Social Stability

To maintain Kanlho social and political stability, speed up and promote the building of a “harmonious Kanlho”, create a favorable economic and investment environment, prevent and strike hard on illegal and criminal acts that endanger social stability, to encourage the broad masses to actively expose the criminals, by reporting to PSB, which has been authorized by the relevant stability maintenance authority to issue the following notice:

I. The Public Security organs will strike hard on anyone engaging in the following acts, which seriously harm national security and disrupt social stability, undermine national unity:

1) Instigating inter-ethnic relations, creating unrest between nationalities, engaging in ethnic separatism and destroying national unity.

2) Inciting and advocating the public to split the nation by means of speeches, writings, drawings and films, etc. are acts that threaten social order and social stability.

3) Participating in and promoting illegal organizations or giving guidance and donations to such organizations are acts that endanger national security and harm social stability.

4) Fabricating and disseminating rumors on social networking sites, distributing harmful information through internet and phone, are illegal acts that harm social stability.

5) Devising plans to engage in illegal activities of “beating, smashing, looting, burning” and other violent means to disrupt social order and public security

II. The broad masses of the people should actively take action, and actively provide clues for the public security organs to expose these criminal acts. Anyone who reports such criminal activities to public security organs shall be provided personal protection and their identities will be kept confidential as well as rewarded a minimum Yuan 5,000.

III. This directive will be implemented from the day of the announcement.

Essentially, “if you act Tibetan we will destroy you.”

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Filed under ethnic conflict, intimidation, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“Chatting with China’s security apparatus”

Melissa Chan from Al Jazeera is still one of the best things to happen to China journalism in a long time- in her most recent blog post she describes a run-in with state security while trying to interview Chinese lawyer Pu Zhiqiang:

Al Jazeera’s team decided to speak to rights attorney Pu Zhiqiang, known for his work representing Ai Weiwei and himself an object of frequent police surveillance, to solicit his opinion.

What happened next was not surprising, but on this day, felt particularly ironic: plainclothes police officers prevented us from interviewing Pu on camera, even as we explained to them that this new legislation would curtail their state security powers.

The language used by the officers, who refused to identify themselves, might also be interesting to those unfamiliar with this kind of state apparatus: Orwellian, wrapped in code, and offering our crew “recommendations” that if disobeyed, could have meant some physical confrontation from the two men in sunglasses who were called up for reinforcement during the following exchange.

This took place in the private office of rights attorney Pu Zhiqiang. The officers present were from China’s “guo bao” — its national security/secret police ministry. They had no legal basis to be there.

Despite no prerogative to do so, we offered to allow the officers to sit in on the interview. We even offered them to record the questions we wished to ask Mr. Pu. I felt that the questions were very straightforward.

Read the rest to see what they said. Pretty unbelievable.

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February 2nd: Latest on Tibet Crackdown

Phayul reports that China has been making mass arrests in Kardze:

Chinese authorities have arrested a hundred Tibetans from Drango, eastern Tibet on suspicion of their participation in the January 23 mass protests in the region.

Chinese security personnel are reportedly arresting the Tibetans with the aid of photos and videos taken during the protests.

“We will arrest even if 10,000 people rise up,” US based radio service RFA quoted an unnamed Tibetan as being told by Chinese security officials.

The arrested Tibetans have reportedly been taken to the Ra Nga Kha prison in Bamei, located between Dartsedo [in Chinese, Kangding] and the Tawu [in Chinese, Daofu].

Exile sources say that the entire Drango region remains cut-off from outside world as phone lines and internet connections continue to be inactive.

This (Chinese language) blogger has amassed a number of pictures showing how heavy the police and military presence is in Lhasa.

ICT has new details from Golog, where Lama Sopa self-immolated two weeks ago:

Tibetan laypeople sought to protect monks in Golog (Chinese: Guoluo) from arrest by armed troops after a peaceful protest, according to new information on unrest and crackdown in the area in recent weeks.

On January 18, around 20 monks from Arkyang monastery in Pema (Chinese: Banma) county, Golog (the Tibetan area of Amdo), staged a peaceful protest in Pema county town. A Tibetan source in exile who is in contact with others in the area said that some monks were holding banners with inscriptions calling for the Dalai Lama to return home, for freedom, and for the Chinese authorities to release the 11th Panchen Lama. Some monks from another monastery in the area, Digung, also joined the protest.

The next day (January 19), a group of around ten armed police and officials from Pema county went to Arkyang monastery and called for the expulsion of monks who had taken part in the protest, threatening the monastery with closure. On January 20, armed police and troops came to the monastery again and attempted to detain monks. “At the same time, more than 500 local people came to the monastery and protected the monastery and monks from the troops. They were threatened by the armed forces but they did not back off,” said a Tibetan from Amdo who is now in exile and is in contact with sources from Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which neighbors Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi). It is not known whether the officials and troops succeeded in detaining any monks that day, or since then, due to the difficulties in obtaining information from the area and the intense climate of fear.

On January 21, officials came to Arkyang (a Jonang Buddhist monastery) again and ordered monks to carry out “legal education” instead of their religious practice. According to the same sources, a number of monks left the monastery on the first day of the “legal education” campaign.

On that subject, SFT has a transcript of the last recorded message left by Lama Sopa:

To all the six million Tibetans, including those living exile — I am grateful to Pawo Thupten Ngodup and all other Tibetan heroes, who have sacrificed their lives for Tibet and for the reunification of the Tibetan people; though I am in my forties, until now I have not had the courage like them. But I have tried my best to teach all traditional fields of knowledge to others, including Buddhism.

This is the twenty-first century, and this is the year in which so many Tibetan heroes have died. I am sacrificing my body both to stand in solidarity with them in flesh and blood, and to seek repentance through this highest tantric honor of offering one’s body. This is not to seek personal fame or glory.

To all my spiritual brothers and sisters, and the faithful ones living elsewhere: You must unite and work together to build a strong and prosperous Tibetan nation in the future. This is the sole wish of all the Tibetan heroes. Therefore, you must avoid any quarreling amongst yourselves whether it is land disputes or water disputes. You must maintain unity and strength. Give love and education to the children, who should study hard to master all the traditional fields of studies. The elders should carry out spiritual practice as well as maintain and protect Tibetan language and culture by using all your resources and by involving your body, speech and mind. It is extremely important to genuinely practice Buddhist principles in order to benefit the Tibetan cause and also to lead all sentient beings towards the path of enlightenment. Tashi Delek.

No need for Beijing to put any words in the mouths of the self-immolators now. Finally, ICT has a report about evidence of systematic job discrimination against Tibetans in Tibet:

New translations of job advertisements in Tibet, both online and as notices posted in public spaces, confirm overt discrimination against Tibetans. The ads also reveal that Tibetans are not even being offered menial, unskilled work in some sectors, or if they are, they are in some instances being offered a wage significantly lower than their Han counterparts.

The practice of advertising positions “limited to Han” is also observed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – referred to by its historical name of East Turkistan by many Uyghurs in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and in exile – although based on a basic survey of online employment agencies by ICT, the practice appears to be more common in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and in Lhasa in particular.

In almost all of the ads the stipulation “limited to Han” (Ch: xian Hanzu) – or simply “Han” (Ch: Hanzu) – is placed among other requirements and qualifications for the job in question, such as age, experience or holding a driver’s license.

In at least one instance, Tibetan laborers were offered a significantly lower rate than their Han counterparts. A blackboard seen in an undated photograph outside the Hongqiao Employment Agency in central Lhasa clearly states Han laborers will be paid 50 yuan (US $8) per day while Tibetans will only be paid 30 yuan (US $4.75) per day (see here).

The practice of limiting recruitment to Chinese job applicants can be seen in other areas of the PRC which, like the TAR, are designated “nationality autonomous” in recognition of the fact that the populations of these areas are or were prevalently non-Han. In East Turkistan for example, an advertisement appeared on the Jimusa’er County government website seeking several Han health workers (see here) – according to the 2002 census, around 30% of the county’s population was non-Han, while Hotan City Tobacco Monopoly Bureau, also in East Turkistan, was hiring 10 people, and stipulated that eight should be Han and only two should be Uyghurs (see here) – Han make up less than 4% of Hotan Prefecture’s population according to official statistics, while Uyghurs make up almost 93% (See “Introduction to Hotan” (in Chinese) on the Hotan City Government website. A hotel in Ordos in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region advertised for almost 160 people in various positions, and stipulated for each of the positions that the applicants should be Han (see here). In a job advertisement for truck drivers seen on an job-search site in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the text reads “To make life easier (Ch: weile shenghuo fangbian), limited to Han”.

Putting a stop to practices like this would likely go some of the way towards lowering tensions in Tibetan regions, but doing so would involve having the government acknowledge the validity of minority concerns. Beijing is absolutely dedicated to denying them right now, and instead viewing problems as the fault of the Dalai Lama that can be resolved only by force.

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Filed under Dalai Lama, enforced disappearance, ethnic conflict, intimidation, protests, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“China boosts police presence in restless Xinjiang”

So… Beijing is worried that Uyghur activists will glance south, see what’s happening in Tibet and want to get in on the action themselves? AP reports:

Officials plan to recruit 8,000 officers to ensure every village in Xinjiang has at least one on patrol, the Xinhua News Agency said.

Their primary tasks will be “security patrols, management of the migrant population and cracking down on illegal religious activities,” it said. The officers will be joined in their tasks by security guards and local militia, who are typically unarmed, Xinhua said.

Xinjiang regional spokeswoman Hou Hanmin confirmed to The Associated Press that the 8,000 officers were being recruited under a “one village, one officer” campaign. She said their main job would be to improve public services.

The deployment also appears aimed at avoiding a Xinjiang crisis during a year that will see the start of a generational leadership transition in Beijing.

Given what a resounding success that strategy has been in Tibet, I can see why Beijing would try the same thing on Xinjiang.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, intimidation, Xinjiang

“The China Syndrome: The Sequel”

Evan Osnos has a writeup about the Christian Bale incident that happened yesterday, in which the Hollywood star tried to visit Chen Guangcheng and was roughed up by goons:

On Thursday, CNN reported that Bale contacted the station and asked if a crew would accompany him to none other than Linyi, the human-rights hotspot, to visit the home of blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who has been illegally held under house arrest since being released from prison in 2010. As with many of the journalists, lawyers, and activists who have sought to do the same, Bale and the CNN crew got only as far as a cordon of local thugs, who pushed the actor and journalists around and chased them away. “Why can I not visit this free man?” Bale asks repeatedly, in the tape of the encounter, while guards in central-casting brute suits of thick green winter coats bat at the cameras and order him to “Go away.”

It all adds up to the most intriguing collision of media, celebrity, and Chinese politics since Steven Spielberg pulled out of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics over his objections to Chinese policy in Darfur. When news broke of Bale’s trip to Chen’s village, some on the Chinese Web saw a publicity stunt—“If you’re studying marketing, learn from this,” a commentator wrote on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter—but the far broader reaction was positive. People praised Bale for taking an interest in a case that deserves it, and Murong Xuecun, a prominent author and liberal commentator, wrote: “Because of Christian Bale, I’ll support Zhang Yimou and go see the movie tonight.”

I suspect we’ve not heard the last of this story. In China, cases like these can proceed in unpredictable directions, and the days ahead are likely to include: 1) an obligatory editorial in the state press advising Hollywood actors to keep out of China’s “internal affairs”; 2) a nationalist backlash; 3) high-profile red-carpet questions posed to director Zhang Yimou about what he thinks of Chen’s case and his actor’s activism.

This story, by all accounts, has proved more surprising than the movie’s. Stay tuned.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, human rights, intimidation

“Four Uyghurs Arrested for Attending Koran Study Group in Urumqi”

Looks like Beijing is still mad about the attacks and protests last summer:

Four Uyghur men were arrested last Saturday in their apartment in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, for “engaging in illegal religious activity.” The local police confirmed the arrests to Radio Free Asia but refused to give any details. An overseas Uyghur organization said that a “Hundred Day Crackdown” was launched in Aksu last week and so far 11 people have been arrested, including women, and that more than 20 people were fined for engaging in religious activities.

The authorities regard any study of the Koran done outside government-approved venues to be “illegal activity.” On Wednesday, Dilshat, the spokesperson of the German-based World Uyghur Congress, told Radio Free Asia that at least four young Uyghurs were arrested recently in Urumqi for engaging in religious activities. He said, “On the 26th, Urumqi police burst into Room 602, Unit 7, Building 2, on South Road in Dalan Town and arrested four people, accusing them of illegal scripture exposition and being engaged in religious activities. Police beat and insulted them, confiscated some religious publications, and are holding them at the police station on Minghua Street.” When our journalist called the police station, the police confirmed the arrests but refused to say how the case was being handled.

As a warning, the authorities are fining people who study the Koran, Dilshat said, and so far 23 people have been given fines of 2,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan. He said, “The Department of Public Health in the Yutian district of Hetian county issued a notice to investigate Uyghurs who wear veils. They even set up a special task group to detain and investigate serious offenders.” He also said that 27 retired Uyghurs officials in Hetian county were required to sign a statement pledging that they, as well as their spouses, children, relatives and friends, would no longer participate in religious activities. The Land Resources Bureau of Moyu county issued a notice forbidding officials and employees, as well as their families and relatives, to wear veils and other clothing with strong religious connotations, or to engage in any illegal religious activities.

The authorities’ main goal in the “Hundred Day” crackdown is to deter people from “engaging in illegal religious activities.” A Xinjiang resident surnamed Li said, “Aksu and Kashgar are in south Xinjiang and have high concentrations of Uyghur population – controls have always been tight. The definition set by the Aksu administrative offices of what constitutes religious freedom stems from the Communist Party; it’s not based on what the Constitution says about religious freedom.” Dilshat thinks that the government’s intention is very clear. He said, “The crackdown is clearly [meant to be] a provocation to the religious faith of the Uyghur people. The government wants to achieve its goal of controlling the area by suppressing religious activities and systematically persecuting the Uyghur people. I believe various forms of resistance will occur.” Winter has already set in in Xinjiang, but the authorities are not letting their guard down at all, according to Mr. Li. He said “It’s getting cold here. Right now we are mostly seeing a lot of vehicles patrolling the neighborhoods. There are a lot of police cars, SWAT unit vehicles and large trucks on the streets, while the number of beat cops has decreased somewhat.”

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Filed under ethnic conflict, intimidation, Islam, Xinjiang

“Beijing Police Tackling Interceptors, Black Jails”

I’m struggling to come up with an analogy here. It’s like the fox guarding the chicken coop… from dogs? And also all of the chickens are also foxes? Apparently someone is trying to get Beijing police to stop interceptors from preventing petitioners from reaching the government in Beijing… but the interceptors are also following orders from up top, so… what?!

Last year, Chinese media exposed the workings of one of China’s darkest industries: security firms that prevent citizens from filing complaints with central authorities, and resort to aggressive or violent tactics to detain them in black jails.

Reports at the time focused on how the Beijing-based Anyuanding Security Firm—at the behest of officials from other parts of the country seeking to hit state-mandated targets for social stability—manhandled and detained petitioners who had traveled to the capital to express discontent about their local governments. The firm made 21 million yuan in profits in 2008, and employed 3,000 people before media reports exposed its activities.

Now, Beijing police say they are cracking down on the informal business of “intercepting,” by strengthening regulations, requiring certification and levying fines for what they said is an illegal practice.

“We draw the line at interception,” said Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) official He Gang to Beijing Times. “This line cannot be crossed.”

“Security guard companies are a mess,” Zhang said, noting that some security guards resort to violence to catch and stop petitioners.

He Gang said no certified firms participated in intercepting this year. The new rules stipulate that firms will pay a penalty between 20,000 and 100,000 yuan for every illegal detention that occurs.

But if the petitioners reach the government and actually start petitioning, all hell breaks loose. Maybe this ‘increased regulation’ thing is just a way for Beijing police to extract bribes from interceptors without actually interfering in their intercepting? We’ll see what comes of this (likely nothing).

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Filed under bribery, corruption, enforced disappearance, intimidation

“China’s Reporters are Dancing in Shackles”

Leave it to the Epoch Times to slam Chinese media in just the right way. Following ‘Journalist Day,’ they’ve collected quite a bit from Chinese journalists on their reaction to the celebrations, and a list of recently attacked journalists:

Among numerous official celebrations and propaganda pieces that filled Chinese media on Chinese Journalist Day, the most noteworthy one was a directive by the heads of propaganda departments of local communist Party offices, which reiterated the importance of journalists “firmly grasping the correct direction of public opinion.”

Another example of a Journalist Day message was being spread from the regime controlled Tibet Radio: “We must thoroughly expose and criticize the reactionary nature of the Dalai [Lama] group, seize the Internet to combat the high ground of public opinion on Tibet, [and] control the outreach media initiatives.”

And what were Chinese journalists saying on that day?

“Another Journalist Day, and media technology has been continuously advancing, but there are not many journalists with moral values left,” a reporter from China’s Yahoo News center said on Weibo.com, China’s largest microblogging site.

Cao Lin, editor of China Youth Daily, said: “On previous Journalist Days, we used to ask for press freedom and protection from violence against reporters. This year, we will strive for the right to reject fake news. In order to not publish fake news, the first thing is to reject news templates approved by authorities, which are used to manipulate public opinion and silence different voices. They are the start of fake news reports.”

“The job of the press and electronic media [in China] is to promote the government, not to report the truth,” Chinese author Murong Xuecun said in a recent speech at the Oslo House of Literature, reprinted by the Sydney Morning Herald on Nov. 25.

Reporting the truth that makes the regime look bad comes with a high price in China. Journalists face being fired or being physically attacked in the streets.

Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2010 world press index placed China 8th from the last of 178 countries and regions surveyed. In Nov. 2010, 31 journalists and 75 netizens were detained in China, which is on the RSF list of “Enemies of the Internet” and is ranked 171st out of 178 countries in its latest world press index, RSF said on its website.

In September, Southern Metropolis reporter Ji Xuguang, who broke the sex slave scandal in Luoyang City, was harassed and threatened by local officials. Ji was accused of disclosing “state secrets.” He asked for help via Weibo and escaped Luoyang City with his wife and his brother. Ji is said to have scars all over his body from violence he encountered during the ten years of his career as a reporter.

In July the investigative news department of China Economics Times, where celebrated Chinese journalist Wang Keqin worked, was closed down.

On May 12, the third anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake, Southern Metropolis published an article criticizing shoddy construction of buildings–referred to as “tofu-dregs projects” in China–while supporting artist Ai Weiwei. The author, Song Zhibiao, was forced to resign.

Deng Cunyao, a reporter for Fujian Province Longyan City Television, was attacked on his way to work in October 2010. Deng suffered a broken leg and was left disabled. The reason for the attack was that Deng accused the director of Longmen Clinic of embezzlement of compensation money meant for village doctors.

In August 2010, the Guangdong Provincial Propaganda Department banned renowned commentator and reporter Chang Ping from publishing on the Southern Metropolis. Chang’s reports are mostly breaking news commentaries and criticism aimed at the regime. Chang was previously silenced after the publication of his March 14, 2010 report on the Tibetan protests.

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Filed under censorship, intimidation, journalism

“Tibetans in China seek fiery way out of despair”

Reuters has been nosing around Tibetan areas and come out with a lot of quotes, which makes a nice contrast with the “well, the Dalai Lama says one thing and the Chinese government says another, so… maybe the truth is in the middle?!” laziness of certain other media outlets:

The Ganden Jangchup Choeling Nunnery stands hidden from view on an isolated mountain-top in southwestern China, accessible only by a twisting, rocky road. It was here, in a mud-brick hut, that Palden Choetso lived.

The 35-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun burned herself to death on a public street an hour’s drive away earlier this month, the latest in a string of self-immolations to protest against Chinese religious controls over Tibet.

“She had drunk several jin of gasoline,” a senior religious figure at the nunnery told Reuters, referring to a traditional weight of measure that is about half a kilogram. “We got a call that she had set herself on fire, and a few of us went down to try to save her. But it was too late.”

Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, said that his interviews and reports among the monastic communities suggest that tensions are worse now than in March 2008, when deadly riots against the Chinese presence spread across Tibetan regions ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

“So far, the escalation and the rise in tensions is unprecedented,” he said. “One of the main concerns of the government is they don’t exactly know how to respond to this.”

“Normally they rely on fear and intimidation,” Bequelin said. “But how do you intimidate people who are ready to set themselves on fire?”

Most of the people who Reuters spoke to in three Tibetan towns in Ganzi prefecture approved of the grisly act.

“I think they are all heroes,” said a woman shopkeeper selling Tibetan religious artwork in the heavily Tibetan town of Danba, giving the “thumbs up” as she spoke. “The central government says our policies on the Tibetans are good. But all they do is suppress the Tibetan people.”

“There will be more. This is just the beginning,” she said. “There’s no other way out.”

A monk at the Jingang Temple in Kangding town concurred: “Many Tibetans support it, and I support it too. They gave up their lives for the Tibetan race.”

The Karmapa Lama, ranked third in the hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, appealed last week for Tibetans not to set themselves on fire, saying he hoped they would find more constructive ways to advance their cause.

The self-immolations have been concentrated in Ganzi and the neighboring Aba prefecture. Most residents are Tibetan herders and farmers, many of whom have long resented Chinese rule.

“This was not far from the areas where the first big battles began against the Chinese in the mid-1950s,” Barnett said. “These are people who are not easily pushed around, especially now when their religious institutions are being interfered with in a way that is not seen by them as justifiable.”

All the monks who were interviewed by Reuters spoke of decades of “patriotic re-education” campaigns, during which they are forced to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and occasionally denounce the Dalai Lama.

In Daofu, where monks have been jailed for “splittist” activities, they say they live in fear of the police and are wary of arrest. All of them asked that their names not be used.

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“China’s economic rise hasn’t brought moves toward democracy”

In the midst of a broader article, Tom Lasseter has the story of one of the independent candidates whose campaign was destroyed over the last few months:

Lu Weixing decided this year to run as an independent candidate for a local council position in Beijing.

Lost for the right words to describe what came next, he stuck his hand into his pocket and fished out a white and orange Vitamin C tube. He tilted it forward until a single tooth rolled out.

“They beat me and then I lost a tooth,” Lu said recently.

Voting for the largely powerless councils happened Tuesday. Lu’s name was not on the ballot.

His quirky and unsanctioned campaign in west Beijing included wearing a cap with a long queue braid reminiscent of the Qing Dynasty. It was a reminder that although 100 years have passed since the Qing fell, China’s central government is still ruled by non-elected officials.

Lu said that one afternoon in September, a group of plainclothes security officers told him to cut it out. When he refused, Lu said, the men dragged him into a grove of trees and kicked him in the face. Uniformed police were called to the scene, he said, and they broke up the melee. Still, the damage was done.

During lunch the next day, Lu said, he felt his tooth loosening, and when he gave a little tug, it popped out.

Lu said the local election office had refused to give him the form needed to collect signatures to certify him as a candidate. When friends submitted one on his behalf, Lu said, it was ignored.

“By law we’re able to run as candidates,” Lu said, apparently not sure how to finish the sentence.

Another independent in the west of the capital, Han Ying, managed to be accepted as a candidate. But as elections approached she reported being hounded by both police and unidentified men. The day she was scheduled to meet with a McClatchy reporter, Han called to give her regrets.

“When I stepped outside to walk my son to school this morning, a policeman stopped me,” explained Han, who said her name was ultimately omitted from ballots.

Again, these are candidates for small-time local offices which have no real power. Think about what it means that their attempts to run necessitated so much force from Beijing.

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Filed under independent candidates, intimidation, violence

“Another Tibetan Nun Dies by Self-Immolation”

Apparently moving in thousands of troops to intimidate and beat people hasn’t remedied the situation (via NYT):

The death of the nun, Qiu Xiang, 35, was reported by Xinhua, the official news agency, and confirmed by exile groups, who gave her Tibetan name as Palden Choetso. She was the second nun in the predominantly Tibetan region to take her own life by self-immolation.

Like two previous cases, the most recent suicide took place in Ganzi Prefecture, known as Kardze in Tibetan, which is the site of several important Buddhist monasteries that have been under especially tight restrictions in recent months. Last week, a Tibetan monk, Dawa Tsering, set himself on fire during a religious ceremony at a monastery there.

Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet said the nun reportedly made a plea for religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader, as her robes went up in flames. Ms. Saunders, citing the account of a local Tibetan, said fellow nuns took the injured woman back to their monastery, where she died a short time later. The local Tibetan said the authorities had since locked down the area and sent troops into the nunnery, which is known as Ganden Jangchup Choeling.

According to exile groups, the atmosphere in Kardze has been tense since demonstrations against Chinese policies broke out in the region in June. Such illegal gatherings have continued, including an unusually bold gathering of thousands in July for the birthday of the Dalai Lama.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Japan last week, the Dalai Lama deplored the rash of self-immolations and suggested that the Chinese government make an honest assessment of what was driving so many Tibetans to such desperation. “It’s their own sort of wrong policy, ruthless policy, illogical policy,” he said.

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“Aba under siege after Tibetan monks protest”

If anyone doesn’t buy the idea that crackdowns are themselves one of the major causes of unrest in ethnic minority regions in China, please take one minute to watch this video, and imagine what this happening in your hometown would be like:

On a list of things that won’t help the tension in the region, this has to be pretty close to the top.

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“Tibetans’ self-immolations lead China to crack down harder”

Tom Lasseter has become the second journalist to make it into Ngaba, currently ground zero of the struggle between Tibetans and the Chinese government. His entire piece should be read, but here are some bits:

The young man’s hands began to shake, and he tugged at his fingers to keep them still. The 20-year-old ethnic Tibetan was terrified of the police finding out that he’d spoken about the Buddhist monks who’ve been burning themselves alive.

“They’re doing it because they want freedom,” said the man, a livestock trader who asked that his name not be used because of safety concerns.

He paused before adding, “Because we want freedom.”

A McClatchy reporter was detained for two hours Saturday when he was pulled over at a police checkpoint 15 miles from Hongyuan on the winding road toward Aba. He was released only after photos were deleted from his camera and he agreed not to stop again in Hongyuan on the way out, a condition emphasized by threats to his driver and the multiple vehicles that followed him.

Beyond issues particular to the Communist Party’s policy in Tibetan areas, the situation also may hint at the limits of the effectiveness of Beijing’s authoritarian approach toward social unrest.

Conversations at Hongyuan and outlying villages suggest that the government’s tough response hasn’t deterred angry Tibetans. Rather, it now threatens to alienate those who were accepting of the regime.

One Tibetan businessman interviewed in the vicinity said that he appreciated the roads and offices the government built. The man, who gave his name as Tsering, said he understood the pragmatic reasons that his daughter received Tibetan language instruction at school only two or three times a week, while she was taught Mandarin Chinese every day.

When talking about the self-immolations, however, Tsering, 29, was adamant. “The monks are asking for justice,” he said.

“A lot of people have been taken away by the government,” said the livestock trader, who wore a puffy neon-blue jacket and jeans. “A lot of Tibetans feel that we aren’t free. We aren’t allowed to put up pictures of the Dalai Lama. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

He was joined by a group of friends, a couple of whom wore small likenesses of the Dalai Lama at the ends of thin leather necklaces that they tucked beneath their shirts.

One of them, another Tibetan trader in his early 20s, spoke up, “We are all afraid of the government.”

A few blocks away, a policeman sat in his car and filmed every person who walked by an intersection.

Every time I read about Beijing reacting to criticism like this I can’t help but to have the same reaction- gee, I’m sure beating, intimidating, and disappearing people and disrupting their lives while lying about their icons will make them like you this time!

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Filed under Dalai Lama, ethnic conflict, intimidation, protests, Tibet, violence

“China’s Legal Blindness”

Jerome Cohen has an op-ed in the WSJ talking about Chen Guangcheng:

There are three myths about Mr. Chen’s plight that must be dispelled. One is that such cases of persecution and abuse of lawyers and legal activists are rare in China, and only occur when a few heroic dissidents openly invoke the law to confront injustice rather than rely less confrontational methods.

Mr. Chen never saw himself as a “troublemaker” bent on damaging social stability and harmony. He wanted to improve stability and harmony by using legal institutions to process social grievances in an orderly way as prescribed by law. His only mistake was to accept the law as it was written, as a true believer in China’s legal reforms.

One day, when he was especially frustrated by the county court’s refusal to accept the lawsuits he brought on behalf of impoverished pro bono “clients,” he asked me: “What do the authorities want me to do? Lead a protest in the streets? I don’t want to do that.” Yet, in a cruel twist, he was ultimately convicted on bogus charges of interfering with traffic and damaging public property.

China’s activist lawyers and non-professional advocates are under widespread, systematic official assault. Hundreds of lawyers have been persecuted for representing clients who seek to challenge arbitrary residential evictions, environmental pollution, food and drug contamination, official corruption, and discrimination against the sick or disabled. Many public interest and criminal defense lawyers never consider themselves human rights lawyers until the local judicial bureau threatens to take away their license to practice law, the police detain them in jail or at home, the authorities “suggest” that they leave the country, or officially sponsored thugs kidnap and beat them.

A second myth is that Mr. Chen’s recent suffering is merely another example of local government run amok, neither approved nor condoned by the central government. Many attacks on lawyers are indeed local in origin, and Mr. Chen’s case started out that way in 2005 when local authorities first sent thugs to illegally confine him and his family at home. However, the case soon came to the attention of national leaders. After representatives of the Ministry of Public Security reportedly met with local officials to discuss the situation, the authorities launched a criminal prosecution against Mr. Chen, a more conventional type of repression.

A third myth is that there must be some purported legal justification for the suffering that the Chen household has endured since his release from prison last year. Governments, even the Chinese government, normally like to maintain some veneer of plausible legitimacy for their misconduct, however thin it might be. Yet no such justification has come to my knowledge in this case, which seems to have exceeded the bounds of police ingenuity.

When, at an Oct. 28 Beijing press conference, a foreign reporter asked deputy director Li Fei of the Legal Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to state the legal basis for Mr. Chen’s home imprisonment, he declined to answer. He merely asserted that “in our country the freedom of a citizen is adequately protected, and the use of any compulsory measures is based on law.” The question and its answer were eliminated from both the transcript and the video broadcast of the press conference.

Although it hasn’t gotten Chen out yet, it is still good to see increased international pressure and awareness of his captivity. As an added bonus, some of that international noise can easily leak back into China and lead to more Chinese citizens learning about what their government is doing.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, intimidation, law

“Reporting from the Far West”

Melissa Chan has more about the difficulties of reporting in China, this time from Xinjiang. As always, the government does its best to silence minority voices:

Viewers may notice an insufficient representation of Uighur voices in our stories.

On the one hand, there are about an equal number of Han Chinese now living in Xinjiang as Uighurs, and their voices should be included.

On the other hand, we were followed by plainclothes officers for the entire duration of our trip as we hopped from Urumqi, to Kashgar, to Hotan.

As many as seven or eight men in two vehicles would follow the team from a distance of 300 metres behind.

At almost no point were we ever prevented from carrying out our work, but it did not seem wise to approach Uighurs and ask them questions, either.

In one instance, we were approached by a curious local. A Uighur blacksmith peddling knives wrought with intricate designs came up to speak to us.

After about a one-minute conversation, I excused myself. Some 30 seconds later, he was pulled aside by plainclothes police officers and questioned about the contents of our conversation.

We were not entirely unwelcome. The foreign affairs offices in both Urumqi and Kashgar assisted us as much as they could and said we were welcome to report freely in Xinjiang as far as they were concerned.

The openness of certain departments within the government against the restrictiveness of others should be instructional for Chinese officials if they care about how international media organisations cover the country.

Our access to the dairy farm was informative, and I was able to report the encouraging fact that the majority of workers there were ethnic Uighurs: proof that at least in some instances, the investments the country has made in Xinjiang have directly benefited the ethnic minority.

For the rest of our trip, we were disadvantaged by the fact that we had no Uighur-language translator.

One had been hired, only to be dragged to the police station the night before our team’s arrival. Interrogated and threatened, he opted out of working for us.

Therefore we could not ask any questions examining the migration issue, the possible sense of identity lost on the part of Uighurs, the feelings locals may have about their loss of their homogeneity in the region, or perhaps their ambivalence about the money pouring into the area.

We could not report by asking questions, so we reported as best we could by observation.

In our stories, you will see old alleyways compared to new, gleaming structures. You will see paved highways where there were once dirt roads. Yet, you will also see an entire population of people, voiceless in our pieces.

It’s always funny to contrast this with the statements made by the foreign ministry. “No, Xinjiang and Tibet are open, anyone can come and see for themselves how happy the people are in these regions!” Then they get to work denying visa requests and intimidating potential interviewees. Foreign politicians are occasionally given junkets in Lhasa, but one overarching theme you hear from every person to have gone on such a trip is that they were carefully sequestered away from any Tibetans who hadn’t been hand-picked by the government. Open, indeed.

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Filed under intimidation, journalism, Xinjiang

“China’s Uighur petitioners face abuse in Beijing”

To be sure, the system is rigged against all petitioners in Beijing, and that includes Han petitioners as well. Still, as the LA Times writes, it’s pretty tough for Uighur seeking redress in the capital:

Under a bridge in the shadows of central Beijing, Aygul Tohti lays out the evening meal on a bare mattress that has served as bed and dining room table since police confiscated most of her possessions.

There are thin slices of watermelon, a traditional flatbread called nan and what Tohti calls beef noodle soup, although there’s no evidence of meat. Only cauliflower and broccoli simmer in an iron pot over an open wood fire.

For more than two years, a small group of Uighurs upset in one way or another by Chinese officials has lived under bridges that span the narrow, murky Hucheng River paralleling the Second Ring Road, one of Beijing’s busiest highways. Under the bridges, people are eager to have an audience and provide a glimpse of the hardships faced by Uighurs.

They come from villages thousands of miles away to petition the central government for compensation or other resolution of grievances suffered at home. Many complaints stem from the rapid development of the Xinjiang region, as part of the country’s economic expansion, and from the accompanying Uighur resentment of the influx of Han Chinese, who they say receive preferential treatment when searching for jobs and opportunities.

There are Uighur teachers who have lost their jobs because the language of instruction in schools has been switched to Chinese and they cannot pass difficult Chinese proficiency exams. A young mother said police wouldn’t help when her 9-year-old son was nabbed by a gang that trains Uighur children as pickpockets and beggars. A farmer from Aksu complained that he lost his livelihood when Communist Party cadres restricted private sales of wheat and corn, a traditional Uighur occupation.

“I can’t go home because there are no jobs for Uighurs now in Aksu,” said the man, 56-year-old Emet Khasim. “If there is construction work, they’ll pay a Chinese guy 200 yuan [about $30] per day and a Uighur only 50 [yuan] and you won’t get your money until the end of the month, if they pay you at all.”

Under Chinese law, petitioning is a legal mechanism for addressing complaints. The State Council’s Bureau of Letters and Calls set up to hear complaints is a few blocks from the embankment where petitioners are camping out. But the Chinese government doesn’t make it easy for petitioners to resolve issues, and the Uighurs say they are singled out for abuse.

Uighurs in Beijing are unable to stay in hotels or lease apartments in Beijing because of local regulations, unpublished but widely known, that prohibit renting to people with Xinjiang identity cards.

“Nobody will rent to Uighurs,” said Khasim.

It’s always amazing to see how the petitioning system, designed to prevent abuses of power, has become a tool for protecting these same abuses of power.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, intimidation, Xinjiang

“Of Spies and Dissidents”

The Dui Hua Journal has a new piece up about the disparity in sentence reductions between those convicted of espionage versus convicted dissidents. Apparently spies have it easy compared to activists:

The number of sentence reductions for prisoners convicted of espionage and supplying foreign entities with state secrets contrasts sharply with that of prisoners convicted of speech and association offenses (subversion, splittism, and their incitement). A review of records in Dui Hua’s prisoner database—which catalogues about 24,000 cases—and available official statistics suggests that, in recent years, the majority of ESS arrests and trials have been for speech and association offenses. Despite making up the bulk of known ESS cases, speech and association prisoners are rarely granted clemency. There has not been a single known act of clemency for this group of prisoners since September 2009, when Jiangsu-based Internet essayist and political organizer Huang Jinqiu (黄金秋) and Sichuan labor activist Wang Sen (王森) were given 23-month and 10-month reductions, respectively.

Dui Hua research indicates that prisoners convicted of ESS have lower rates of sentence reduction and parole than the general prison population, for which the rate is about 30 percent. Within the ESS category, it seems that clemency is more common for individuals convicted of espionage—a crime most countries consider the greatest threat to national security—than for those convicted of non-violent speech and association. A number of factors may be involved here: discrepancies in information disclosure, differences in average lengths of sentences, official clout, admission of guilt, or individual circumstances.

What may also be at play is systemic prejudice. One official with whom Dui Hua has worked for many years acknowledged Dui Hua’s concern that “spies” had better access to clemency than dissidents by noting that only prisoners considered not to be a “threat to society” are eligible for parole. He stated that once out of jail spies can’t go on spying, while dissidents can continue stirring dissent. One wonders if that means that, for the sake of stability, citizens are better off selling out their country than trying to change it.

Two days ago I said that the government fears reasonable voices more than it fears actual enemies- I think this data supports that claim rather well.

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Filed under China, intimidation, prison

“First They Came for the Lawyers”

Jerome Cohen has a new article in Foreign Policy talking about Beijing’s war on lawyers. The entire thing is, as always with Cohen, worth a read. His conclusion:

The Chinese have thus become more aware of their rights and the possibility that courts might enforce them, whether as plaintiffs seeking civil and administrative remedies or as defendants in criminal prosecutions. Their system allows few other outlets for preventing arbitrary punishments and resolving the rising number of grievances. Democratic political institutions remain little more than a gleam in the eye of reformers. The media are under strict surveillance and are generally of limited use. Petitions to government agencies are a frustrating farce and have now become dangerous because of the establishment of “black jails” — extralegal detention facilities to prevent petitioners from disturbing the “harmony” that the party incessantly preaches. Mass street protests, though sometimes successful, usually result in harsh punishment of their organizers and cannot settle individual disputes. In any event, criminal prosecutions, a standard party response to social unrest, cannot be avoided.

Yet involvement in the courts, at best an uphill battle in sensitive cases, requires legal assistance. This is the price of China’s newly acquired legislative and procedural sophistication. Without skilled defense lawyers, few democratic activists, religious adherents, or alleged gangsters can possibly refute official accusations. Without skilled plaintiffs’ lawyers, no victims of tainted milk, shoddy school construction, illegal housing demolition, or environmental destruction can hope for judicial relief. Nor can the public even be informed of unjust judicial decisions if lawyers are intimidated from participating in such cases or informing the media about them.

This is the logic underlying the current campaign against “rights lawyers,” criminal defense lawyers, and public-interest lawyers. Party leaders want the best of both worlds. They crave the reinforced status that comes from the legitimacy that a rule of law confers on governments at home and abroad. But they also want to avoid the embarrassment and loss of dictatorial control that might occur if lawyers were permitted to challenge their power, even if only before courts that remain under the party’s thumb. So their response is to mobilize all the instruments at their command — informal and formal, legal and extralegal — to intimidate lawyers from taking positions not endorsed by the party.

Some Chinese legal professionals, including judges and other officials, sympathize with the plight of the persecuted lawyers, and a few law professors and lawyers have occasionally shown their opposition. Fear, however, is corrosive, and indifference is safe. Thus, prospects for a serious pushback are dim.

In a world where the “people’s democratic dictatorship” is losing its struggle against transparency, this attack on lawyers provides further evidence that China’s “socialist rule of law,” imported from the Soviet Union, is an oxymoron. No matter how many Confucius Institutes the Chinese government finances on foreign campuses, it will never attain the “soft power” it craves until it stops persecuting lawyers and starts recognizing the prerequisites of a genuine rule of law.

Expect that conflict- between a Chinese public that is increasingly aware of its rights, and a government that is loathe to actual deliver on them- to figure prominently in the years to come.

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Filed under China, courts, intimidation, law

“Thoughts on Ai Weiwei’s Release”

With more coming out about the exact terms of Ai Weiwei’s release, it’s starting to sound less and less like something to celebrate. Custer from ChinaGeeks says the same thing, and lays out exactly why:

Seriously… ”victory”??? I know that’s a change.org thing, but Ai is out pending further investigation. He’s apparently not allowed to speak freely, and probably not allowed to travel freely. Dozens — probably hundreds — of other dissidents, including many from the wave of arrests that Ai caught the tail end of, are still in prison. And there’s no real reason to believe Change.org had anything to do with Ai’s release anyway. So yeah, maybe put that champagne away, guys.

All that aside, I think there’s another theory worth considering here that I haven’t seen espoused anywhere else. Ai’s release, coupled with restrictions that prevent him from giving interviews, talking about politics, or leaving the country, could actually be a fairly brilliant propaganda coup for China. Having Ai free but quiet takes the wind out of the sails of his domestic supporters, and will probably help disintegrate and fracture the dissident community that was essentially built around Ai’s twitter feed. Meanwhile, it also shuts up the international community, who will be too busy patting themselves on the backs (see above) to notice that (a) Ai isn’t allowed to speak or travel freely and (b) there are many, many other dissidents still in prison or being detained for political reasons.

Ai’s release might also be seen as an attempt by the government to gain some control over, or at least temporarily distract from, what seems to be a spiraling mass of stories with much more serious implications: slowing economic growth coupled with rising inflation, embarrassing reports of corruption and ham-fisted suppression of everything from independent candidates for China’s eunuch legislature to the shuttering of the newly-popular independent corruption-reporting sites, power shortages, catastrophic flooding, protests, bombings, riots… yeah, I think it’s safe to say that “Fat artist kinda gets out of prison” is a preferable front-page story from the government’s perspective.

In actuality, it’s way too early to be sure how this will play out, or whether or not the restrictions placed on Mr. Ai will be as severe as I have suggested above. In the interim, let’s not forget that even if Ai is 100% free, he was only one of many, many imprisoned dissidents. There is no real victory here, not yet.

It’s still good that he’s at least out of a black site and back home, but there’s still a lot more to be done before anyone parties too hard.

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Filed under art, China, enforced disappearance, intimidation

“Chinese activists harness Twitter to campaign in elections”

Another one about the grassroots elections from the Telegraph:

The rush of candidates this year was sparked in part by an online controversy over government suppression of the candidature of a laid-off steelworker in the southern city of Xinyu who was placed under house arrest for “disturbing social order” during the election period.

Another factory worker who has announced his intention to stand told The Telegraph that he had faced similar “dirty tricks” including giving him only six hours notice to find his 10 supporters and submit his application.

“I’m insisting on being allowed to stand for election because it is my constitutional right,” said Wang Zhongxiang, a 50-year-old foreman at a state-owned power company in the northeastern port city of Tianjin.

Mr Wang, whose blog was shut down by internet censors in 2007, said that unofficial government pressure was actually increasing against independent candidates.

It remains unclear how forcefully China’s government will tackle the small but vocal wave of independent candidates who only represent a tiny minority of two million representatives “elected” to provincial and district assemblies between now and the end of 2012.

Mr Yao, who was a signatory of the Charter 08 pro-democracy petition whose author Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years, said he had received a visit from the Guobao, China’s secret police, who had warned him not to campaign illegally, but admitted his constitutional right to stand.

“I think the Party is not accustomed to think about people wanting to contribute constructively. They assume the intent and motive of the people is hostile, not that people want to embrace gradual reform,” he said.

“But reform is the only solution, whether the Party likes it or not. The Party has two choices: to reform step-by-step through progressive reforms or face a violent revolution. There really is no ‘third way’.”

I suspect that over the right timeframe Mr. Yao is correct. That’s why this new generation of leadership is going to be so vital: if they aren’t willing or able to implement political reform, I would be surprised if China doesn’t end up in very real trouble over the next decade.

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Filed under China, Communist Party, elections, internet, intimidation