By Ma Youzhi, Epoch Times and Katy Mantyk
Paul Mooney is one of those genuine journalists of the old-school—he focuses on people, the stories they need to know, and the stories they have to tell. After covering China for 18 years and having won multiple awards for his work, he has been refused a visa to return as a reporter for Reuters.
Sitting down with the Epoch Times in Berkeley, California, Mooney opened up on why the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Ministry of Foreign Affairs won’t let him into China. He also told some stories he reported on that will break your heart, the kind of stories the CCP doesn’t want people to hear. His gift for telling those stories is why he was not allowed back in the country.
“I focus a lot on human rights and social justice. I reported on Tibet, Xinjiang, and these are sensitive topics in China. I’m sure the government wasn’t happy with the reporting I did.”
He says it’s not so bad for him, though. The real heroes are the Chinese reporters. “I have a great amount of respect for the Chinese journalists trying to do those stories (blocked by the CCP). There’s a great risk for them, they’ll lose their jobs, and some have even gone to jail. I have no hope in the CCP, but I do in those reporters.”
Chinese Embassy Warns Him
The Chinese regime over the last year has tightened its already firm grip on media, and many foreign journalists like Mooney are getting squeezed out. The Reporters Without Borders’ latest analysis map of world freedom of the press has China labeled totally black.
During the eight-month wait to get his visa, Mooney was summoned to the Chinese Embassy in San Francisco for his interview. He was asked about his views on Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and high profile human rights lawyers. He answered frankly that he didn’t think they were a threat to China. His interviewer warned him that if he wanted the visa he would have to report more “objectively.” “It was obviously a threat,” Mooney said.
“As a journalist I was always objective, I never injected my own opinion in any of those stories. I reported the same way in China as I would have in the U.S. That’s something the Chinese government doesn’t understand. They say that the Western media has it in for China. But that’s not true.”
One issue Mooney has to face as a reporter on China is the accusations that he is anti-China. He hears the CCP say it, but also hears the notion coming from Westerners, too.
“I think they thought I was anti-China. But I am actually very pro-China. The people that I interviewed, they never once called me anti-China. If the communist party doesn’t like the truth, that’s their problem.
“I felt like I was giving a voice to the people who had none, and I’ve even stayed in touch with many of the people I reported on. I’ve helped people get medicine from the U.S., and people get doctors who need surgery. I stay in touch on Skype. These people know there’s no hope for them also, but the fact that somebody cares means a lot to them.”
A report in Business Insider pointed out that it was after the 2008 Beijing Olympics that the CCP quit being so accommodating to foreign journalists. With the pressure off to appease the rest of the world, Mooney said he’s never seen so many foreign reporters waiting for visas.
“If you look at the reporting from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, from Indonesia, Malaysia, from Latin America, they all report the same problems. The Chinese [propaganda] succeeds by saying America is out to stop China, but really the U.S. government and U.S. citizens do so much for Chinese people,” Mooney said.
“Countless NGO’s go into China. And for the Chinese students we have open schools and campuses in the U.S. If the U.S. really wanted to keep China down they wouldn’t do these things. But you don’t see those things reported in the People’s Daily or China Daily, we always hear that America’s out to stop them, that kind of slant.”
Mooney doesn’t think the situation for journalists will improve in China without reciprocal pressure from foreign countries. The United States should take the same restrictive approach to giving Chinese reporters visas.
“I’d like the American government to say, OK, if you’re not approving visas for American journalists, we are going to stop approving visas for Chinese journalists. China has more that 700 correspondents in the United States. We don’t delay their visas; we don’t refuse them in most cases. We don’t harass or follow them, or have the police intimidate them, and we don’t beat them up.”
“Chinese correspondents have free rein in the U.S., and some of them are even spies. I guarantee that if we start denying visas, within two weeks they’ll start granting visas for American journalists again, but right now there are no repercussions for them.”
Mooney explained that the rest of the world is afraid to put pressure on China in case they lose business and trade opportunities, but what they don’t realize is that China needs the rest of the world just as badly, and so pressure will work.
Reporting Injustice is Pro-China
“One story I wrote about was kidnapped rural children. Young boys kidnapped and forced to work in black kilns—illegal brick kilns where they were kept like slaves.
“A few years ago a lot of young teenagers started disappearing. They came from Henan [Province] to Zhengzhou [Henan’s capital] looking for work. So I went out with a group of about nine parents for about a week, and stayed with these families while they drove around these out-of-the-way places looking for their kids, and it was incredibly sad. They cried all the time.”
Mooney said some Chinese reporters did briefly cover these stories, but it didn’t last long.
“The people I helped put hope in me, but in my experience there is very little reaction from government,” Mooney said. “One father told me the police had done nothing to help find the children.”
Mooney recounted one story about a boy who escaped a kiln, and went to the Labor Bureau for help, only to be sold back to the kiln by one of the officials, then sold again by the same official to another kiln, for 600 yuan (US$98).
“I also did stories on cancer villages. I went to one village in Hunan Province with a battery factory. A lot of people started getting sick, so the government sent in doctors to test them, when they found out 1,000 people were poisoned with cadmium in their blood, they stopped all testing.
“The factory didn’t have any equipment to deal with the waste. The battery industry is a heavy metal polluter. They bribed local environmental officials to give them certificates; they were working with local government and local gangs. They pumped the waste water into the village river.”
The water, rice, and produce were all contaminated.
“One little girl died from cadmium poisoning. The eighty-year old grandma fell to her knees crying, and her mother bent down and was crying too, when they looked up and saw me crying they were shocked for a moment, then they just started howling even louder. It was heartbreaking.”
The father spent 90,000 yuan (US$14,770) to try to save her. Everyone else in the village was too scared to even talk to Mooney about the situation.
“I reported on this story because I hoped the government would compensate these people.”
Mooney hoped his reporting could help Chinese people, and therefore sees himself as pro-China, but in the end, “It was writing about these things that got me into trouble.”
Mooney explained that there are about 400 cancer villages in southern China. The rivers are all polluted with heavy metals. He hasn’t seen the CCP do anything about it.
“They talk a lot, but no action. The government sides with the local business and local officials, so they’re making money. The Communist Party’s face is much more important than the well-being of the Chinese people. So in the end, it is the Chinese people who always pay the price.”
‘Mean and Ruthless’
Mooney started to get interested in China in the 70s. Like many Americans at the time, he was fascinated with Chinese communism. But all that changed. “As a human being, one cannot imagine or understand the behavior of the CCP.”
He realized that many Chinese might not like what he says. “I think a lot of people, Chinese and Western, are duped by the CCP propaganda news. A lot of it is so positive, you never get the real picture of China.”
Mooney points out that the communists are harming the Chinese far deeper than the Japanese ever did.
“360,000 kids got sick on melamine poisoned baby formula. The story was blocked because the communist party wouldn’t allow any negative news leading up to the Olympics to save face.”
Another example: “A Chinese reporter had her story about high-speed train safety blocked. A year later a big accident happened. This is a government that is willing to let the Chinese people get poisoned, injured, or killed rather than lose face.”
“There is going to be a huge problem with lung cancer due to all the severe pollution. So it looks like a modern society but it’s really just a façade.”
“The communist party is really mean and ruthless. Regarding all the problems in society, unless the CCP feels there is a serious threat to their authority, they won’t do anything. So I anticipate that things will get much, much worse before the government responds and takes any action on these issues. I feel no hope.”
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By Henry Jom
Modern science has verified what the ancients believed about one’s heart—that the heart is a center of higher wisdom. It can actually remember things and it functions much like the brain.
The heart’s structure is similar to that of the brain: it has an intricate network of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins, and support cells.
“There is a brain in the heart, metaphorically speaking,” said Dr. Rollin McCraty of the HeartMath Institute, a non-profit that offers treatments based on the connection between heart and brain. “The heart contains neurons and ganglia that have the same function as those of the brain, such as memory. It’s an anatomical fact,” he said.
“What people don’t know that well is that the heart actually sends more information to the brain [than the brain does to the heart],” he added.
Dr. J. Andrew Armour coined the term “heart brain” in 1991; he has also called the heart a “little brain.”
According to Harvard Medical School, chemical “conversations” between the heart and the brain affect both organs. Depression, stress, loneliness, a positive outlook, and other psychosocial factors influence the heart. The health of the heart can also affect the brain and the mind.
As neuro-cardiology (the study of the brain and heart connection) has developed, researchers have found that negative emotions throw both heart rhythms and brainwave patterns out of sync.
Stress responses, for example, take a toll on the body, contributing to high blood pressure, the development of artery-clogging plaque, and brain changes that may contribute to anxiety and depression, according to Harvard Medical School.
Conversely, when a person experiences positive emotions, heart rhythms and brainwave patterns are harmonious and coherent.
Heart as an Emotional Center
The heart as an organ is linked to the concept of heart as an emotional center. The heart sends messages through physical pathways to the brain, which are then interpreted as emotion.
McCraty explained: “Heart beats are similar to morse code, with these messages reflecting one’s emotional state.”
McCraty has worked as a psycho-physiologist for nearly 30 years. One technique he works with through the HeartMath Institute is “heart-focused breathing.”
While breathing deeply, the patient directs attention to the heart, which “shifts the physiology and facilitates changes in the body’s rhythms,” McCraty said.
Heart and brain wave patterning has been measured to observe the effects of this technique, showing greater coherence.
The widely respected Zhang Lifan one of those shut down
Recent news from China tells of a massive and an exemplary denial of freedom of speech on the Internet, with huge numbers having their accounts closed, including one widely respected commentator.
On Nov. 13, Beijing Youth Daily reported that more than 100,000 microblog accounts accused of violating “seven bottom lines” have been canceled by Sina Weibo.
The report also stated, “Sina Weibo [a popular microblog service similar to Twitter] will further improve the online reporting mechanism to curb Internet irregularities.”
Lu Wei, director of the China Internet Information Office, held a meeting on Aug. 10 with several network celebrities, including Jilian Hai, Xue Manzi, Chen Li, and Pan Shiyi (also known as Big Vs on Weibo). Lu claimed that a consensus on adhering to the “seven bottom lines” had been reached with the Big Vs—individuals who use their real names when they blog and attract millions of followers.
The “seven bottom lines” are meant to identify topics about which bloggers know the CCP will scrutinize what they write with special care: laws and regulations, the socialist system, national interests, legitimate interests of citizens, social public order, trends in morality, and the authenticity of information.
Revered Scholar Silenced
Coinciding with the Daily report, several of Zhang Lifan’s registered website accounts were closed.
The 63-year-old Zhang, a scholar of modern Chinese history and a newspaper columnist, is considered to be an Internet celebrity. He often published political articles on the Internet, urging the authorities to conduct political reform.
Zhang Lifan spoke with Voice of America about the Internet environment in China, freedom of speech, and the ruling that penalizes for spreading “rumors” a blogger whose comments are viewed or forwarded too many times.
“The Internet rules should not hinder freedom of speech,” Zhang said.
“The Internet should have rules, but they need to be reasonable and conform to the freedom of speech stipulated in the Constitution’s Article 35, rather than restricting it,” Zhang said.
He admits that there should be boundaries between freedom of speech and rumor or slander, but the boundaries are hard to define in China.
In Zhang’s view, the “two highs,” namely the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Supreme People’s Court in China, in setting forth Internet regulations, did not actually interpret the law, but took it upon themselves to make new law, overstepping the power of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and sparking controversy in legal circles.
Despite the contrived legal interpretation, Zhang and the other network celebrities were not deterred from talking.
He said: “In fact, we fear nothing. Now the netizens are mocking the interpretation. This has shown that the government’s laws and the ‘two highs’ are without any authority at all.”
Zhang’s main concern was who would become the first victim of the judicial interpretation, because when making the law, the CCP could have targeted some people. Therefore, once such a case occurs, it would typically be significant.
Zhang mentioned as an example the case of Li Zhuang, a lawyer in Chongqing who was prosecuted in 2011 on the suspicion of instigating men to fabricate testimony, because they were unwilling to cooperate with authorities in their “crackdown on gangs” campaign.
The ‘Two Highs’ Crack Down
In September, the “two highs” promulgated provisions to combat rumors spreading through the Internet, stipulating: “If the same defamatory information is clicked and viewed 5,000 times or more, or forwarded more than 500 times, it will be regarded as ‘serious’ and the rumormonger will be sentenced to three years imprisonment.”
Subsequently, in order to strengthen the Internet control, the CCP’s new leadership launched a campaign to occupy the new battlefield of public opinion, leading to the arrest of many Internet celebrities and opinion leaders.
Dong Liwen, who is a member/advisor of Taiwan Think Tank and familiar with China’s politics, told the media that after coming to power, Xi Jinping has shown no signs of loosening constraints on free speech. He believes the recent arrests demonstrate continued constraints in the Xi era, which are worse than under the previous leader.
Dong says Xi Jinping “stabilizes political power by all means.” But Dong cautions that Xi’s move toward further constraint doesn’t exclude the possibility of triggering a greater backlash against him by the people. Xi simply “walks on the cliff.”
Translation by Joseph Wu. Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.
More in China Human Rights
The pastor of a state-sanctioned church in Hunan Province, China, was detained by officials on Nov. 16, along with church members.
Pastor Zhang Xiaojie was apparently tricked by Nanle County Public Security Chief into meeting at the church, when about a dozen police officers then entered the building and detained Zhang, reported ChinaAid, a Washington D. C. based church advocacy organization.
Church members said that the local officials “tied up” Zhang, but did not show any arrest documents. The officials took Zhang to an undisclosed location, but family members have received no notification of a formal arrest.
When Zhang’s family and church members went to the police department to protest his detainment, police held Zhang’s two sisters and denied the church members entry into the station.
Members told China Aid that officials warned them not to attend church activities or petition higher authorities about the detainments and, additionally, called church members to a government building that night, where the officials “lectured them, threatened them and instilled fear in them.”
Sunday morning at least 20 church members were detained as they came to attend church, and police stationed at the church gates beat some members, according to China Aid.
Zhang’s daughter and son-in-law took their child and fled town. She told China Aid that she had been receiving phone calls since Sunday, threatening to “wipe out her entire family” if she continued to contact overseas news outlets about the incident.
The pastor’s son-in-law says “the church respects the authority of the Chinese government.” The church, however, has been involved in a dispute with local authorities over a land matter.
Zhang is the president of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Christian Church in Nanle County, a Communist Party-registered church. The church’s funds have been frozen since he was detained.
Church members told China Aid that officials have published bogus comments attributed to Zhang on the Internet, to calm the public.
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This song wins 2013 “Best Song for Indie/Documentary Film” at Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
The permanent committee of the Council’s parliamentary assembly met in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Friday to discuss measures against the illegal trade of human organs, Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday.
Under the convention, proposed by the leading multi-national organization for human rights on Europe, there would be punishments for those who pay people for their body parts or force them to part with their organs.
The agreement could come into force by next year after European countries individually adopt the rules of the convention.
By Joshua Philipp
While inspecting shipments from China, Russian customs agents found something odd. Inside several of the kettles and irons they found WiFi chips and microprocessors. If the devices were plugged in, the chips would search for unsecured WiFi networks up to 650 feet away, then “call home” to grant access to cybercriminals.
While the unusual form of cybercrime took researchers by surprise, it was only the latest in an emerging threat of hacked electronics coming straight from the Chinese factories.
There is a long list of devices riddled with backdoors, infected with malware, or fitted with spying devices before leaving Chinese factories. These range from kettles to laptops, from USB keys to cameras, and from consumer software right up to military components.
In June 2011, Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily uncovered recording devices installed in all dual-plate Chinese-Hong Kong vehicles. They were labeled as “inspection and quarantine cards,” and were installed free of charge by China’s Shenzhen Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.
In June 2010, an auto-run virus in China-made memory cards in Olympus Stylus Tough cameras was infecting computers in Japan. The virus was uncovered just a week after an identical virus was in the memory cards of Samsung smartphones. Prior to that were viruses in devices including China-made TomTom GPS systems, and Insignia digital picture frames sold at major outlets, including Best Buy, Target, and Sam’s Club.
While the recently discovered chips in kettles and irons were among the more bizarre cases, they were also among the least sophisticated. They only targeted WiFi networks not protected with passwords. In Russia, where the devices were found, this would have been a threat. In the United States, where most networks are protected, it wouldn’t be much of a threat.
Yet, the concern is less about the chips themselves, and instead what they could mean for the future of cyberthreats.
“This is a generation beyond what we’ve seen before,” said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at cybersecurity company Sophos, regarding the spy kettles and irons.
Wisniewski said the chips were not very concerning, yet with a bit of work they could be. They could easily be programmed to bypass password protected networks, and being both small and inexpensive, the recent discovery could very well be only the tip of the iceberg.
“Who’s to say these things couldn’t be put into any device on anybody’s home network,” he said. “They could be in anything you plug in. Anything that gets power, this kind of thing can be hidden inside it.”
A Hidden Threat
Greg Schaffer stood before congress on July 8, 2011. At the time, Schaffer worked in the cybersecurity office of the Department of Homeland Security. He was asked whether there are risks of having electronics built overseas.
Schaffer tried avoiding the question. Yet when he was pressed to give a clear answer, Schaffer gave a short, yet grim response.
Schaffer said he knew of cases where foreign-made devices had been pre-installed with infected software or hardware, noting “We believe there is significant risk in the area of supply chain.”
“This is one of the most complicated and difficult challenges that we have,” he said.
Schaffer’s on-record admission to the problem was one of few. Yet, the problem of spying electronics coming out of China, in particular, is frequent and ongoing.
Some of the most common vulnerabilities are “backdoors” left in products. These can resemble programming errors left by the creators—the nature of which makes it difficult to prove whether the backdoors are intentional or unintentional.
Backdoors in Chinese routers are frequently exposed by security researcher and former NSA employee Craig Heffner. Within the last month, Heffner uncovered several backdoors in routers from Chinese manufacturer Tenda, which sells Medialink routers, as well routers from D-Link. D-Link is headquartered in Taiwan, but its routers are manufactured in Mainland China.
Heffner told We Live Security, the blog of cybersecurity company ESET, that a Nov. 10 backdoor in D-Link routers appears to have been left deliberately.
“You can access the Web interface without any authentication and view/change the device settings,” Heffner said, noting that the access code for the backdoor was found on a Russian cybercrime forum.
The most controversial routers come from Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei. The House Intelligence Committee released a report in October 2012 warning American businesses to avoid the two companies due to security risks. Similar warnings against Huawei, in particular, have been upheld by governments around the world, including in Taiwan and Australia.
“China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyber espionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation,” said Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in a press release. “American businesses should use other vendors.”
Huawei has launched a public relations campaign to fire back, yet independent research has only justified concerns. Just prior to the report from the House Intelligence Committee, in July 2012, security researchers at hacker conference Defcon uncovered critical, and extremely basic, vulnerabilities in Huawei routers.
“This stuff is distrusting,” Dan Kaminsky, a well-known security researcher, told International Data Group News Service. “If I were to teach someone from scratch how to write binary exploits, these routers would be what I’d demonstrate on.”
They also noted that, going with Huawei’s infamous lack of transparency, it had no security contact for reporting vulnerabilities.
According to Wisniewski, however, the nature of the threats—and of cybersecurity, in general—makes it difficult to prove guilt.
“The problem is there’s a scarcity of truth, and there is unlimited room for speculation,” Wisniewski said. “Only the person who wrote the code knows.”
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Petition to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner .
Calling for an Immediate End of Forced Organ.
Harvesting From Falun Gong Practitioners.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) performs the second-highest number of organ transplants per country per year, yet there exist no sufficient public organ donation program or organ distribution system in China, and the Chinese population has a cultural aversion to donation.
It is understood that medical professionals in the People’s Republic of China began conducting organ transplants with the use of organs that were harvested from executed prisoners in the 1980s. In June 2001, Chinese Dr. Wang Guoqi testified before the House International Affairs Subcommittee that hospitals worked in collusion with state security agencies to extract organs from executed prisoners without written consent of the donors. These transplants became a lucrative source of income for Chinese hospitals.
The practice of sourcing organs from nonconsenting prisoners is a violation of medical ethics and has been condemned by international medical organizations, such as the WMA, TTS and the transplant community.
In order to protect their families and associates, while in detention, many Falun Gong prisoners refuse to provide their real names or other identifying information. This makes them more of a target for transplant abuse.
In 2006, Canadian researchers human-rights attorney David Matas and former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour conducted an investigation into allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners. Based on extensive circumstantial evidence, their report concluded that the allegations were true, and that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners may have been killed for their organs.
In their book Bloody Harvest, Messrs. Matas and Kilgour quote a 2006 phone recording of a doctor from a Chinese hospital:
Caller: I want to know how long [the patients] have to wait [for a liver transplant].
Dr. Dai: The supply of organs we have, we have every day. We do them every day.
Caller: We want fresh, live ones.
Dr. Dai: They are all live, all live…
Caller: I heard some come from those who practice Falun Gong, those who are very healthy.
Dr. Dai: Yes, we have. I can’t talk openly to you over the phone.
Caller: If you can find me this type, I am coming very soon.
Dr. Dai: It’s OK. Please come.
After 1999, an exponential increase of transplantations in China coincided with the onset of the unlawful and brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. In the absence of a public organ-donation program and a decrease in the number of executions, detained Falun Gong practitioners became part of a living pool of donors, ready to be organ harvested on demand. They have been contributing to the more than 10,000 transplants per year in China.
Falun Gong practitioners are subject to medical examinations while in detention, such as blood tests, urine tests, X‑rays, and physical exams. These examinations are unlikely to be motivated by health care concerns since detained Falun Gong practitioners are subject to persecution and torture. It is implausible that the detention centers would go to the extra expense for the exams unless there were financial returns.
There is a significant discrepancy between the number of organ transplants performed in China and the number of identifiable sources of organs, including death row prisoners. The PRC government has failed to adequately account for the sources of these organs.
Senior Chinese Communist Party officials are complicit in the forced organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners. In 2012, David Matas said at the annual conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in San Francisco:
“On Nov. 30, 1999, the ‘610 Office’ [in China] called more than 3,000 officials to the Great Hall of the People in the capital to discuss the campaign against Falun Gong, which was then not going well. Demonstrations were continuing to occur at Tiananmen Square. The head of the ‘610 Office’, Li Lanqing, announced the government’s new policy on the movement:‘Defame their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.’
A call to destroy Falun Gong physically is a call to genocide. It is not admittedly a call to genocide through sourcing their organs. Nonetheless, when that sourcing occurs, in the context of a call for physical destruction, the two should be linked. Organ sourcing is the means. Physical destruction is the intent.”
Under the format of “executing prisoners”, killing people to harvest their organs for transplantation is a crime against humanity and a breach of medical ethics. The demand for transplant organs must not justify the means.
Falun Gong practitioners, the largest group of prisoners of conscience in China, are the main targets of this crime against humanity.
By Steven Jiang, CNN
CNN — Tree leaves were turning yellow and red in Damascus, Oregon, in late October. Competing with fall foliage for attention were Halloween decorations, which adorned almost every house in this sleepy middle-class suburb of Portland on America\’s Pacific West Coast.
A few pumpkins sat on the steps leading to Julie Keith’s house, while three fake tombstones greeted visitors in the front porch — as they did last year.
“I feel obligated to use them every year now because I feel they need to have some worth,” said Keith, 43, who lives here with her husband and their two young children. “I am sad for the people who have to endure torture to make these silly decorations.”
The decorations came in a $29 “Totally Ghoul” toy set that Keith purchased in a local Kmart store in 2011. When she opened the package before Halloween last year, a letter fell out.
In broken English mixed with Chinese, the author cried for help: “If you occasionally (sic) buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here… will thank and remember you forever.”
Long hours, abuse
The letter went on to detail grueling hours, verbal and physical abuses as well as torture that inmates making the products had to endure — all in a place called Masanjia Labor Camp in China.
“It was surprising at first and I didn’t know if it was a hoax,” recalled Keith, a program manager at a company that runs a chain of thrift stores and donation centers. “Once I read the letter and researched on the Internet, I realized that this may be the real deal.
“I knew there are labor camps in China, but this slammed me in the face. I had no idea if this person was still alive or dead or in the camp — it’s extraordinary that it was able to come all the way from China.”
Keith heeded the writer’s call by reaching out to human rights groups but received no response. She then posted the letter on Facebook, which prompted the local Oregonian newspaper to run a front-page article.
As word of Keith’s unusual Halloween discovery spread, her story turned into international news, throwing a spotlight on one of China’s most notorious labor camps — and the controversial system behind them.
By Tara MacIsaac
Some events truly seem against all odds. Could these events really just be chance, or are they signs of a greater design? Here are some astounding personal accounts and some famous “coincidences.”
Some events truly seem against all odds. Could these events really just be chance, or are they signs of a greater design? Here are some astounding personal accounts and some famous “coincidences.”
The personal accounts were given by social media users on Quora and Reddit.
1. Of All the Payphones in France …
My wife and her brother were traveling through Europe in the spring of 1986. I was home working in California.
I knew their itinerary but did not know exactly where they were. [I] hadn’t talked to them in a couple of days. [I] got bored [and] called an overseas operator and got her to call a pay phone outside of Monet’s gardens in Giverny [, France].
After about 15 rings, someone finally picked up the phone. It was my wife. Needless to say, it blew both our minds.
2. A Mysterious Bond Between Families
About six years ago, my family traveled to San Diego. While we were there, we befriended a family made up of two little people and their teenage son, who was average-sized. We spent a few hours with them and parted ways.
Four years ago, my family traveled on an Alaskan cruise line. We had dinner on day three, and who’s sitting at the table next to us?
The family of little people [and their] teenage son.
We all laugh about it and spend the last two days of the cruise hanging out …
Last year, my family traveled to Australia. We were having a jolly time looking at all the things that could kill us. One day, we decide to go scuba-diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Who do you think was in our instruction group? The … family of little people [and their] teenage son.
By Kate Rinsema
Want to hear something magical?
Experimental director and playwright, Robert Wilson, caught a hauntingly beautiful piece of music one night, a recording of crickets.
That part is common enough, but then he stretched out the sound as much as one would have to stretch the life of a cricket to equal that of a human, and the result is truly wonderful.
And here is a perhaps truer version:
By Tara MacIsaac
Two camps of scientists have faced off on the issue of the underwater structure known as Bimini Road off the coast of the Bahamas since it was first discovered in 1968.
One camp says it is a 12,000–19,000-year-old man-made structure—flouting the conventional understanding that advanced civilizations only emerged some 5,000 years ago.
The other camp says it is a natural formation.
Dr. Eugene Shinn dismisses as “New Age” the claims that a culture advanced enough to build such a structure existed in that region so long ago. He has behind him the heavy weight of current scientific understandings.
Dr. Greg Little realizes his claims to the contrary are viewed with “outright ridicule,” as he explains in a 2005 paper on the subject. “I have no expectation that any of the skeptics will actually change their views or even consider any alternatives to their beliefs,” he writes.
“All contradictions to their beliefs are probably perceived as a direct threat to them professionally and psychologically,” Little says. “The long history of science has countless examples of widely held beliefs that were proven wrong by research. But even in the face of incontrovertible proof that these beliefs were wrong, many so-called scientists refused to accept the new evidence.”
Little is a psychologist who has taken a keen interest in Bimini and has participated in multiple dives with archaeologist William Donato along the structure.
Donato explains in an email to the Epoch Times that the line of stones form a wall, known as a breakwater, built to protect a prehistoric settlement from waves. During their dives (documented by film and photographs), Donato and Little found the structure to be multi-tiered and to include prop stones they say must have been placed there by humans.
The duo also say they found anchor stones with rope holes carved into them and at least one stone later analyzed at the University of Colorado, which was found to have tool marks, deliberate shaping, functional wear, and erosion features similar to steps.
Little writes that a neutron activation analysis compared nearby shore stones to the Bimini Wall stones and showed the Bimini stones had fewer trace elements, suggesting they were formed elsewhere and transported to that location.
“We know what the Bimini Road is now,” Donato says. “The natural feature theory has been totally discredited. Shinn has no background in archeology and [Marshall] McKusick [who worked with Shinn to promote the natural-formation theory] seems to know nothing about marine archeology.”
Shinn, a retired geologist who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, argues Bimini Road is made up of beachrock—the climate in the region causes sand and other materials on the shore to cement into rock relatively quickly, creating “beachrock”—that was covered by water as the sea level rose.
Rocks of similar shape and in a similar formation have been found in some other regions, says Shinn. The information he sent the Epoch Times in response to inquiries, however, did not seem to explain exactly how the rock forms into the large, thick block shapes seen in Bimini.
Shinn carbon dated some rock samples and found them to be only about 5,000 years old or younger. But, he later admitted to Little, the accuracy of his dating is questionable. Little explains that bulk dating is inaccurate because the samples can be contaminated by materials from later dates.
Shinn told Little, according to Little’s 2005 paper: “You are right, dating of beach rock is not very precise especially if it is a bulk sample. The dates listed in the Nature article were bulk dates done at a later date by a student learning the carbon 14 method.”
Little also accuses Shinn of changing the results of some of his studies.
One of the proofs Shinn has given in recent writings and interviews that Bimini is naturally formed involves core rock samples he took to show a dip toward deep water. If all the cores show a dip toward deep water, explains Little, this would indeed prove the rock formed where it is and did not form elsewhere later to be transported by humans to its present location.
In 1978, Shinn’s published study of Bimini states that 25 percent of his samples showed a dip toward deep water. Little points out that Shinn’s later writings claim all of his samples showed this dip.
When Little confronted Shinn on his discrepancies, Shinn replied: “You must realize that because of all the craziness surrounding the Bimini site and the unusual people, it was hard to take the exercise with the same seriousness we would have employed with our regular research. We did it for fun. There was not the peer review usually associated with our real jobs. The details you have pointed out are evidence of minimal peer review. I got a little carried away to make a good story.”
The Epoch Times asked Shinn to confirm he said this to Little and asked him to clarify the discrepancies pointed out by Little.
Shinn said via email: “I am not going to nit-pick over Little’s concerns.”
He called into question the funding behind Little’s work. Little is funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, says Shinn, which was started by people who believe in the writings of Cayce (1877–1945), a purported psychic who had visions of Atlantis.
Little states in his 2005 paper that his work on Bimini is not a quest to find Atlantis. “Skeptics invoke emotion-laden, ridiculing terms,” Little wrote.
Little states: “For obvious reasons, mainstream archaeologists have avoided Bimini as if it was infected with a deadly virus. They have been convinced by reading others’ summaries of the early research—not by digesting the actual facts—that Bimini has to be nothing but natural beachrock and that a harbor cannot be there—therefore it is not there.”
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Near death experiences NDEs have been reported through the ages by those who were near death—or thought they were—and then return.
Though these experiences are not all the same, they have many distinctive hallmarks: seeing a tunnel of light; seeing loved ones who have passed away; feeling bliss or euphoria; having a heightened sense of cognition; feeling a sense of great love; reviewing one’s whole life, often in a very short period of time; and feeling as if the soul has left the body. NDEs also tend to transform the lives of those who experience them—leading them to try to become better people.
These rich, interesting experiences have provoked the question of whether we truly do have souls, or if our consciousness is only a product of the brain. As brain science advances, there are an increasing number of claims that NDEs can be explained by neuroscience alone, thus obviating any need for an explanation based on the soul.
But how well do these explanations from neuroscience hold up?
One very important piece of information is that about half of NDEs occur when individuals think they are going to die, but are not actually medically close to death. So for example, if someone fell off a building, and thought they were going to die, but only sustained minor injuries. This means that if we’re looking to the brain to explain all the different elements of NDEs, we need an explanation that accounts situations where the person is actually dying, and those where there is no real threat of death, in terms of one’s medical condition.
A common explanation that has been advanced by some scientists is that when the brain is deprived of oxygen, you can expect various patterns of response, particularly a sense of bright light in your center of vision. This kind of experience can indeed be induced by a lack of oxygen, but the problem is, not all NDEs involve anoxia, yet many still have the sense of a tunnel of light.
Furthermore, when the brain is out of oxygen, it starts firing rapidly in a disorganized fashion—it’s not working properly. From our knowledge of the brain, we would not expect organized experience in this state, but a jumble perhaps akin to what one might find in seizures or in mental illness—other examples of the brain not working correctly.
But what we get are vivid, organized, transformational experiences—people report that their NDEs feel “more real than real,” they feel free, that they understand the universe at a deep level, and have never been happier. This can happen both when the brain is not in immediate danger, and when it’s under severe duress because of a life-threatening situation.
Interestingly, when the brain is close to death, there is a higher incidence of cognitive enhancement—the mind feels unfettered and able to process more thoughts than usual. That we would find enhanced cognition under deprived conditions for the brain does not square with our understanding of brain function.
Another brain-based explanation is that the out-of-body experience (OBE) portion of NDEs is caused by a misfiring at the temporal-parietal junction, a region of the brain thought to be responsible for forming one’s body concept.
The evidence that this region is responsible for the feeling of people leaving their bodies and perceiving the nearby surroundings—sometimes nearby rooms and areas—is surprisingly weak. The most-often mentioned study, by Blanke and colleagues, is based on one patient, and the patient’s explanations indicated that though she felt like she was not in her body, she only saw her legs and her trunk—which she would have been able to see anyway.
The study only demonstrated that electrically stimulating this part of the brain can make people feel like they’re not in their body, but doesn’t produce any of the other perceptual qualities of an OBE, like seeing their entire body, floating around the room, and seeing the surrounding environment. In short, it failed to elicit anything qualitatively close to the out-of-body component of an NDE.
Explanations for the life review—a phenomenon where the person’s life is reviewed, sometimes in great detail, and they feel remorse for selfish acts and satisfied with their “good” actions—are also particularly lacking.
One explanation, in a Scientific American article by Charles Choi, suggests that the brain region responsible for the life review is likely the locus coeruleus, an area that is involved in stress and is connected to areas that process emotion and memory. However, why would this area evoke an entire life’s worth of memories during death—or when death is thought imminent—and not elicit any memories during other extreme stress? And how does it explain the new moral insights that often accompany this aspect of an NDE?
Another article, by Mobbs and Watt, appearing in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, attempts to explain the life review by citing a single patient who exhibited REM (a characteristic state during dreaming) during an NDE. They conclude that the life review is probably related to REM because it happened during the NDE and is also associated with consolidation of memory.
One critical flaw with this argument is that REM has only been shown to be involved with the consolidation of procedural memories—things like learning a new skill such as riding a bike—and not for episodic memories that constitute the memories of one’s lifetime, as revisited in a life review.
Another major problem with the explanation, just like with the out-of-body example, is that it relies on only one patient. Relying on one example to make a generalization in a case like this is simply bad science, because you can’t know if it’s an exceptional situation.
Mobbs and Watt also try to explain the presence of loved ones who have passed away, giving the example that people with extreme Parkinson’s disease will sometimes hallucinate headless corpses, monsters, and ghosts, as well as dead relatives. Parkinson’s involves a problem with areas of the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, and the authors suggest that these hallucinations arise from a dopamine imbalance.
The problem with this is that almost all NDE cases report positive experiences, and feelings of love and bliss—not headless corpses. While there are some cases where people apparently experience something like hell and demons, the majority of cases are not this way.
A more significant problem is that in Parkinson’s disease cases, there is an awareness that these are hallucinations, whereas those with NDEs feel that it is real. This would, at the very least, suggest a different neural pathway.
A good explanation from neuroscience needs to not only actually account for each individual phenomenon, but do so in a way that combines them and explains how they happen together.
Another explanation offered for NDEs is confabulation—that these experiences are concocted by the mind as a way of explaining a gap in consciousness. This has been offered by biologist P.Z. Myers, a noted skeptic.
Myers says that when people come back from clinical death and recount a story it doesn’t mean they were aware during the time of clinical death, it could just be the brain’s way of accounting for the lost time. In fact, he claims that this is the “the default understanding by neuroscientists of how the brain works,” in an article posted on Slate.
This explanation suffers from the same major problem as the other neuroscience explanations: about half of NDEs don’t happen in truly life-threatening situations, meaning these people didn’t go unconscious at all, and thus there’s no gap to account for.
The other problem is that confabulation sounds plausible at first, but in the scientific literature, confabulation of fantastic or extraordinary events—which an NDE would be considered—only happens in people with severe memory problems.
People who have recently had some sort of brain trauma and have trouble both learning new information and remembering old information will sometimes confabulate stories to explain things. These are occasionally quite fantastic, such as being a space pirate, but share little in common with NDE-type experiences.
The explanation suffers other weaknesses, as well. For one, this kind of confabulation goes away over time. Two, the stories often change. And three, they don’t have any qualities of ineffability, a hallmark of NDEs—that is, people try to explain what they went through, but acknowledge that words really aren’t adequate for describing the experience.
So confabulation is a kind of cheap explanation—it might sound good at first, but doesn’t fit with what’s known about confabulation, and completely fails to account for half of NDEs.
It is important to try to explain these phenomena through known mechanisms, because we don’t want to falsely believe in things, but we also have to acknowledge weaknesses or when an argument entirely fails.
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Population control measures, including a possible loosening of the despised one-child policy, were a major topic at the third plenary meeting of the Party’s 18th Central Committee this week.
Any liberalization of the policy would be minor. The new policy being considered would allow any family, where one parent was a single child, to have a second baby. The current policy allows a second baby only in cases when both parents were only children.
Any changes to the one-child policy would endeavor to sustain the nation’s low birth rate while allowing greater freedom for some families to have a second child, National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman Mao Qunan told state media.
Mao attributed China’s economic growth in the past three decades to the one-child policy, saying it had prevented the births of 400 million people, resulting in greater prosperity.
However, Wang Feng, a public policy professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, disagrees. In a Nov. 12 article in Caixin magazine Wang was quoted saying he believes the policy’s contribution is exaggerated by family planning officials and that the greatest decline in China’s birth rate occurred in the ten years prior to the 1980 introduction of the policy. The birth rate plunged because of the promotion of birth control information during the 1970s, he said, adding that when the economy took off in 1987, the birth rate fell again.
“The improvement of living standards and changes in people’s views about the family and giving birth are the key forces driving the decline,” Wang said.
Critics of China’s one-child policy point to serious abuses, including forced abortions, selective abortions of female fetuses, and invasive forced birth control practices as further reason to eliminate the policy. Though Chinese authorities have denied the use of forced abortions, such cases have been documented by activists like Chen Guangcheng.
“Women are forced to abort babies up to the ninth month of pregnancy, and sometimes these forced abortions are so violent that the women themselves die along with their full-term babies,” Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition that opposes forced abortion said on the organization’s website.
“The one-child policy causes more violence towards women and girls than any other official policy on earth, than any other official policy in the history of the world,” Littlejohn said.
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By Matthew Robertson
From the frigid northern plains of Heilongjiang, to the far-flung west of Tibet, and all across China’s heartland, the Chinese Communist Party is reinvigorating a campaign to forcibly transform the thoughts of millions of practitioners of a traditional spiritual discipline.
Every corner of society is to be folded into the movement, according to dozens of Party directives posted on government and Party websites. Even places of education and healing, like the Jiangmen Middle School and the Beijing Friendship Hospital, are expected to take part.
“Enter villages. Enter households. Enter schools. Enter government organs. Enter businesses. Enter the Party cells in the migrant population,” says one notice on the website of a township in the city of Chongqing. “Carrying out the ‘2013 to 2015 Final Battle on Education and Transformation’ is the scientific decision made by the Party Central based on the current struggle,” explains another notice.
Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), the Chinese spiritual practice being targeted, has been persecuted in China since 1999. Jiang Zemin, the Party leader at the time, launched the campaign, and until late 2012 he or his protégés ensured its continuation. Now, this “Final Battle” from 2013 to 2015, is the first time that a nationwide mobilization against Falun Gong has been launched under the rule of Party chief Xi Jinping.
Key members of the security services, who had served the political wishes of former Party leader Jiang Zemin, have been removed this year. Given that the persecution of Falun Gong was personally pushed forward and led by Jiang, it was thought that after his protégés no longer held power, the persecution would by-and-by subside.
Incomplete statistics produced by Minghui.org, a Falun Gong website, do indicate a diminishment in instances of arrests, imprisonment, and torture. And the labor camp system, which had for over a decade handled large numbers of Falun Gong detainees, has in some areas of China quietly been retired this year.
But the new campaign indicates that short of an explicit decision to stop the persecution by the Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s top leadership organ, it will simply continue being given energy, according to Yiyang Xia, the senior director of Research and Policy on China, with the Human Rights Law Foundation based in Washington, D.C.
“Apart from the Cultural Revolution, which almost destroyed the Party, basically no political movement like this has been overturned,” he said.
The Communist Party’s budget for domestic security was over $120 billion this year, according to official figures.
The officials carrying out the campaign against Falun Gong tap into this budget. “There are several hundred thousand security officials whose livelihoods and benefits come from this persecution, so they are eager to have new campaigns,” said Yiyang Xia.
He added that with 14 years having passed since the beginning of the persecution, a large group of beneficiaries in the Party has formed, which actively push it forward, because they gain power and wealth by doing so.
Liang Xiaojun, a human rights lawyer in China who has taken Falun Gong cases, said there are three reasons the campaign is continuing: The first is momentum: “There has been an ongoing persecution, and no one said anything to stop it. Second, as a totalitarian state, the Party needs to create enemies. The third is profit: People who work on persecuting Falun Gong gain financial profit from it.”
Falun Gong is a spiritual practiced based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It has five slow-motion exercises. At its peak in the late 1990s, there were, according to official figures, over 70 million people practicing it, more than were members of the Communist Party. Practitioners say more than 100 million had taken up the practice.
The chief method that Chinese police and security forces will use to carry out the campaign is called “legal education,” or in the vernacular, brainwashing.
It involves detaining and isolating Falun Gong adherents, and then forcing them to read or watch Communist Party propaganda against the practice. This supplements sleep deprivation and physical torture, sometimes of an extreme kind—shocks with electric batons, stress positions, and burning are often reported.
Corinna-Barbara Francis, a China researcher at Amnesty International, noted that labor camps were the chief instruments for carrying out the last transformation campaign against Falun Gong, running from 2010 to 2012. With the decommissioning of some labor camps, “my assumption is that they’re going to send them to these study classes,” she said, referring to the brainwashing facilities set up on a largely ad hoc basis by local Party authorities.
Duihua, a human rights group based in San Francisco that researches China, said that these facilities are even less legally codified than labor camps, and operate outside any set of official laws.
The Final Battle is an official campaign ordered by the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party, likely based on a document prepared by the 610 Office, an extralegal Party organ tasked with stamping out Falun Gong, according to Yiyang Xia, who has studied the operations of the Party’s security campaigns.
But despite it being an official campaign, the entire operation is in fact illegal according to Chinese law, say lawyers.
“Such a document is evidence of suppressing human rights,” said Liang Xiaojun, the lawyer. “Government officials who have learnt a little law should know that it’s illegal to give such orders. People have freedom of religion and freedom of speech” according to the constitution, he said.
Tang Jitian, a rights lawyer, said, “There is absolutely no question that this has no legal basis.” Properly understood, the activities of the security forces should be classed as “forced disappearances, kidnapping,” Tang said.
Analysts familiar with the operations of the Communist Party say that the directives found all over the Internet on local government websites should not have been there in the first place.
“I’m not involved in the operations. I just take care of Web information,” said a website administrator in Jinhe Town, Shaanxi Province, reached by telephone. “The document is ordered level after level from the central authorities. The State Council promotes open information, so, any government information that’s not marked secret is all published on the website.”
Yiyang Xia notes that no provincial level governments put the information on their websites—only very low-level government offices, who don’t understand the rules properly, do so, he said.
Nevertheless, those implementing the campaign are told they have to do a good job. “There are strict evaluations of the … [anti-Falun Gong] campaign every year,” says a notice in Yunyang County, Chongqing. “If any community doesn’t actively organize … [anti-Falun Gong] activities and can’t finish the education and transformation of students, the authorities will seriously seek out the persons in charge.”
Tao Decai, the leader of the anti-Falun Gong activities at the Zhongshan Middle School, in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, was reached by telephone and asked how the campaign was going.
“We’ve sent out surveys to students to take home,” he said, meaning that students had to check whether anyone in their families practiced Falun Gong. Tao was not willing to answer further questions, and ended the call.
Like any nationwide mobilization embarked upon by a communist government, this one has a lot of quotas.
A notice from the Dunren Street neighborhood Communist Party office, in Chongqing, says: “Every year, over 20 percent of the stubborn targets must undergo education-study classes one time. Their recidivism rate must be less than 3 percent.”
Yunyang County said that over 90 percent of the neighborhoods there must have a 90 percent conversion rate.
Xintunzi Town in Jilin Province, in China’s north, sets a far more ambitious goal. “To convert all the unconverted Falun Gong adherents by the end of 2015. Continue propaganda that exposes and criticizes Falun Gong.”
The earnestness of the Party’s attempt to psychologically transform a large group of peaceful individuals, coupled with the ongoing failure of the campaign to actually achieve its objective, has been a subject of puzzlement and sometimes amusement by observers.
Liang Xiaojun, the Chinese lawyer, said he thought the campaign was “very ridiculous.” “It’s impossible for the Party to achieve its goal to transform all Falun Gong practitioners,” he said.
“They’ve been trying so hard to make this group disappear, but after so much effort, the effect isn’t what they wanted, and now it’s become an international issue,” said Tang Jitian, another rights lawyer in China. “They tried it and failed, and now they have a sense of crisis.”
He added: “Their requirements are high, and they want the work to be done enthusiastically and energetically, so there are some comical aspects to it. But using violence to change people’s thoughts and ideas, in reality it doesn’t really work.”
Lu Chen contributed reporting. Ariel Tian and Frank Fang contributed research.
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