By Lu Chen
The first public trial in China that would use a unique interpretation of the law to criminalize “rumors” began Friday in Beijing. Microblogger Qin Zhihui was accused of using the Internet to spread rumors, and was indicted by the state prosecutor for “defamation” and “harming society.”
The case of 30-year-old Qin, known by the online moniker “Qin Huohuo,” came to public attention last August when he was put in criminal detention by Beijing police for posting what the authorities said was “untruthful information” on social media.
Plain old truthfulness may not be the ultimate priority of Chinese communist authorities in the matter, though: Observers said that the trial is primarily another sign of the authorities’ determination to rid the Internet of speech about official corruption and other social ills.
Though the Communist Party is currently waging a high-profile campaign against corruption, the focus of propaganda is always on individual officials. Allowing ordinary citizens to freely voice their opinions about the corruption of the entire system could quickly become problematic and inconvenient for the authorities.
“The authorities are actually abusing their power to reach the goal of purging and rectifying the Internet,” said Wen Yunchao, a Chinese media researcher based in the United States, and formerly a visiting scholar at Columbia University.
The arrest of Qin last year took place as the regime announced plans to “fundamentally eradicate Internet rumors,” signaling a crackdown on social media and a tightening of the space online in which Chinese can speak freely about society.
A rule announced then said that someone who posts “fake information” that is viewed over 5,000 times or reposted over 500 times could face criminal charges, depending on the social impact.
The public prosecutor in Qin’s case said that Qin had posted more than 3,000 online rumors that had attracted a lot of attention and negative remarks against the government, “which seriously harmed society.”
An example given was Qin’s comments on the Ministry of Railways (which was later disbanded because of corruption) on the topic of compensation to victims of a severe rear-end train collision that took place on July 23, 2011.
Qin wrote that the Chinese regime gave a large compensation of 200 million yuan ($32 million) to foreign passengers in the accident, which the authorities said is not true. More than 12,000 netizens reposted this information within an hour, many tacking on a few words of their own resentment toward authorities.
A number of Qin’s other posts alleged corruption of well-known public figures. He charged, for example, that Yang Lan, a wealthy media entrepreneur, faked donations, and that Guo Meimei, a young lady who became famous for posting photographs as she posed alongside expensive sports cars, had used money embezzled from the Chinese Red Cross. Qin was in both cases said to have used “fake information” to damage the reputations of the two women.
But neither Yang Lan nor Guo Meimei joined a lawsuit against Qin. Instead, the procuratorate directly indicted him for “defamation” and “harming society.”
Whether what he wrote is true or false, the regime’s manner of handling it gave the unmistakable impression that a campaign to squelch free speech was afoot.
Chinese law says that “harming society” must consist of acts that are directly, rather than indirectly damaging, and that victims of defamation can only be natural persons, not governments.
“If Qin Huohuo lived in a democratic country, it’s obvious that he might face civil lawsuits, at the most, to give compensations and apologize,” Wen said. “But it would be impossible for a state judicial organization to prosecute someone like him.”
As in previous cases of prosecuting Internet users, Qin confessed his guilt. His apparent remorse and guilt was made a central focus on China Central Television and Xinhua, the state mouthpiece.
“It’s all my fault that I’m standing here today,” he said. “I hope my case can give others a warning not to do such stupid things as I’ve done,” he said in his court statement.
Qin also gave profuse thanks to society, the court, the police, lawyers, the media, his parents, and more. The compliant demeanor will likely serve to reduce his punishment. The sentence has not been handed down yet.
“Qin had no choice but to confess under such high pressure,” said Wen Yunchao. “The authorities also need Qin to have an attitude like that, to show the achievements of their Internet purge.”
Observers found it difficult not to draw an unwelcome contrast between Qin’s prosecution and the demonstrably false statements regularly made by the Chinese authorities themselves, none of which have yet been punished.
Internet user Yuyue Yunqi wrote: “Who’s going to put the Lanzhou government on trial for making rumors?” A recent news report showed that 20 times the regulated limit of Benzene, which causes cancer, has been found in the water in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, after the local government announced that “the water meets state standards of safe drinking.”
Chinese authorities are known to conceal disease epidemics like bird flu, and play down the death tolls of natural or man-made disasters. No legal actions have been taken in those cases, netizens said.
Two widely forwarded complaints on the QQ microblog said: “The law only serves people with power,” and “The government can make rumors, but the people can’t.”
By Gisela Sommer
The U.S. State Department joined international human rights groups in their support of four Chinese lawyers who are being held captive and tortured at a detention center in Heilongjiang Province for trying to represent a group of detained Falun Gong practitioners.
The lawyers, Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were arrested on March 21 when trying to provide legal counsel to family members of Falun Gong practitioners who are held at the Qinglongshan Detention Center, officially titled the “Jiansanjiang Land Cultivation General Office Legal Education Base.”
The four lawyers were brutally beaten by police, according to Zhang Junjie, one of the lawyers who was released on March 27 and diagnosed with three fractures in his spine. The other three lawyers are still held at the Qixing Detention Center.
On March 25, another group of lawyers and citizens went to the detention center and held a hunger strike outside, demanding to meet with the detained lawyers. On the morning of March 29, the entire group of 17 people was arrested, many of them also subject to violence.
Three of the first group of detained Falun Gong practitioners are said to be in critical condition.
“This appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of arrests and detentions of public interest lawyers, Internet activists, journalists, religious leaders and others who peacefully challenge official Chinese policies and actions,” the U.S. State Department said in an April 3 email statement to the Epoch Times.
“We call on Chinese authorities to guarantee all Chinese citizens the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including the freedom of expression,” the statement continued.
Chinese Lawyers Demand Investigation
Earlier, the Chinese Bar Association had issued a directive, telling lawyers not to participate in protests at Jiansanjiang, and not to post any online comments.
“It’s not an authentic Bar Association,” Tang Jingling, a lawyer from Guangzhou, told New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television. “The Communist Party manipulates the organization, which is playing a very disgraceful role.”
Tang said lawyers have posted an open online letter, condemning the Lawyers Association and calling for an investigation of its head.
U.S.-based human rights lawyer Ye Ning told NTD, “Lawyers across the country should stand up for their persecuted colleagues.”
On the morning of April 2, lawyers Tsai Ying, Hu Guiyun, and Dong Qianyong delivered an appeals letter to the All China Lawyers Association in Beijing. They demanded that the Association defend the rights of lawyers to practice law and initiate an investigation team on the arrest, beating, and humiliation of the lawyers, NTD reported.
Amnesty International issued a public statement on March 28, expressing concern about “the safety of the three lawyers who remain in detention and that they too may have been tortured.”
Amnesty also expressed concern that the Chinese authorities are using other forms of arbitrary detention, such as the so called Legal Education Centers, to hold people previously detained in labor camps, which were shut down last year.
In Hong Kong, China Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, and the Justice Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese protested outside the Mainland Chinese Liaison Office on April 2. They called for closing the Jiansanjiang brainwashing center and for the immediate release of the three rights lawyers still in detention, the Minghui report said.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that became popular in China over the 1990s. By 1999, when former leader Jiang Zemin ordered the persecution, approximately 70 to 100 million Chinese were practicing Falun Gong, including many high-level Party members.
To date 3,750 Falun Gong deaths from torture and other abuse in detention have been documented, as well as over 63,000 accounts of torture. An estimate of the real figure puts the actual death toll in the tens of thousands, according to Minghui.
In a statement issued on April 3, the New York based Falun Dafa Information Center called for the release of all detained Falun Gong practitioners and their lawyers in China.
The statement said the detentions and subsequent mistreatment of the four lawyers illustrate two important trends: First, that many Chinese people are challenging the persecution of Falun Gong, by signing petitions, calling for the release of practitioners from labor camps, and more. Second, that the persecution continues despite the closure of the reeducation through forced labor camps, which had become a symbol internationally of the Party’s human rights abuses.
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By now many of us heard the Chinese Communist Party’s promises to close its system of forced labor camps. While I sincerely hope this comes to pass, the other forms of detention in China have not gone away—in particular, the regime’s notorious prison system remains as brutal and lawless as ever. I was an inmate of Chinese jails for seven years, and have seen and experienced what conditions there are like.
Abuses in countries outside China have been reported because inspectors are allowed there. But never since the Communist Party came to power in 1949 has it allowed unfettered, independent investigation of its vast detention system. When UN personnel visited in 2005, their movements were severely restricted.
I was detained in the Beijing Qichu Detention Center in 2005, where UN Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak was allowed to visit. But in the end the UN didn’t manage to get any interviews with Western or Chinese prisoners; they were only allowed to observe the conditions on the cells via monitors. Nowak reported that all efforts to interview former detainees, family members, lawyers, and human rights activists suffered government interference.
The conditions in Chinese prisons are horrible. I saw them. Cells were between 7 and 21 square meters, and between six and sixteen inmates were crammed inside. We slept, ate, and defecated in these tiny rooms. The food was appalling, and not one day passed when we were not physically and psychologically tortured by the guards or “hired” inmates.
Beatings, starvation, and forced labor are all parts of life for those stuck in Chinese prisons. Even minor complaints can result in punishment or even death for yourself or an inmate. Some prisoners I knew tried to commit suicide because the conditions were so abusive. Only some succeeded. Those who didn’t were punished severely.
Guards would sometimes extract confessions from prisoners for the crimes they were accused of: they would break fingers, apply electric shocks, or if they did not want the injuries to show, would simply expose prisoners to the freezing weather, or force them into stress positions for hours.
Embassies in Western countries heard about all this from me, but they did nothing to speak out about it—perhaps because they don’t want to jeopardize their country’s relations with China.
The time I was imprisoned, from 2003 to 2010, also saw China issue new laws and make a lot of promises about improving its human rights policies. Many in the West thought that helping to improve China’s economy, and giving China the Olympics in 2008, would somehow result in more respect for human rights, or even democracy. It was a fantasy. But this fiction, along with corporate greed, has simply helped the Chinese regime cover up the truth of its abuses, while everyone goes about business as usual.
The kowtowing of the West has, of course, also been used by the Communist Party’s propaganda machine to legitimize its rule. The domestic propaganda system, which creates fake films showing how mild prison life is in China, means that the Chinese public is kept in the dark. Foreign media have only shed some light on the conditions in these detention facilities, partly because in-depth investigation may result in their being thrown out of China.
That’s precisely what happened to Al Jazeera after it produced a documentary about the system of slave labor camps, which heavily featured interviews with former Falun Gong detainees.
Excuses about the lack of evidence of abuses also mean that Western countries have put minimal political and diplomatic pressure on the Chinese regime. The regime thus continues to carry out these abuses in the dark, with organ harvesting from living prisoners—some death row prisoners, but mostly Falun Gong prisoners of conscience—being the most appalling.
When I was in the Beijing prison, organ theft was a known and sad fact for all inmates on death row. I spoke to a policeman who admitted to this. “So what?” he said. “They’re going to die anyway, so let the hospitals do what they want with the organs.” I will never forget the time that an inmate recounted to me how he had just met a person from his hometown that was supposed to have already been executed and cremated. This person knew that because the family had received the ashes—two years before.
This made it clear to us all that many inmates were being kept alive simply so their organs could be matched with donors. Then the real execution—or, rather, tranquilization and organ extraction, which leads to death—would take place. A similar process has been used against prisoners of conscience, including some Uyghurs in the 1990s, and a large number of Falun Gong practitioners during the 2000s and up till today. Western countries have not shown an interest in looking closely at these modern horrors, happening right under their noses.
I hope that officials and politicians from democratic Western countries, including the United States, and Sweden where I am from, who interact with Chinese officials, will dare to tell them that they know full well what is happening inside China. I also hope that they will begin demanding that all prisoners of conscience be set free from these facilities.
George Karimi is a Swedish businessman of Armenian origin. He was sentenced to life in prison in China after one of his business associates was tortured and forced to accuse him of counterfeiting money. He spent seven years in Chinese jails until being transferred to Sweden in 2010; now, after a reduction of his sentence, he is due to be released in November 2015. Mr. Karimi recently completed a book about his experiences.
Last year was the worst for human rights since at least 2008, says an annual report from Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The signature “Chinese Dream” of the new leadership has instead become a “nightmare,” they say.
“The Chinese government’s assault on activists last year indicates just how far authorities under the rule of President Xi Jinping are willing to go to suppress an increasingly active and emboldened civil society,” said Renee Xia, the international director of CHRD.
Defining new developments in 2013, when Xi Jinping’s regime took office, as well as ongoing rights concerns, CHRD points to a major crackdown on civil and human rights across the board.
The assault on the New Citizens Movement and asset disclosure advocates targeted peaceful assemblies; new laws concerning “rumors” targeted bloggers and signaled increased criminalization of speech in the media and online; the widespread physical violence against human rights lawyers served to deny legal counsel to rights advocates, the report charges.
Dozens of human rights activists interviewed for the report pointed out that 2013 was the worst year for human rights since the crackdowns around the Olympics in 2008. Specifically, the report states:
The number of activists detained last year was greater than any since crackdowns in 1999; the number of criminal detentions of human rights defenders trebled that of 2012; over 220 activists were detained, with dozens formally arrested and tried or awaiting trial; there were over three times more enforced “disappearances” than in 2012.
Despite the highly publicized abolishment of Re-education Through Labor, CHRD identifies notes that other extrajudicial detention methods have sprung up, including increased use of “black jails.”
Although Xi Jinping, the Party leader, pledged to purge corruption from the Communist Party at all levels, activists who requested that high-ranking officials declare their personal wealth were hastily detained. Activists considered to be leaders of the asset disclosure movement were charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” and other terms that disguise the political nature of the arrests.
Rights defenders involved in the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose-knit group seeking political, legal, and social reforms, were detained, tried and issued harsh sentences. Most notably, the respected law professor Xu Zhiyong was tried on those charges and sentenced to four years of imprisonment.
The regime made it clear in a 2013 internal memo, Document No. 9, that discussion of “Western ideals,” including universal values, democracy, and human rights would not be tolerated. An assault was launched on activists advocating rule of law, constitutional democracy, and freedom of the press.
Political persecution and suppression in ethnic minority regions increased, as did harsher security measures and intensified violence in Tibet and Xinjiang, the report said.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders also pointed out that the leadership failed to ratify the international standard for human rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), despite repeated promises to do so. The group urged the Chinese regime to honor its promise to the international community to “promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
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By Gidon Belmaker
Volvo’s new ad featuring soccer superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović looks like a dream. It features Sweden’s great outdoors in all its glory. But Volvo is only Swedish in appearance. It was bought by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.
Swedish organization Supporting Human Rights in China made a spoof of the original ad showing where Volvo’s money ends up.
“Doing business with this regime of terror is to support the abuse, torture, and persecution. It is shameful wanting to associate your brand with the Chinese regime. It was shameful of Volvo to sell out a Swedish brand to them, and it is even more shameful to now give the appearance of Swedishness and Swedish values,” the group wrote in a description of its video.
Here is the original ad:
By Lu Chen
Although the notorious labor camp system in China has effectively been shut down in most parts of the country, the extralegal detention and torture of large numbers of Chinese citizens has not ended.
One of the new, legally dubious, facilities that has cropped up for those deemed by the Chinese Communist Party to be anti-social elements—such as elderly people who petition the government after their houses are demolished—are called “disciplinary centers.”
The full name of one of the facilities exposed on the Internet recently was “The Education and Discipline Center for Abnormal Petitioning.” It was located in Wolong District, Nanyang City, in Henan Province, central China.
Petitioning refers to seeking out higher-level authorities to resolve injustices perpetrated by officials at lower levels, which the judicial system has been unable or unwilling to correct.
“It’s a new style of labor camp,” said Yang Jinfen, an Internet user who posted a photograph of the facility in Nanyang. “It illegally detains petitioners. My mom Zhang Fengmei who’s nearly 70 years old, has been detained there since Feb. 4 without any legal procedure …”
The picture and message was first put onto Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and then deleted.
Yang said her mother was first locked away there for 10 days in January.
“They detained my mom in a very small room without a bed,” she said to Epoch Times in a telephone interview. “They just gave her a blanket and let her sleep on the floor. They detain you as long as they want. It’s the same with the labor camp and black jail. The local government officials are just like rogues.”
Local Communist Party cadres respond to the incentives and disincentives set by those higher up in the system.
“The local government is afraid that if my mom goes to Beijing to petition, it will reflect badly on their political achievements,” Yang said. “So they just detain her.”
Zhang Fengmei, the mother, is calling for justice for her son, who was tortured into disability during a prison sentence. The son, Yang Jinde, was an entrepreneur who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010 for six crimes including “leading a criminal syndicate” and “disturbing social order.” The criminal justice system in China is often prone to corruption and, many Chinese complain of unfair judgments.
Rather than investigate the torture of her son, authorities in Henan simply locked up the mother.
Inside the disciplinary centers, petitioners are said to be under “24-hour nonstop discipline, warnings, and educative persuasion,” according to a local government website.
But according to Xinhua, the state mouthpiece, an official at the State Bureau of Letters and Calls in Henan, the agency that is responsible for petitioners, admitted that the disciplinary centers “do not meet legal requirements.” The official did not disclose his name.
Yang Jinfen, whose mother is locked up, said, “My mom just wants her son healthy.”
By Carol Wickenkamp
Late in November of 2013, following a high Chinese Communist Party official’s address asserting the CCP’s tolerance for religions, the regime clamped down even harder on Tibetans, Uyghurs, and practitioners of Falun Gong. Now Christian churches—even state-registered ones—are being tormented across China.
State Bureau of Religious Affairs director Wang Zuoan’s speech, printed in People’s Daily, acknowledged the value of religious people to Chinese society and asked for their support in achieving the Chinese Dream, the current leadership’s goal of a revitalized China. While Wang’s remarks suggested even something more than toleration for religion, the reality has proven different.
A popular Tibetan religious teacher was beaten to death while in custody in Lhasa and others monks detained less than three weeks after Wang’s address. Concurrently, 14 Uyghurs were killed in an incident in Xinjiang, triggered by a policeman lifting a woman’s veil.
As of Jan. 21, Minghui (a site run by Falun Gong that serves as a clearinghouse for reports on the persecution of the spiritual practice) has received reports of 228 January arrests, 33 “trials” resulting in 16 illegal prison sentences, 16 detentions at brainwashing centers, and three death cases reported in January so far.
In mid-November, Zhang Shaojie, the popular pastor of a state-sanctioned Christian church in Hunan Province was detained by officials along with church members, but no charges were announced.
In December a group of Chinese rights lawyers and a British news crew attempting to meet with Zhang were assaulted by a crowd of unidentified people, said to be hired by local officials.
The pastor, who defended his church’s land rights, will be put on trial on Jan. 28 for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” and “fraud” charges, his lawyer told China Aid. Parishioners say that the local officials want the church’s land for development.
Christmas and the New Year
In Sichuan Province, an employee of an unregistered house church was detained on Dec. 24 for organizing a Christmas gathering for church members, though he had informed the Domestic Security Protection Squad prior to the celebration. His request for reconsideration of the detention has been denied several times, said China Aid.
China Aid has received reports of persecution from local churches across China. Local police raided a house church in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Jan. 1, while believers were celebrating the New Year, detaining nine members. Authorities are evicting a small house church in Xincheng, Shandong Province. A Christmas celebration in Anhui Province was disrupted by police and some members were put under administrative detention, a church member reported.
In Beijing a house church member was taken from his home and placed under house arrest in a different location. When friends attempted to take food and medicine to him on Friday, fifteen of them were detained.
A house church in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province reported to China Aid that police have disrupted their church gathering twice a week since the beginning of January, while Christians in central Henan Province say they are afraid to attend their church meetings because several local government departments have been harassing them.
“The director of the Religion Affairs Bureau is “running” the Church ever more ostentatiously, not even taking care to save the appearances. The only purpose of their work seems to be ‘enslaving’ our Church (unfortunately with much success) by forcing our bishops and priests to betray their conscience, their faith,” said Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, voicing his concern at the situation of the Catholic faithful in China to AsiaNews, a Vatican publication.
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Tags: human rights lawyers
Prominent human rights scholar and activist Xu Zhiyong’s trial began and concluded on Wednesday, with both Xu and his lawyer remaining silent in protest of what they said were the illegal procedures taken by the court during the trial.
Both refused to talk during the trial proceedings to demonstrate their objection to the court’s refusal to allow any of Xu’s 68 witnesses to appear, lawyer Zhang Qingfang told Epoch Times. He said that other defendants arrested in the same case were also prevented from appearing during the trial.
“Because Xu Zhiyong was silent, the judge decided to adjourn the court for five minutes specifically to persuade Xu to talk, but it didn’t work,” Zhang said. “And then because the lawyers [Zhang and another lawyer] were silent, the court stopped again to persuade us,” he continued.
But, they refused to speak too, because the court was so seriously violating the laws covering court procedures, Zhang said. They couldn’t consent to taking part in such a trial, he told Epoch Times.
He said that Xu had prepared a 50 minute statement titled “For Freedom, Public Welfare, and Love,” which would act as his defense, but the court didn’t allow him to finish presenting it, interrupting him after 10 minutes.
“But just because we maintained our silence in court, it doesn’t mean we’ll be quiet outside the courtroom. We’ll be publicizing our defense opinions soon,” he went on.
Xu’s counsel tried to arrange time during the break for Xu to meet with his wife, who gave birth to a baby daughter last week, but the court would not permit it. Only two family members, his wife and his sister, were permitted in the courtroom.
Zhang believes Xu’s sentence will be a heavy one, more than three years and possibly the maximum of five years.
Outside the courthouse, supporters and media were restrained at a distance and the streets around the courthouse barricaded.
Petitioners and rights defenders shouted “Down with dictatorship,” “Establish a democratic regime,” and other slogans, while police attempted to contain them, reported Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).
A crowd of over 300 supporters, including high profile human rights lawyers and activists, showed up to demonstrate their support for Xu, holding banners and placards, mingling with foreign reporters and plainclothes police.
Ni Yulan, who was tortured in prison for her human rights legal work, was brought in her wheelchair to the courthouse. Rights lawyers Cheng Hai and Liang Xiaojun, and women’s rights defender Mao Hengfeng came to show their solidarity, said Chinese media Boxun.
Over 100 lawyers and activists, among them activist Chen Yunfei and lawyer Liang Xiaojun, were hauled away to the black jail at Jiujingzhuang in a continuous stream of commercial vans, according to CHRD. Police would have arrested more supporters but for the presence of the well-known foreign media correspondents on the scene, said CHRD.
Xu’s closing statement directly addresses the issues that directly brought and affected his trial, and will continue to afflict the Chinese system in his eyes. In part, he closed his statement saying:
“For ten years, I’ve witnessed too much injustice and too much misfortune and suffering, because I choose to stand on the side of people who are powerless. But we still have the heart and vitality to promote our country’s development wisely…
“Unfortunately, you see civil groups as heresy, and you are afraid of us. You say that we have a political purpose. You are right, our political purpose is very clear, which is to build a wonderful China that has democracy, rule of law, freedom, justice, and love…
“This is our new civil spirit: freedom, justice, love. It must become the Chinese nation’s essential value, and it needs our generation to fight and sacrifice for it.”
It was signed “Citizen Xu Zhiyong.”
Reporting by Lu Chen.
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By Lu Chen
While the well-known Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong is facing five years in prison for his political activism, an associate of his — the wealthy Chinese businessman Wang Gongquan — who was accused of the same crimes was allowed out on bail because he confessed.
The difference in how the two individuals were treated, and handled their treatment, sparked some dispute and discussion among the dissident community. The Chinese Communist Party, whose security organs are prosecuting and punishing the two men, also seemed to muddy the waters with propaganda reports involving Wang. Many immediately cast doubt on the veracity of what Chinese state media claimed Wang said.
“Wang Gongquan admitted his criminal activities of planning and instigating crowds to disturb public order with Xu Zhiyong,” the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court posted on its official Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China, on the evening of Jan. 22, “He engaged in deep soul-searching over his actions. The court has altered its forceful measures against Wang according to the law, and allowed him to be released on bail.”
Meanwhile, the state media Beijing Television also aired news saying that Wang had violated the law by supporting Xu Zhiyong financially and promoting related information on his Weibo account. The report says Wang felt “very regretful and sorry to his children and family,” and that he promised to “never get in touch with Xu Zhiyong from now on.” It also claims that Wang said “I don’t understand why Xu Zhiyong, as a PhD in law, doesn’t confess his crime.”
The news of Wang’s alleged confession and harsh words against Xu were widely reported in China’s state media.
A large number of Chinese observers simply didn’t believe the official reports, however. They doubted whether Wang had even confessed — or allowed that, if he did, it was probably because he was being forced to do so, possibly through violence.
“Wang has been arraigned 92 times by Nov. 29,” Wang’s lawyer Chen Youxi posted on Sina Weibo last December, showing the pressure Wang has been put under in custody.
Wang was formally arrested on Oct. 20 last year, which would mean he was interrogated several times a day. Chinese commenting online said it would have constituted a disguised method of torture.
Chinese rights activist Hu Jia also thinks that Wang’s confession was wrought only under enormous pressure. “I think Mr. Wang Gongquan must have suffered a lot of pressure. It’s like rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng who was threatened by the authorities to confess, otherwise they would have made his wife and children suffer,” Hu Jia said to Sound of Hope radio. “China’s judicial environment is like this. The CCP uses the dirty means of triads to force political prisoners to confess.”
Others remarked on the discrepancy in treatment between Wang and Xu, who were accused of the same crimes — organizing a crowd to disturbing public order — and said it was indicative of the politicized nature of China’s legal system.
“If you confess, you will be released, which is totally illegal. The CCP just wants to suppress him and make him show a gesture of surrender,” said human rights lawyer Tang Jingling in an interview with Sound of Hope.
“The CCP arresting Wang Gongquan, Xu Zhiyong, and many other people this time is essentially a political persecution…” Tang said. “That’s why there’s such a strange confession.”
Chinese law professor and rights activists Zhang Xuezhong spoke up for Wang on Weibo, saying the official reports about Wang denouncing Xu are not true.
“I’ve carefully read Wang Gongquan’s confession. There’s surely some expressions of regret, but he didn’t betray or denounce anyone,” Zhang wrote. “Please don’t be misled by the authorities’ propaganda. Let’s respect and support those who are persistent, and let’s understand and tolerate those who’ve given in.”
Wang Gongquan and Xu Zhiyong are both key players in the New Citizens Movement in China, which promotes “freedom, justice, and love,” established in 2012. It involves a number of lawyers and activists who make efforts in promoting equal rights to education and legal access, while urging official transparency.
After Xu was detained for “assembling crowds to disturb public order” in July 2013, Wang and four other supporters established a petition and published an open letter to appeal to the authorities to release him. Wang was detained two months later.
At the time Wang was arrested, his lawyer Chen Youxi told Chinese media that Wang didn’t accept the accusations. Wang said he wasn’t guilty, had not disturbed public order, and had committed no crime.
Over 50 rights activists were put under detention and accused of “disturbing public order” and “inciting subversion” after they organized and called for increased human rights between February and October 2013, according to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 report on China.
A number of those detained by the authorities — including, famously, Wang Gongquan — were forced to confess their misbehavior on China Central Television, the official state broadcaster. This called to mind the show trials of the Maoist era, 50 years ago.
“It makes me think of the Cultural Revolution when people had a big hat put on them and were denounced in public… There was Xue Manzi and Chen Yongzhou. Now it’s Wang Gongquan,” said Netizen Kai Wenzheng on Weibo. “Who’s next?”
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Presence of China sits uneasily in background of global effort as new UN Campaign shifts their approach
The approach to solving the international crime of counterfeiting was, until recently, based around trying to negotiate with the main perpetrator: China.
But times have changed. Among the impacts of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden—which expose the NSA’s international spying—was the end of any possible discussion with China on intellectual property theft for years to come.
Thus, the focus has shifted, and the United States and its allies are now looking to stop China’s IP theft and the subsequent flow of counterfeit goods through other means.
In New York City’s Times Square, on Jan. 14, a very visible example of this new approach was aired on the NASDAQ screen.
The public advertisement on the big screen shows child laborers and men with guns, while giving a brief introduction to the dark ties that bind the counterfeiting industry with organized crime.
Counterfeit goods and the theft of intellectual property go hand in hand. Criminals and nation-states looking to tap the markets of foreign businesses will steal product designs, and then begin manufacturing their own copies of the products.
The counterfeit industry “supports child labor, 7-year-olds chained to sewing machines, eating two meals of rice a day,” said Valerie Salembier, president of the Authentics Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates about the dangers of counterfeits.
Salembier was publisher of Harper’s Bazaar when it printed an investigative story on the counterfeit industry in January 2009. It included a view from inside a factory in Guangzhou, China, where two dozen children aged 8 to 14 were making knock-off designer bags on rusty sewing machines.
Salembier said that the public response to the article in Harpers Bazaar makes her believe public education can be a powerful tool against the counterfeit industry.
“These stories of young girls working in sweatshops in China, the response we got for that story was overwhelming,” she said.
(China) Cooperation Problems
While few could doubt that the UNODC campaign is a step in the right direction, it is reminiscent of problems raised when the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was signed in October 2011 by the United States, Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, and Singapore. http://www.ustr.gov/acta
Experts argued then—as they do now—that any significant effort to end counterfeiting requires broad cooperation from China. And Chinese authorities haven’t shown any serious interest in uprooting the counterfeit industry.
An estimated 15 to 20 percent of all products made in China are counterfeits, according to the MIT Center for International Studies. The Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs also reported in 2012 that close to 80 percent of counterfeit goods seized at U.S. borders come from China.
Asking Chinese authorities to stop the flow of counterfeits is “impossible, especially since eight percent of China’s GDP is based on counterfeit goods,” said Daniel Katz, an expert on the effects of outsourcing manufacturing, in a telephone interview. “A huge amount of their own revenue comes from that, so how can they just get rid of that revenue? What are they going to replace it with?”
“It’s a situation that can’t be cracked down on until China changes as a country,” Katz said.
‘Ask the Consumer’
The public awareness campaign, Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organized crime, is being run by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). Of course, China is a member of the UNODC, but the campaign makes no mention of China. The focus is solely on transnational organized crime with groups such as the Chinese Triads, Italian Mafia, and Japanese Yakuza on the list.
“The aim of the campaign is to ask the consumer to look behind the purchases they make, particularly if they knowingly buy counterfeit products, and make an ethically informed choice about their purchases,” said Alun Jones, UNODC chief of communication and advocacy division for policy analysis and public affairs, in an email.
Jones said the campaign is part of a larger initiative from the UNODC that started mid-2012 to raise awareness about organized crime and the United Nation’s efforts against it.
And the scope of the problem can’t be understated. Jones said the global trade in counterfeits brings in $250 billion a year, “and is most probably the second largest earner for organized criminal groups after drug trafficking.”
Stopping the Flow
Flashback to May 2013. For the first time, the Pentagon called out China directly for its cyberattacks aimed at stealing U.S. corporate intelligence. This came just a month after Microsoft won a high-profile case in Beijing Higher Court on a lawsuit against China’s owner and manager of Bai Nao Hui, over the spread of counterfeit copies of Windows in China.
Also in May 2013, Jon Huntsman Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to China and now co-chair of the private Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, said, according to New York Times, “China is two-thirds of the intellectual property theft problem, and we are at a point where it is robbing us of innovation to bolster their own industry, at a cost of millions of jobs.”
For China’s communist leadership—which broadly censors the Internet and tightly controls the country’s media—public image matters. And it was precisely its public image that was being tarnished by the exposure of its campaigns of spying and theft.
The administration’s attempt to have the discussion with the Chinese leadership was derailed by Snowden’s leaks of the NSA’s spying, however. Even though the NSA targets foreign intelligence, rather than business secrets, the Chinese used the revelations to accuse the United States of hypocrisy.
Given that dialogue is no longer in the cards, other proposals have been made to deal with Chinese counterfeit goods and intellectual property theft.
Many were outlined in the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2013 report to Congress. They include banning imports from Chinese companies that counterfeit U.S. goods, preventing offending Chinese companies from using U.S. banks, and establishing stronger systems for U.S. companies to file international lawsuits.
But the problem with any solution is that counterfeiting is built into the workings of China’s communist leadership, according to Greg Autry, senior economist with the American Jobs Alliance, and co-author of “Death by China.”
“They don’t really view, as individuals, that intellectual property theft is a problem,” Autry said in a telephone interview. “Under the communist ideology, of course, they believe that everything is communal.”
“In the communist system, it requires that you have to kowtow to the authorities in Beijing,” he said. “It’s a political decision that moves you forward. Having great ideas isn’t what gets you forward—stealing other people’s great ideas and helping the leaders profit is what gets you forward.”
By Epoch Times
A blogger from Shanxi Province in north-central China was recently arrested for warning on Weibo a twitter-like platform popular in China that forced organ harvesting has been occurring in the area in which he lives.
Mr. Han, 41 years old, is from Wenshui County. He used his cellphone to blog the information of several cases of people being killed for their organs recently in Wenshui and Qingxu counties.
The information had been posted 253 times when he was apprehended. When police arrested Mr. Han, they claimed the blog could cause people to panic.
In September China’s top judicial authorities issued new regulations according to which someone may be jailed if a blog post is forwarded more than 500 times. The broadly worded regulations criminalize “rumor mongering” in the name of preventing harm “to the social order or the national interests.”
In 2006, independent investigators outside of China reported that prisoners of conscience detained in China, particularly adherents of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong, were in effect being used as a live organ bank. When someone needing an organ presented him or herself, the needed organs would be harvested from a detainee, killing him or her.
Discussion of forced organ harvesting has been censored in China, but in recent years on scattered occasions China’s state-run media have reported instances of gangs engaging in a black market organ trade independent of the detention system.
Chinese netizens have been discussing the arrest of Mr. Han at great length, pointing out that according to the new regulations a blog post needed to be forwarded more than 500 times before an arrest could be made.
“Sadly, I could post something insignificant in the morning, and be arrested in the afternoon. The content was about highlighting corruption,” a netizen said.
“Was it [Han’s post about organ harvesting] really spreading rumors?” another netizen said. “Did it really result in disrupting public order, such as suspension of classes or production? Did it cause chaos or an event involving large group of people? How could you tell that locals were unsettled by the panic? Were there really 200 people who said they got frightened by the news?”
And another netizen said: “Because of “spreading rumors,” regardless of how many times a blog is forwarded, maintaining social stability is considered of the utmost importance. How much fear would this arrest instill in the hearts of the netizens?”
Recently efforts to stop illegal organ harvesting have increased around the world. On Dec. 9 Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting presented a petition calling for an end to forced organ harvesting in China to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that was signed by nearly 1.5 million people in 53 countries.
On Dec. 12, the European Union passed a resolution condemning forced organ harvesting in China, and legislation to curb the practice has recently been introduced in Canada and Australia.
Translated by Frank Fang. Written in English by Christine Ford.
Read the original Chinese report.
Almost fifty years ago, during the opening moves of China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966, Beijing schoolgirl and prominent “Red Guard” Song Binbin helped spark an escalating series of violent criticism and struggle sessions at her school that resulted in the bloody death of the principal.
Now the aging Song says she’s sorry.
Song Binbin, whom Mao Zedong famously met and gave the nickname “Yaowu,” meaning “WIlling to Fight,” appeared at the Beijing Normal University-affiliated girls’ school on Jan. 12, giving a 1500-character speech of repentance.
“Please allow me to express my everlasting solicitude and apologies to Principal Bian,” she told a group of former teachers and students, according to a report by the Beijing Times. “I failed to properly protect the school leaders, and this has been a lifelong source of anguish and remorse.”
The daughter of admiral Song Renqiong, one of communist China’s founding leaders, Song Binbin was in 1966 a senior leader among the Red Guards at her girls’ school in Beijing. The Red Guards, created to further Mao’s aims in the Cultural Revolution, brought untold chaos to the country’s institutions and social framework.
That June, Song penned what is known as a “big-character poster” criticizing the school leadership. It culminated in August with a deadly mob beating the school’s Communist Party secretary and deputy headmaster, Bian Zhongyun.
“The Cultural Revolution was a massive calamity,” Song said, according to a text of her statement published on “Consensus Net,” a Chinese website that specializes in intellectual and political discussions. A photo of Song and other former students bowed before a bust of Ms. Bian appeared in Chinese newspapers.
The headmaster’s killing was but one of the first and most well-known of its kind.
“In the following days, the violence escalated. As a result, more and more teachers were beaten and many died,” according to research by U.S. professor Wang Youqin, who herself was a former Red Guard. About 100 were tortured to death in a single district of central Beijing within two weeks in August 1966 and many more were left disabled.
Song said she was inspired by the apology by Chen Xiaolu, the son of another top communist official. “We saw that society recognized his apology. This is an opportunity. We hope more people can know the truth,” Song said.
The Cultural Revolution was a political campaign launched by Mao Zedong, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the founder of the People’s Republic of China, to curb the authority of perceived ideological enemies and claw back his power in the Party after the disastrous Great Leap Forward, in which tens of millions of people starved to death.
Initially its base of support came from the children of top Party officials, including Song, who looked to demonstrate their revolutionary credentials. Soon this early group of Red Guards was forsaken by Mao and left open to attack by other groups in an escalating cycle of violent struggle.
The effects of the Cultural Revolution were incredibly widespread. Current party head Xi Jinping and his father Xi Zhongxun are among its victims. The elder Xi was dismissed from the position of vice premier of the Communist Party’s state council, becoming the target of investigation and detention. Xi Jinping himself, then a young boy, was denounced, starved, left homeless, and detained. In early 1969, the 16 year old Xi was sent to work in a rural area in Northern Shaanxi, Province, where he spent seven years laboring in miserable conditions.
Wang Jingyao, Bian Zhongyun’s 93-year-old widower, has long worked to preserve his late wife’s memory, as well as raise awareness of the role played by Ms. Song and others in the death.
“She is a bad person because of what she did,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “She and the others were supported by Mao Zedong. Mao was the source of all evil. He did so much that was bad. And it’s not just an individual problem” of someone like Ms. Song, he added. “The entire Communist Party and Mao Zedong are also responsible.”
By Carol Wickenkamp, Epoch Times | January 12, 2014
Last week eight Tibetans were detained in the latest effort in Beijing’s battle against ethnic and local languages.
The Tibetans were linked to a grassroots effort to preserve their language and cultural identity, said Radio Free Asia. The practice of teaching the local language is considered illegal by authorities in both Tibet and Uhygur regions, where the Chinese regime seeks to eliminate ethnic languages, replacing them with Mandarin, China’s official language.
The Tibetans were detained in Karma township, where a popular Tibetan religious figure, Khenpo Kartse, was detained nearly a month ago, accused of carrying out anti-state activities including teaching the Tibetan language, sources told RFA.
In Tibet, the Chinese regime represses Tibetan culture by making the language redundant throughout society, says the Central Tibetan Administration. Pointing to the education system, which is controlled entirely by the Chinese Communist Party, the Administration argues that the system is entirely set up to suit the needs of Chinese immigrants rather than the Tibetan students.
In Xinjiang, similar language repression is enforced on the Uyghur population.
“Compounded by the near elimination of the Uyghur language in the education system and restrictions on cultural practices, the Uyghurs face losing their ethnic distinctiveness,” Rebiya Kadeer, president of the exile World Uyghur Congress, told a 2012 U.S. congressional hearing in Washington.
Even minor dialects are besieged. China’s State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has instructed all media presenters be out in front in promoting Beijing’s Mandarin dialect, boosting the “soft power” of Chinese culture, reported state media Global Times.
Television and radio hosts were instructed to speak proper Mandarin and not to imitate dialects, the article said.
Fully a third of the Chinese population, or 400 million people, can’t speak Mandarin, Ministry of Education representative Xu Mei told state media Xinhua in a September 2013 article. Xu went on to say that the ministry would focus on promoting the use of Mandarin in the remote countryside and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities in the coming year.
By Stephen Gregory
The end of 2013 saw a wave of efforts by individuals and governments to condemn the practice of forced organ harvesting in China, suggesting 2014 will see more being done to stop this crime against humanity.
The most visible sign of this new momentum was a petition circulated by the human rights group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.
Addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, the petition asks the high commissioner: to call for “an immediate end of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China,” to initiate investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible, and to call upon the Chinese government to end the persecution of Falun Gong.
Nearly 1.5 million (1.48) people in 53 countries on 5 continents signed the petition, which was delivered to the high commissioner’s office in Geneva on Dec. 9.
On Dec. 6, a bill was introduced into the Canadian Parliament that will sanction those who take part in forced organ harvesting.
On Dec. 12, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning forced organ harvesting in China. The United States House of Representatives is expected to vote on a similar resolution early in 2014.
In Australia, a petition with 170,000 signatures was delivered on Nov. 27 to Member of the New South Wales Parliament David Shoebridge. The petition called for the passage of a law he had introduced meant to prevent citizens from obtaining organs from unwilling victims.
In France, MPs have called for the passage of a law to prohibit trafficking in human organs. In Sweden, Taiwan, and Hong Kong there have been recent discussions among legislators about what legislation might help prevent their citizens from taking part in or colluding with China’s regime of forced organ harvesting.
Nations around the world are beginning the work of building an ethical global organ transplantation system.
Human rights advocates might have been tempted to cheer when the Chinese regime confirmed on Nov. 15 it was closing its vast system of labor camps. Any desire to celebrate, though, would have been rapidly stilled by the knowledge of what this closure entails.
According to the state-run Legal Evening News, many labor camps are “closing” by simply changing the sign out front. Camps are being rebranded as prisons or addiction treatment centers, while inside the same walls the same guards mete out the same abuses as before.
There have been reports of some inmates being released, but prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong practitioners, are being sent from labor camps to prisons or, of greater concern, to “legal education centers,” otherwise known as brainwashing centers.
Finding new places for the practitioners, estimated to be a population in the hundreds of thousands, is a big task, but there are more legal education centers in China than labor camps.
While the centers now hold a variety of detainees, they appear to have been created in 1999 expressly for the purpose of “transforming” Falun Gong practitioners—forcing them to give up their beliefs.
According to Chinese rights lawyers, these centers are less regulated than labor camps and more violent. There is no limit on how long individuals may be detained in the centers, which, like labor camps, do not require a trial or even a warrant to hold someone.
In a blog post Chinese rights lawyer Teng Biao referred to the centers as “torture camps” and quoted other lawyers as saying that “such illegal detention facilities have killed more people than prisons and labor camps.”
In 2014 look for human rights advocates to begin reporting on these centers, bringing upon them the condemnation the labor camps had so justly earned.
In fact, this has already begun, a Dec. 17 Amnesty International report warns that former labor camp detainees are being sent to legal education centers, where they suffer torture and abuse.
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