Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, health, Science, Society
Single gene swap enables avian virus to change hosts
Chinese researchers have created a virus that can infect mammals via coughing and sneezing by hybridizing the H5N1 bird flu virus with the H1N1 swine flu strain that caused the 2009 pandemic.
Their paper was published in the journal Science on May 2, the same day a man from Henan Province died from the H7N9 bird flu virus–reportedly the first death outside of eastern China and the 27th death among over 120 cases to date.
The H7N9 virus is believed to be a reassortment of several avian flu viruses, but is relatively benign in birds, according to recent research by another Chinese team published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
H5N1 bird flu is highly pathenogenic, but does not easily infect people, whereas H1N1 swine flu infected many millions in 2009. As yet, there is no evidence that the two viruses have mixed in nature, but they do overlap geographically and share some host species.
In the controversial new research the Chinese scientists deliberately manipulated the two viruses to make them more dangerous, for what they said was for the purpose of improving their understanding of pandemic risks. Some of the resultant mutants easily spread through the air between guinea pigs in the lab.
“If these mammalian-transmissible H5N1 viruses are generated in nature, a pandemic will be highly likely,” said research leader Hualan Chen at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“High attention should be paid during routine influenza surveillance to monitor such high-risk H5N1 hybrid viruses in nature.”
While Chen believes her work could benefit disease control and prevention, other scientists are critical of these so-called gain-of-function mutation studies, as manipulating viruses requires excellent lab security standards to prevent the viruses spreading or being accessed by terrorists.
Microbiologist Richard Ebright at Rutgers University, New Jersey, said two other studies had already looked at how H5N1 mutations spread through the air between mammalian hosts–in that case ferrets. That flu research triggered a debate about biosecurity, and led to a one-year moratorium on any similar projects.
“This argument—even if one accepts it, which I do not—does not provide a rationale for the third, fourth, fifth, and nth research projects confirming the same point,” Ebright told Science Magazine via email.
Baron May of Oxford, a former U.K. government chief scientist, told The Independent that the work by Chen’s team is “appallingly irresponsible.”
“They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever,” he added.
Further research by Chen and colleagues has apparently been delayed by investigations into the new H7N9 virus.
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Tags: CCP, China, human rights, Kilgour and Matas, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
A prestigious Australian university has come under scrutiny recently for giving an honorary professorship to a former top Chinese health official who has been involved in unethical organ harvesting.
Researchers of organ harvesting in China spoke to the influential Australian news program the “7:30 Report” with information about Huang Jiefu’s involvement in organ harvesting in China; they called on the University of Sydney to rescind the honorary professorship they gave to Huang in 2008 and renewed in October 2011.
Researcher Maria Fiatarone Singh, a member of the faculty of health science at the University of Sydney, regards Huang as one of the former leaders of an unethical system of organ transplantation.
In the 1990s a very special form of lethal injection called slow lethal injection was perfected in China by Chinese officials. – Researcher Maria Fiatarone Singh
“In the 1990s a very special form of lethal injection called slow lethal injection was perfected in China by Chinese officials,” she said to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which produces the “7:30 Report.” This was meant to preserve the organs while the person is anaesthetised.
“They don’t die right away,” Singh said, giving the surgeon time to pull out organs before the lethal injection is finalized. “It’s done in a way that actually allows this very, very unsavoury mix of execution and medical care and treatment to be done by the same team of doctors,” Singh said. “It’s horrific, really.”
Huang was the vice minister of health from 2001 to 2013, and was the point person for international groups to hear the official word on the Chinese regime’s organ transplantation policies. He was also a member of the Party Leadership Group in the Ministry of Health, according to the Ministry’s website; and he is a reserve member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, ostensibly an advisory body for the Communist Party.
Huang also watched over a period of extensive harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience, according to the research of David Matas, a Canadian lawyer who co-authored the seminal “Independent Investigation Into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China,” first published in 2006.
Practitioners of Falun Gong are suspected of being the preponderant source of illicit organs trafficked through the Chinese system from the early 2000s onwards; tens of thousands may have been killed in that fashion, researchers indicate.
Much of that activity was carried out by the medical-military complex, where military hospitals work with labor camps to source organs and carry out the transplants in secret. Such hospitals are not under the purview of the Ministry of Health—but as head of the transplantation system, Matas holds Huang accountable.
The University of Sydney defended itself with a note from Professor Bruce Robinson, Dean of the Medical School: “Huang Jiefu is recognised internationally for having made significant changes to the regulation of China’s organ transplantation processes in an effort to curb the practice of organ retrieval from executed prisoners.” Robinson listed some of the initiatives that were attributed to Huang, including “publicly stating that executed prisoners are not an appropriate source of organs for transplantation.”
But it’s likely that Huang has himself extracted the vital organs of executed prisoners, says Singh. Singh notes that even up until November of last year Huang was still carrying out liver transplants.
“That would be 100 organs a year,” Singh says. “Using his own figures, 90 to 95 percent of those would have come from executed prisoners.” Huang previously gave estimates that 90 or 95 percent of all organ transplants in China were from executed prisoners.
Before an operation in 2005, he also contacted the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, which is affiliated with the Chinese military, as well as the Zhongshan School of Medicine located in Guangzhou, to obtain a blood-matched liver. Within about 24 hours, one arrived from Chongqing and he performed the transplant, according to a news report on a Chinese official website, recounting the incident in adulatory terms.
While David Matas, the lawyer and researcher, acknowledges that Huang played a public role in highlighting the need for the People’s Republic of China to reform its organ sourcing system, he said in a previous interview with The Epoch Times that it was far from enough.
“With Huang Jiefu, I mean, he says all the right things, but he’s a fellow traveller. This guy is sitting on top of a system of massive transplant abuse,” Matas said. “What I see is the system playing good cop/bad cop. Huang is the good cop. He has this notion of ‘Let’s change things gradually.’ He’s been saying this for many years now, and I don’t see a lot of changes. They do everything to hide the figures.”
Matas added: “I don’t buy the line that they’re doing what they can. They should stop it.”
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More in China Human Rights
Tags: CCP, censorship, China, Chinese culture, classical Chinese dance, Shen Yun, Society
Letters sent to businesses and government officials ask for withdrawal of support
By Matthew Robertson
TOKYO—Chinese consulates in Japan have recently sent letters to businesses, newspapers, and government officials in cities and prefectures across the country, demanding that they withdraw their support for Shen Yun Performing Arts, a Chinese classical dance company that tours the world. Good relations with the People’s Republic of China PRC are said to be at issue.
Shen Yun’s tour in Japan runs from April 19 until May 1. It will perform 11 shows in five cities, and is currently playing in Tokyo.
Last year, and the year before, Chinese consular officials also sent similar letters.
One of the letters, reviewed by The Epoch Times, asks a businessman to cancel his sponsorship of Shen Yun’s local promoters in Fukuoka, where the company is scheduled to perform on May 1. He was additionally asked to withdraw all public relations activities, “involvement,” or other support.
Local government officials have also received such letters, like that sent to the mayor of a city in the Fukuoka Prefecture, by Li Tianran, an official at a PRC consular office in Fukuoka.
Officials in prefectural governments in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, and Aichi, at least, have also received the letters, according to the local promoters in those areas, who were contacted by confused officials after receiving the abusive notes.
So have theaters, television broadcasters, magazines, and three of Japan’s largest newspapers.
The letters frame their demands as being “for the sake of Sino-Japanese relations,” according to the text in the letter seen by The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times devotes a segment of its website to feedback from audiences that have seen Shen Yun.
The Chinese authorities have long attempted to shut down Shen Yun’s performances around the world. The company is frequently sponsored by the Falun Dafa Associations where it performs; Falun Dafa, a spiritual practice, is persecuted ferociously by the Communist Party in China.
A focus of the round of letters in Japan was to slander the host Falun Dafa Association, using the Communist Party’s propaganda against the practice.
In addition, analysts say that the Chinese regime fears the attractiveness to Chinese audiences of the traditional Chinese culture Shen Yun presents. The Chinese Communist Party has sought over the past 60 years to stamp out China’s traditional culture.
The demanding letters were sent in the context of ongoing maritime disputes between Japan and the PRC, where many Japanese feel that the PRC is acting like a bully.
This round of letters targeting Shen Yun is unlikely to reassure the Japanese that China is a generally benign presence, indicated Koyu Nishimura, a Japanese critic and journalist, who read the letter sent to government officials.
“We have the freedom to think, freedom to speak, and freedom to believe. This is what the Communist Party is most frightened of,” he said in an interview with The Epoch Times. “The world is awakening to the real nature of the Communist Party.”
Nishimura continued: “If this has been happening each time the performers come to Japan, we should not keep silent. We must take action.” He added: “We shouldn’t forgive these actions.”
As a result of the letter-writing campaign, some of the sponsors of the hosting organization withdrew their support, and newspapers have been reluctant to run advertising for Shen Yun.
In the history of Shen Yun’s performances this response is unusual. Letters of this kind are regularly sent to sponsors and politicians who support the hosting organizations in countries around the world, and are often ignored or dismissed. Sometimes they are roundly rebuffed.
In early 2011 one such letter reached Dr. Cathy Casey, a member of the city council of Auckland, New Zealand. “I was quite outraged by it,” she said in an interview at the time. “I’m really upset that the consulate should think it can influence elected members in a host country, where they’re our guest. … How dare they!”
After seeing Shen Yun on April 20, Hirosato Nakatsugawa, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, said: “I deplore the Chinese Communist Party sabotaging the performing arts. It is just pure artistic performance. People want this emotional experience.”
Updates: The article was updated to reflect the widespread nature of the letter-writing campaign, the content of the letters sent, and the impact they had in Japan.
Translation by Yukari Werrell. Written in English by Matthew Robertson.
Read the original article in Japanese.
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Tags: CCP, China, Society
By Ariel Tian
The Communist Party has banned civilian volunteers and groups from entering the Sichuan earthquake disaster region without permission, and is also calling for donation of money instead of supplies.
After the devastating quake hit Lushan county in Ya’an on April 20, volunteers nationwide formed rescue groups, and headed to the quake-hit areas. Several non-official charities and civil rights activists joined in, but encountered heavy resistance from authorities.
New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television interviewed Huang Qi, founder of China Tianwang Human Rights Center, who rushed to Lushan from Chengdu with three other volunteers. After the 2008 Wenchuan quake, Huang exposed the shoddy “tofu” school buildings, that had claimed numerous children’s lives.
When the four men arrived at Ya’an city, they were blocked by the local stability maintenance department, and taken to a police station. The officers checked their identities, and then said they were “not welcome.”
Huang said that the police told them not to “cause trouble,” and that it would be bad for the locals if they went to the disaster areas.
Huang’s center has again revealed poorly-constructed projects that collapsed in the Ya’an earthquake. He said the communist authorities are afraid they would see more examples if they went to the scene. “The authorities don’t want us to have close contact with local quake victims. I think this is mainly because they don’t want us to expose problems associated with the quake.”
The day after the Ya’an earthquake, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement, saying that China has adequate rescue and medical forces, and relief supplies, and foreign assistance is not required for the time being.
However, two news reports issued by official media People’s Daily and China National Radio contradicted this statement, saying there is a shortage of relief supplies, with 30,000 tents and 40,000 blankets and clothing needed, and that Ya’an has food and water shortages, with only enough water to last three days.
Shenzhen-based author Zhu Jianguo told NTD that he also believes the regime is trying to hide the real situation in the disaster areas. “If any other third-party rescue forces arrived there, the truth would be revealed against the authorities’ wish. So the government rejected foreign and even non-official rescue assistance as early as possible”
Many netizens were upset that the authorities refused the donation of supplies and only wanted money, especially as media said there is a severe shortage of relief materials.
One Internet user blogged: “I told them, ‘We can’t possibly place money in your care. The Red Cross has been notorious for its corruption. I won’t give a penny to the government-run Red Cross.’”
Others commented that the Communist Party has insisted on taking a closed approach to the rescue effort, and that it places more importance on stability maintenance than people’s lives.
Read the original Chinese article.
Translation by Jane Lin. Written in English by Cassie Ryan.
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Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Cassie Ryan
The General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the office charged with regulating the media, announced the move Wednesday. The office claimed it wanted to “strengthen management” and stop the “spread of harmful information.” The prohibition also applies to freelancers, NGOs, and commercial organizations.
The move coincided with the news that The New York Times had just won a Pulitzer Prize for its October 2012 report on the hidden wealth of ex-premier Wen Jiabao and family.
Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) condemned the ruling as “draconian,” saying that the Communist Party’s censorship has been increasing steadily since its 18th Congress last November, when the new leadership was selected.
“The censors have had the foreign media in their sights ever since they published embarrassing revelations about China’s leaders,” the report said. “The regime is trying to prevent the Chinese media from repeating such revelations.”
The report added that foreign media play a key role in informing the international community about events in China, as well as the Chinese public, which it described as “the victim of the government’s growing censorship of local media.”
However, burgeoning Internet use in China, for example via Sina Weibo microblogs, renders censorship virtually impossible.
“The initiative seems bound to fail in the era of Weibo and social networks, where information and revelations from the foreign media circulate like wildfire,” the RWB report said. “But it could be used to justify new acts of censorship and could therefore have an impact on the Chinese media, which often quote international news agency reports in particular.”
Beijing journalist Gao Yu, two-time Courage in Journalism Award winner, and former deputy editor-in-chief for Economics Weekly, told the Sound of Hope Radio Network that the Internet has broken the Party’s censorship restrictions, and the move is further evidence of a crisis in officialdom.
“[News about] communist officials’ scandals, natural and mining disasters can be spread around the world in a few minutes or seconds,” Gao said.
“For years the Chinese media’s brainwashing propaganda has destroyed the Chinese people’s morality. With the development of the Internet, the brainwashing propaganda can no longer be sustained,” she added. “This is the Chinese regime’s crisis, and that’s why they are tightening control.”
The ban could have a big impact on domestic newspapers, as international agencies like Reuters provide most of their foreign coverage.
Bloggers responded strongly, particularly journalists. A Beijing journalist cited by citizen media website Global Voices said on his Weibo: “Public opinion supervision is essential for a healthy society. The scale of criticism is the scale of democracy–if criticism is not free, then praise is meaningless. The correct conclusion is from a wide range of voices, rather than what is chosen by the authority.”
Another Weibo user added: “What is harmful information? I think there’s only true and false information. The purpose of the news is to broadcast the truth, which is the basic need of a society. Most of the harmful information as defined by the propaganda department throughout the history of the Chinese republic proved to be accurate. Blocking information and opinions may be effective temporarily, but such a policy of self-denial won’t work in the long run.”
A third referred to a Chinese idiom, saying “The more one tries to hide, the more one is exposed.”
With research by Jane Lin.
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More in Chinese Regime
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, persecution of dissidents
By Genevieve Belmaker
An Epoch Times reporter is the winner of a prestigious annual award for his reporting on organ harvesting in China. Matthew Robertson, who specializes in reporting on China and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, wrote a series of articles on forced, live organ harvesting published in The Epoch Times in 2012.
Robertson and the articles won the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Sigma Delta Chi award for professional journalism. The SPJ, founded in 1909 under the name Sigma Delta Chi, promotes freedom of information, educates and advocates for journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of the freedoms of speech and press.
Winners for the 10 categories of the 2012 Sigma Delta Chi awards came from a pool of more than 1,700 entries in categories including print, radio, television, and online. The awards are in recognition of outstanding work published or broadcast in 2012. The Epoch Times collection won for the newspaper category Non-Deadline Reporting (Daily Circulation 1-50,000).
In the nomination letter from The Epoch Times, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Stephen Gregory said that the topic of the articles—forced, live organ harvesting in China—is important and under-reported.
“Hospitals are working hand in glove with the Chinese regime’s repressive security apparatus, and doctors, using the skills meant to heal, are killing helpless prisoners of conscience by removing their organs,” stated Gregory in the letter. He added that the four articles by Robertson submitted on the topic “are a sample of a larger body of work and are the fruit of over two years of consistent effort.”
In praising Robertson’s work on the extremely complicated and sensitive issue, Gregory pointed to his professionalism and dedicated focus.
“Matt [Robertson] has developed contacts with all of the major investigators and human rights organizations in the West concerned with organ harvesting in China and has proven adept at digging important stories out of information publicly available on the Chinese web,” wrote Gregory.
The award-winning articles include “Would Be China Defector, Once Bo Xilai’s Right Hand, Oversaw Organ Harvesting,” about a high-ranking Chinese security official’s forced organ techniques; “After Bo Xilai’s Purge, Searches For ‘Organ Harvest’ Suddenly Allowed,” which analyzes Internet traffic to examine the struggle within the Chinese leadership over accountability for these crimes; “Accused Chinese Organ Harvester Lurks in Transplant Community,” about a Chinese doctor who was head of the organ transplantation unit at a hospital implicated in organ harvesting; “Friendly Ties Come With Award, But Ethicists Object,” on how a major university may have sacrificed ethics for the chance to develop closer ties with China; and “Book Exposes Organized Killing for Organs in China,” a review of State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China, a compilation of works from dozen specialists addressing the issue of organ sourcing practices in China.
In an interview about winning the award, Robertson said he found it gratifying.
“I think it’s awesome that SPJ gave this award because China is a controversial topic to some degree,” said Robertson. “Journalists in China—if they report on this—would probably have their visas denied, so it’s being pushed aside.”
Robertson began learning Chinese in 2007. He lived in Taiwan for eight months of immersion study. Learning aids included the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times, listening to NTD Television and Voice of America, studying reams of Communist Party propaganda, watching ancient Chinese drama serials, and reading the books of Falun Dafa.
To produce the articles, Robertson noted that he made all the phone calls and checked all the available sources, as good journalists do, but had to go well beyond.
“It’s much harder than reporting on subjects in the Western world, because the information is so much harder to get. You cross-check many sources and make some inferences.”
He said that he is “standing on the shoulders of the amazing research done by others, including my Chinese colleagues at The Epoch Times, and also the great work of other Chinese researchers.”
“Through my investigation I found not only gross abuses of human rights, evil things, really, that the Chinese regime has done, but also lack of fortitude in the West in the face of those things.”
“Tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience may have been killed from organ harvesting,” said Robertson. “In Mainland China, military hospitals and labor camps have worked together to carry this out.”
The winners of the Sigma Delta Chi awards were announced on April 23, 2013 on their website.
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Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Sally Appert
An 18-year-old and fellow amateurs accurately forecast the April 20 earthquake in Sichuan Province and another one in Yunnan Province three days earlier, but a communist official said they were acting against the law.
Lin Long, a student and microblog owner, is part of an online team of about 50 amateur earthquake researchers who gather information online and use it to make predictions. Lin told the Beijing News that their group, called the Forecast Center, has made over 800 predictions so far, mostly for overseas quakes, with over 500 being accurate.
“I am protecting the people’s right to know, to let them know something out of the ordinary was found in the data. We do this to prevent property loss,” Lin told the news agency.
“We are really careful with information on big earthquakes, and we inform the rescue troops if that’s the case.”
However, a municipal decree states that earthquake predictions should only be announced by the authorities, chief forecaster Sun Shihong of China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) told Beijing News. Sun said that a false prediction from a private group could disrupt social order and stability.
“They should turn in their results and once the government experts confirm it, they will ask the government to issue an official announcement,” Sun added.
On April 14, three days before the Yunnan quake struck, the Forecast Center posted an online prediction that there would be an earthquake in that area within 72 hours. According to state mouthpiece Xinhua, the tremor destroyed nearly 500 houses, injured 14 people, and affected almost 130,000 in the area.
The group noticed oddities in data from the Yunnan Earthquake Precursory Data Center about a week before the disaster hit, according to the Beijing News.
On April 18, Lin’s team also accurately predicted the devastating 6.9-magnitude quake in Sichuan, which killed at least 207 people and injured almost 12,000, based on official data.
Netizens expressed their opinions on the matter via Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform.
“Why don’t we make it illegal if an earthquake took place and the Earthquake Administration did not forecast it?” one Internet user joked.
Another quipped: “The Forecast Center stole the Earthquake Administration’s job. Also, earthquake prediction in China is a state secret.”
A third was more serious, saying, “There are tens of thousands of pieces of inaccurate information like this. If everyone just predicts at will, how much inconvenience will it bring to our daily life; can you imagine?”
Tags: CCP, China, Economy, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
Eight activists have been detained in the past few weeks for calling on over 200 high-level officials in the Communist Party to publicize details of their assets, alongside new leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.
Most recently, rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi and veteran democracy activist Zhao Changqing were locked up on April 17, two days before Xi’s latest speech about countering corruption at a Politburo meeting on Friday.
“All Party members must keep high mental vigilance and gain more public trust for the Party by new progress in the anti-corruption struggle,” Xi said, according to state mouthpiece Xinhua.
Also on Friday, state-run media created special webpages that lead to online informant centers where the public can report on corrupt officials.
If they are afraid of their assets being publicized, it shows that there’s some issue with their property – Liu Weiguo
Overseas advocacy group China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said police have been detaining activists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens in a crackdown against anti-corruption and other politically sensitive issues.
The CHRD report added that the seized activists are part of “The New Citizens Movement,” and their petition for asset disclosure includes Xi Jinping and new premier Li Keqiang.
Lawyer and activist Liu Weiguo told New Tang Dynasty Television that Ding Jiaxi was completely within his rights to make the request for transparency. “If the human rights of a lawyer can’t be protected, then the basic rights of citizens will be trampled by the authorities.”
“If they are afraid of their assets being publicized, it shows that there’s some issue with their property,” Liu continued. “They possess huge amounts of undisclosed wealth. Officials fear that this evil will be exposed, so they stifle citizens who ask for disclosure.”
Ai Xiaoming, former professor of Sun Yat-Sen University, told Voice of America that Ding’s appeal is in line with the Party’s anti-corruption campaign. “So if you say asking officials to disclose their wealth is illegal, you are actually saying that the anti-corruption requirement raised by the Party is illegal.”
Prominent lawyer Zhou Ze blogged about the crackdown on his Weibo account: “It will be very difficult to systematize official asset disclosures,” he said. “Citizens who call for officials to disclose their assets get punished. The chasm between ordinary people, and the Communist Party and its officials is vast.”
With research by Ariel Tian.
Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, Society, sustainable development
By Tian Yuan
Pollution is a big issue in China because it affects everyone. People get anxious when discussing the polluted air, sand storms, contaminated rivers and groundwater, and “cancer villages,” where toxic chemicals are having hazardous effects on the villagers.
Chinese officials talk about protecting the environment, but they get a special supply of clean food, water, and even air. In December 2012, when new Party leader Xi Jinping gave his “China Dream” speech, part of his vision included “a better environment.”
So if everyone is concerned about China’s environment, why is the pollution getting worse by the day, with the number of cancer villages increasing? It’s obvious that the officials are saying one thing but doing another: They are encouraging sacrifice of the environment in exchange for economic development and are penalizing those who spend money on cleaning up the environment.
Why is this? For starters, the Communist Party is an illegitimate dictatorship. To prolong its reign, the regime tries very hard to boost and boast about economic growth.
Before 2012, the Party tried desperately to keep the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate around 8 percent. After 2012, it went all out to keep the rate around 7 percent. Below this level, unemployment will proliferate, causing social instability that would endanger the regime’s rule.
A recent study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research proves this point with solid numbers. The author looked at 283 cities in China and found that officials who spent their budgets treating pollution normally have no hope of being promoted. However, those who spent large sums on building highways and other infrastructure—increasing the local GDP at the expense of the environment—are very likely to be promoted.
In other words, if an official takes care of the people’s welfare and deals with pollution, he should not expect to be promoted. However, if an official raises the GDP figure, the regime gives him a raise without caring how much pollution was generated. Driven by this blatant personal gain, how many officials can we expect to protect the environment?
The Chinese regime also prohibits environmental protection movements by the people. Since 1996, the number of mass demonstrations and riots due to environmental issues has increased by about 30 percent each year.
From the p-xylene pollution in the coastal cities of Xiamen, Ningbo, and Dalian, to the molybdenum-copper pollution in Shifang in southwest China, and the Oji Paper Company’s waste pollution in Qidong, near the coast in central China, local officials colluded with companies and allowed polluting projects before the public became aware of the consequences.
The people have no channel through which they can appeal the state’s decisions. So they resort to demonstrations and riots, and the regime responds by “stabilizing society”—mobilizing the Armed Police force to suppress protesters. This has become the Party’s fixed protocol for solving environmental problems.
China’s dictatorship and the regime’s animosity toward the people’s will are also responsible for the severe pollution. The Western world’s environmental protection policies began as civil movements in the 60s and 70s, with democracy required for their success. The Americans achieved a strong foundation for environmental protection through votes and demonstrations.
During Japan’s industrialization, major localized pollution incidents caused local residents to become severely ill. In the 60s, there were many civil groups advocating environmental protection and challenging the Liberal Democratic Party, the dominant party after the war, which did not care about environmental pollution. These groups also encouraged people to boycott the worst companies.
By the mid 70s, environmentalist groups successfully changed Japan’s situation, with many politicians supporting environmental protection. Wanting to improve their public image, the companies began contacting environmental groups and promised to care about the environment. Positive mechanisms for dealing with environmental problems were eventually established.
The pollution in China reflects the corruption of the communist regime—pollution will exist as long as the Party exists. The soil is contaminated by heavy metals. Industrial chemical wastes are found in rivers, lakes, and groundwater, turning them an array of colors. The air is filled with tiny particles that cause lung cancer, and the food is loaded with toxins.
The Chinese have reached a critical point in their quality of life. If they continue to be indifferent and continue to be duped by the regime, the Chinese people will be committing a kind of suicide.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, health, Society, sustainable development
In a village in Hebei Province—the province that surrounds China’s capital, Beijing—villagers have reported that their well water has been the color red for more than a decade and have suspected the unnatural color is due to the run-off from a local chemical factory. Several years of complaints to the authorities have produced no visible results, and the villagers have had no choice but to use bottled water for drinking.
Asked about the situation is Xiaozhuzhuang Village, Deng Lianjun, the director of the Bureau of Environmental Protection in Hebei Province’s Cangxian County, remarked that boiled red beans can change the color of water to red. According to Deng, the red color is not necessarily an indication of poor quality.
Locals then began calling Deng the “Red Bean Director,” and he recently stepped down amid criticism. With his departure, stories of local villagers suffering from cancer due to pollution began coming to light.
The Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, a Hebei Province newspaper, reported on April 7 that the test results of a well with red water at a chicken farm in Xiaozhuzhuang Village, showed that the content of aniline, a toxic chemical, exceeded the limit allowed in drinking water by 73 times.
On April 9, China News reported that since 1996 in the village of Xiaozhuzhuang, population 800, 24 people have died of cancer, with six villagers currently living with the disease.
Although villagers have made multiple complaints to the Central Government’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, the response has always been the same: “water test results are within normal parameters.”
“It happens in Anhui, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi, and Shanxi [provinces],” long-time environmental and human rights activist, Hu Jia, told Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio.
“Sometimes there are multiple instances in one province. I have been to the front line, for example, in the areas surrounding the Huaihe River [a major river in east China],” Hu Jia said. “I have seen those people with esophageal cancer. There are ‘cancer villages.’ A small factory can poison an entire river, not to mention the pollution from various types of huge state-owned enterprises.”
According to the 2012 Annual Report released this January by the National Central Cancer Registry, the growth of cancer in China is alarming, with one person diagnosed every six minutes, and 8,550 people diagnosed every day.
The national cancer morbidity rate is high, with about 3.5 million new cases and about 2.5 million cancer deaths every year.
In February, China’s Environmental Protection Ministry published its 12th Five-Year Plan for the Prevention and Control of Environmental Risks of Chemicals, which acknowledged the existence of what are called “cancer villages”—places with sky-high cancer rates linked to pollution from toxic chemicals.
A New Epoch Weekly article, appearing in 2011, “Cancer Villages Unknown to the Outside World” featured the first person account of Mdm. Tang Miwan of Malaysia, who had joined a medical team sent to help the villagers.
The article revealed the locations of 30 cancer villages in Henan Province in central China. No foreigners were allowed to visit those villages, barriers were deployed at the entrances of some, and those visiting were instructed not to ask questions or take photographs.
According to the article, chemical waste water was routinely dumped into local rivers, and those villagers who consumed the seriously polluted water were at high risk of being diagnosed with cancer. Nothing would grow on the infertile land near the rivers, and villagers could not cultivate any land irrigated with the contaminated water. One person’s fingers festered after she washed her hands with the water.
Development at All Costs
“Damage to the environment and ecosystem has been the cost of China’s development,” Gong Shengli, a Beijing-based internet news researcher, told SOH. “A 2007 World Bank report reveals that 750,000 people die in China each year from air pollution.
“Land pollution is much more serious than air pollution, so the result is even more alarming. Serious pollution affects 40 percent of the country’s water supply, and 55 percent of underground water in 200 cities is polluted. This means about 300 million Chinese have no access to clean water,” Gong said.
According to a China Business Journal article in 2008, Julong Chemical Factory polluted the nearby Dongjin Village in Jiangsu Province, resulting in the deaths of 100 villagers over a period of 5 years, 2001 to 2006, from esophageal and lung cancers.
An article in the Changjiang Times in 2006 reported the creek adjacent to Diwan Village in Hubei Province was heavily polluted, leading to the deaths of more than 100 villagers from cancer.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s officials at all levels think of nothing but personal interest and gain, even those officials at environmental agencies. The officials’ performance ratings have been closely tied to the growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so the officials are only concerned about tax revenues or the increasing growth rate of the GDP and give no regard to the rate of occupational disease or loss in food production,” Hu Jia told SOH.
“Political achievement and official posts have become top priorities for the officials. When there is no judicial independence in China, how can people expect [ethical] oversight of water safety, toxic chemical disposal, and the environment? Environmental problems have now become China’s ‘cancer,’ which is incurable when closely linked to [national priorities],” said Hu Jia.
Translated by John Wang and Euly Luo. Written in English by Barbara Gay. With reporting by Sound of Hope Radio Network.
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Science
By Matthew Robertson
Originally he’d only planned to speak for five minutes, about the recently-concluded Boao economic forum. But as he began recalling the details of torture recently revealed in a Chinese magazine article, well-known television host Cao Baoyin went on for over 20.
“Curse the Boao forum!” Cao said at the beginning of the video, using an actual Chinese curse word. He had just read the article after coming home from his day job on April 9, and needed to speak out. Cao is a television personality and a columnist for Beijing News, a major newspaper in the capital.
At a number of points in his talk he visibly struggled to hold back tears. At one point he held up a board that he’d written a number of the main torture methods on.
“Hell on earth,” he had titled it. He announced the techniques one by one: “Small room,” “inmate-monitors,” “electric shocks,” “death bed,” “tiger bench,” while rapping on each with his Chinese fan.
“Behind every word there’s blood, inhumanity, lawlessness, immorality, and naked barbarism,” he said, before elaborating on specifically how Chinese communist prison guards use the “hanging an airplane” torture against inmates in the Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp.
Cao was one of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese to read and react to a recent article about that labor camp, published in the Chinese magazine Lens, which is known for its photography.
The article detailed the brutal torture methods applied against inmates, most of whom are practitioners of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual discipline that has been persecuted since 1999. The article did not mention Falun Gong—the persecution of the spiritual practice is off limits for China’s media.
The fact that the piece was published at all was stunning to many. Masanjia is known to have devised many of the extreme torture methods used to break the wills of Falun Gong practitioners, and then taught them to other labor camps.
Cao Baoyin spoke about how prisoners who go on hunger strikes are treated. “They tie them to a ‘death bed’ and use metal pliers to force open their mouths. Some of the victims have their teeth knocked out because of that. Even some of the workers ask for the day shift, so they don’t have to witness it when it happens at night.”
He became agitated and focused on the camera: “The ‘death bed,’ that’s really going to kill people. But in this women’s labor camp, if you die they don’t even care. They think the prisoners’ lives are worth less than flies. Women do this to other women, except that because some of them wear a uniform they can act like beasts, doing this crazy torture. Are these still people? Even beasts don’t do this to one another. When you hear all this, can you say it’s not hell on earth?!”
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Tags: CCP, censorship, China, IT and Media, Society
By Epoch Times
Chinese mourned the passing of an unlikely hero Wednesday–a newspaper censor whose final regrets exposed some of the backstage machinations in the Chinese communist apparatus.
Zeng Li, the former in-house censor of Guangzhou’s Southern Weekly, died on April 3, only three days into his retirement. He was 61.
Zeng left behind a telling letter, written on March 28, which was shared thousands of times on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog service, the day after his passing.
“Looking back on the last four years, I have made mistakes,” he wrote. “I killed reports that I shouldn’t have killed, I deleted content that I shouldn’t have deleted. But in the end, I woke up, preferring not to carry out a political mission and go against my conscience; I don’t want to go down as a criminal against history.”
“In the Southern Weekly New Year’s editorial incident, I stood up and spoke up out of a sense of justice,” he added. “I have a clear conscience, no regrets.”
Despite his role as “content examiner,” Zeng became well-known after the newspaper’s protest against censorship in January, when staff went on strike after Guangdong’s chief propagandist, Tuo Zhen, altered their 2013 New Year edition without consultation.
The greeting was written in support of respect for rule of law, and new Party leader Xi Jinping’s “dream of constitutionalism,” but was replaced with a pro-Party piece called “Seeking Dreams.”
Zeng’s job was to ensure the paper’s content adhered to censorship regulations laid down by provincial and central authorities. After the January incident, he explained in a blog post titled “Who Revised the New Year’s Greeting at Southern Weekly?” that he was employed to help the business avoid political risks, rather than to “strangle freedom of speech.”
He noted that the political environment became more sensitive last year after the ousting of Politburo official Bo Xilai, and the Party’s leadership change in November. Since the May 2012 appointment of Tuo Zhen, the provincial propaganda czar, the paper had been heavily censored, and all editorial had to be approved, Zeng added.
Tuo is a lapdog of ex-propaganda chief Li Changchun, a close ally of former Party leader Jiang Zemin. Analysts believe that Jiang’s faction is afraid Xi Jinping will use the propaganda of implementing the constitution to weaken Jiang’s power.
Former colleagues, writers, and other netizens reflected on Zeng’s life in online memorials. Chen Zhaohua, editor at sister newspaper Southern Metropolis Weekly, shared Zeng’s farewell letter, saying the outpouring of grief reflected the values he stood for.
Sociologist and history scholar Ma Yong at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences commented on his Weibo: “This letter is surely an important document in China’s history.”
Writer Li Chengpeng described Zeng as “entangled,” but said “justice always dominated his heart,” on his Weibo. “When this happened some time ago, he behaved very well. Now that he’s gone, he will continue to edit this country in heaven.”
Oian Gang, once a managing editor at the Weekly, blogged: “He showed the sincere strength of character typical of a Southern Weekly journalist and stuck to the bottom line,” adding: “Everyone has a choice.”
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
When a long news article is published in China explaining in detail how torture implements with names like the “Tiger Bench” and the “Death Bed” are used against prisoners in a labor camp, you can bet that it wasn’t by accident.
But whatever the thoughts were of those in the Chinese Communist Party who authorized an April 6 article in Lens Magazine, known for its photography, about the Masanjia Labor Camp, it’s unlikely they could have predicted the reaction: an online outpouring by hundreds of thousands, furious at the authorities for what the article depicted. The piece was quickly deleted from web portals.
The roughly 20,000 word article landed amidst discussion about reform or abolishment of the labor camp system in China, and relates the personal experiences of a number of former Masanjia detainees, describing some of the extraordinary torture they were subjected to.
These include how prisoners were shocked with electric batons, starved, hung up by handcuffs, forced to squat in small spaces, clubbed by guards, and tied onto tiger benches and death beds for further torture.
The publication of the piece is surprising because of the clutch of significant and sensitive issues it touches on: most prominently, the persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been targeted since 1999, and which constitutes the primary population at the Masanjia camp, in northeastern China. It also highlights the ongoing struggle between the old guard of Jiang Zemin, the former Party head responsible for the persecution, and the new leadership of Xi Jinping. And it appears to give powerful ammunition to those in China who would argue for the abolishment of all labor camps.
The details of the torture depicted in the article make clear why.
A number of the vivid and gruesome depictions in the article came from diaries that were written by the female captives while at Masanjia, and smuggled out through bodily cavities.
Liu Hua was one of the women who wrote a “Diary of Re-Education Through Labor,” and got it out.
She describes one incident when she was stripped naked and shocked on the tongue with electric batons. According to a translation by Minghui, a Falun Gong website, she said: “It was one shock after another. The electricity ran through me. My heart pounded so hard, so unsteady. Electricity was applied to the tip of the tongue, like needles piercing into it. I could not stand steadily, and I couldn’t even try to.”
She was also made to work, matching nearly thousands of collars and cuffs every day.
Other accounts in the article described inmates being hung up on bunk beds by their arms and legs, and being left for sometimes a week.
Food for the prisoners was abysmal, consisting of only a meager serving of vegetables and rice.
The Unnamed Victims
The article made one oblique mention of the identity of the victims: it says that a victim “confirmed with a Lens reporter that the ‘Tiger Bench’ and the ‘Death Bed’ are both implements used in the labor camp. The former was originally used for a special group, and later was used on regular inmates. The latter is equipment used on inmates that hunger strike.”
It’s an open secret that Masanjia is most well known for its persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong, who are specifically targeted by the camp, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. The “special group” referred to is almost certainly Falun Gong, analysts say.
Minghui, one of the main Falun Gong websites, noted the publication of the article. “This is quite a remarkable occurrence because none of these horrific stories of torture, brainwashing and forced labor have ever before been admitted, much less reported, in mainland Chinese media.”
Minghui has registered thousands of cases of torture in Masanjia alone.
Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, noted that the treatment described in the Lens report “is stuff we’ve been talking about for more than 12 years.”
He added that, given that the Lens article validates the Information Center’s work, “we hope that people will pay attention to the things they didn’t cover, like the show tours, throwing women into male jail cells, and Masanjia being a groundbreaking entity for training and leading the way for torture.”
In interviews with victims from Masanjia, the Information Center found that the facility was unusual for a number of reasons: It is one of the few camps where guards and Party agents do most of the hands-on torture themselves, rather than coercing or incentivizing other prisoners to do so.
It is also “literally a training ground,” Browde said. “They fly other labor camp officials to Masanjia to learn ways to break Falun Gong practitioners.”
The treatment of the article by Chinese Internet censors has been sometimes contradictory. Searches for “Masanjia” on Sina Weibo, a major Twitter-like microblogging service, were at first allowed, and then restricted, and then free.
A hash-tag topic about the article was created — but later it disappeared. As of 1 a.m. Beijing time on April 10, it was available, aggregating the thousands of comments and forwards the news has received. Previously, a search for Masanjia only yielded a few hundred hits, indicating that censorship was loosened.
After publication, the article was immediately posted on a number of Chinese web portals — but soon after disappeared. The 70,000 comments on Sohu were still active, however, even though the article had been deleted.
Even People’s Daily Online, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, included the story in its “hot topics” news list on April 8. The news was ranked first, with a total of over 500,000 comments. That too later disappeared.
Lens continued to carry its chilling double-page spread, a photograph of the monolithic labor camp, on its website, on April 10 local time.
“It seems as though the Propaganda Department only reacted after the fact, but the news was already out,” said Wen Zhao, an analyst of contemporary Chinese affairs with NTD Television, an independent broadcaster.
He noted the fact that under the immense pressure of the news, Liaoning Province authorities gave a terse announcement that they would launch an investigation. “This kind of internal investigation will no doubt gather a lot of evidence, but whether or not it’ll be published, or how far they will take it — we can only watch and wait.”
Wen Zhao added: “There are hundreds of labor camps in China, all doing things along the same lines as Masanjia.”
“This is a blow to those in the Party trying to stop labor camp reform,” said independent political analyst Tang Jingyuan, in an interview with Epoch Times.
He said that the appearance of the article on People’s Daily Online “to a certain degree” reflects the thinking of top Party leaders.
But the fact that it was soon deleted “also shows that the Party has not reached a consensus, and that the resistance to abolishing the labor camp system is still terribly ferocious.”
Browde said that now is the time for the West to start publicly discussing the persecution of Falun Gong. “There are clearly people in China that want to get the truth out about Masanjia, and perhaps the persecution more broadly,” he said. “Now it’s critically important that journalists and others take that momentum they’ve created, at great risk to themselves, and don’t let their efforts sputter out.”
Tags: CCP, China, environmental issues, Food, Society, sustainable development
Farmers in several areas of China’s Henan Province have been forced to irrigate their fields with industrial wastewater, because groundwater sources have dried up or been polluted by industry, according to state media.
The crops harvested from the polluted fields are all sold, because none of the farmers dare to eat their own produce, according to locals.
A report by Chinese state-run media Dahe described the wastewater discharged by Dongfeng Papermaking Co. in Dakuai Township, Fengquan District of Xinxiang City, as “gray and sticky.” A 200-meter-long open trench takes the water directly into nearby farmlands for irrigation without prior treatment, and a thick layer of pulp has settled on the surface of fields, it said.
Pan Kangping, manager of the Dongfeng paper mill, was quoted as saying that the village committee had signed an agreement with them, allowing the use of papermaking wastewater for agricultural irrigation.
Mr. Zhang, a local villager, told Dahe that the farmlands used to be irrigated by water taken from a well about 20 to 30 meters deep. After the papermaking mill was built, it drilled four wells up to 100 meters deep to pump groundwater for manufacturing. The farmers, however, were deprived of irrigation water as the previous wells were drained.
Villagers then approached the village committee and the paper mill to reach a settlement, Zhang said. The paper mill said that villagers could either buy groundwater pumped from the deep wells or use the post-treatment wastewater from the paper mill.
Villagers felt their interests had been violated, and they refused to buy water from the mill.
But they couldn’t wait and let the wheat seedlings dry up, Zhang said, and without a better alternative, all that they could do was to use the wastewater, as it came without a charge.
“We sold all of the harvest to the market. We don’t dare to keep any of it for our own consumption,” Zhang admitted.
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Tags: CCP, China, human rights, human rights lawyers, persecution of dissidents, Society
Wang, 66, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for his pro-democracy activities. He is being held in solitary confinement at Shaoguan Prison in Guangdong Province.
His older sister, Wang Jinhuan, was interviewed in Los Angeles by Radio Free Asia on March 14. She said the Chinese regime has only “issued visas to a few selected family members,” while others have not been allowed to visit.
“Wang has suffered three strokes in recent years, each one worse than the last,” she said. “The latest letter I got from him while in Vancouver was held by the prison for two months for scrutinizing before it was mailed. In the letter, he said his health has gotten really bad recently, and told us ‘if you don’t hear from me for a long time, it means something terrible happened to me in prison.’ He hoped we could try to visit him.”
Wang Jinhuan said his words left her heartbroken, because for the last two years she has been denied a visa to travel to China.
She told Radio Free Asia that Wang’s daughter, and younger sister were also denied visas. Only Wang’s younger brother, Wang Bingwu, and Wang’s second son were allowed to go.
Since Dr. Wang’s incarceration, his family has repeatedly requested that the prison authorities treat him humanely, but the physical and mental persecution have never relented, Wang Jinhuan said.
Wang Jinhuan said, “This is the cruelest way to take away a person’s most basic rights. No matter how much we request or appeal, the situation remains the same.”
She said the authorities offered Wang Bingzhang better treatment several times in exchange for a “statement of repentance,” but he refused, which resulted in severe beatings, a restriction of activities, and other psychological abuses. “Wang Bingzhang told me it’s impossible for him to write a ‘statement of repentance.’ He is seeking the strength to carry on by praying. Fighting for democracy in China is what he cares about most.”
Read the original Chinese article.
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