Tags: books, CCP, censorship, China, Culture, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, Society
By Zhou Xing
Jason Q. Ng, a Google Policy Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, introduced his new book “Blocked on Weibo” on Aug. 29. The book reveals a large number of keywords censored by Chinese authorities on the Chinese microblog service Weibo.
Since 2011, Ng has spent nearly two years studying blocked keywords. He told the Epoch Times that among the 1,500 blacklisted words, 500 are unique, 150 of which are listed in his book. He believes he can help readers understand how Chinese netizens use the Internet by using various approaches to collect data from Weibo.
Ng said it’s sometimes difficult to predict which words will be blocked or why they are blocked, but those critical of the authorities are usually chosen.
For example, “tank” is associated with the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989, and so it is not surprising it should be blocked. But once the phrase “rich woman” was blocked. “Rich woman” was associated with Guo Meimei, a young woman who flaunted wealth and claimed she was an officer with the Chinese Red Cross. This combination of words rapidly circulated on the Internet, then it was blocked.
‘Canadian French’ Becomes a Forbidden Phrase
Ng’s research shows that Chinese authorities included proper names, place names, and some unlikely phrases in its censorship. The name Jiang Yanyong was blocked because he disclosed the fact that the Communist Party was concealing the SARS epidemic in 2003. Kashi, a place in Xinjiang where riots and conflicts often occur, is also blocked.
An unlikely phrase, “Canadian French,” is taboo on China’s Weibo because the Chinese pronunciation of “Canadian French” is “Jia Na Da Fa Yu” which contains two characters “Da Fa,” a term used in “Falun Dafa,” a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline.
Since 1999, the Chinese authorities have brutally persecuted practitioners of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong). The Communist Party has used the entire mainland Chinese media network to paint an image of Falun Dafa as mad and evil, while censoring Falun Dafa books and any materials that give an accurate description of Falun Dafa. Because the phrase “Canadian French” contains the two characters “Da Fa,” it has been deemed worthy of censorship.
Coincidentally, Ng’s study also found that “Renmin University of China Law School,” a Communist Party institution, also contains the characters “Da Fa,” so it was censored for the same reason that Canadian French was censored.
Ng notes that Western countries meet their citizens’ needs with fewer restrictions on the free flow of information, but China maintains strict control.
“I believe that Chinese citizens want more freedom of speech, but they still have no chance to participate in the discussion on network control.” Ng said.
Ng was very interested in how much the Communist Party invested in network control. He said that there must be at least 100,000 people censoring words on Weibo, because some blocking occurs within seconds after the nearly 600 million Weibo users have circulated the word(s).
Even the title of Ng’s book was deleted within a few minutes of being posted by a Weibo user. Ng said that even if the posted text were converted into a picture, it would still be censored.
Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.
Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Maia Lenei Buhre
In the first case of its kind, a teenager has been arrested after a post of his regarding a suspicious death on microblogging service, Sina Weibo went viral, Beijing Times reports.
Here’s the back story behind the tweet: A man was found dead outside a karaoke bar in Zhangjiachuan County, Gansu Province on September 12. While the official ruling is that his death was caused by an accidental high fall, the family of the deceased believes he was beaten up before being thrown out of a window.
16 year old Yang, a student at Zhangjiachuan middle school, posted several times about the murky circumstances of the death to his Weibo account two days after the death.
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Jane Lin
Chinese authorities have over the last few months been in a full flight attack on what they call “rumors,” and those who propagate them, on the Internet. Rumors are a threat to social stability, Party propaganda officials say, through the multiple newspapers, websites, and television stations they control.
But what if the Chinese regime’s own mouthpieces were guilty of spreading rumors, as they accuse so many others of doing?
Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University, said he was prepared to put the idea to the test, in a recent post on his microblog account.
The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a nationalistic state-run newspaper, had claimed in an editorial that Xia failed to pass a teaching evaluation last year (adding, too, that Xia’s “liberal political beliefs” were “very extremist.”)
Xia, in fact, had passed the evaluation. He said that Hu’s suggestion that he had not would qualify as “malicious rumor and slander,” and stated that a lawsuit wouldn’t be out of the question.
In particular, the Global Times editorial was forwarded more than 500 times, and viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users. This piece of arcana is important, because the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued a judicial interpretation recently, stipulating that people will face defamation charges if rumors they post online shared or viewed that many times.
Netizens were quick to leap to Xia’s defense, arguing that under the Party’s own new guidelines, its mouthpiece newspaper Global Times should be punished for spreading rumors.
Xia followed up with another message recruiting lawyers, who would explore ways to file a suit against Hu Xijin, pro bono.
Xia Yeliang was named one of the 100 most influential Chinese public intellectuals from 2009 to 2013, and has also recently been the center of a controversy between Peking University, the Chinese leadership, and Wellesley College, a private university in Massachusetts.
Xia’s university in China has threatened to hold a faculty vote on whether he should be ousted for his errant views on the value of democracy and the rule of law. The gesture has the clear mark of the central leadership, who are currently engaged in a campaign to snuff out the development of democratic ideas in China. In response, nearly a third of the faculty of Wellesley College said they would demand the cessation of all partnerships between Wellesley and Peking University if Xia were expelled.
Xia is not the only one being put under tremendous pressure. Since the recent crackdown on Internet rumors started, several hundred Chinese netizens have been arrested in just one week during August, according to Southern Weekend.
But netizens, like Xia, are pushing back.
One blogger’s post on club.kdnet.net, a popular online forum, went viral. The post, titled “I collected a list of Internet rumors, please punish the rumor mongers according to the law,” consisted of screenshots of state-media’s reports which were later shown to be false. One of the examples illustrated that in 2006 the Health Ministry denied that China took organs from death row inmates, but admitted in 2012 that organs from death row inmates were the major source of organs for China’s transplant industry.
Professor Xia said he was not optimistic that Hu would be brought to justice. “Although it’s unlikely to happen in China, but if the judicial interpretation was published, it should apply to everyone,” he said in an interview with New Tang Dynasty TV.
Xia returned to China on Aug. 30 after concluding his one year-term as a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He told Deutche Welle that the situation on campus in China is worsening, compared to last year. “The atmosphere is tense and it’s turning leftward. I can feel a Cultural Revolution-like atmosphere.”
He also said he is disappointed in the Chinese regime’s new leadership. “It has gotten more politically backwards. Cultural Revolution-like language and ideology is back again now,” he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale.
“In many places there are political study sessions to study Marxism,” he said. “The crackdown on so-called Internet rumors is meant to give people less room to speak and to not let people speak freely.”
But he said he is not afraid. “China is now at a critical point in history. More than ever, members of Peking University should speak up and say what people expect from intellectuals,” he told Deutche Welle.
Historically, Peking University was well known for its freedom of thought. It was the center of China’s new culture movement and many other modern political movements.
If Peking University is afraid to speak up… It will have lost its soul, and the spirit of Peking University would be dead. – Professor Xia Yeliang
“If Peking University is afraid to speak up, what kind of university will that be?” he remarked. “It will have lost its soul, and the spirit of Peking University would be dead.”
Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
The U.S.-based China expert He Qinglian is always interesting, but especially on the subject of China’s media. He Qinglian worked eight years as a journalist in China and has written a book about the control of media in China published in 2008 in English as “The Fog of Censorship”, as well as numerous articles on the subject of the media in China. Here are a few nuggets drawn from Ms. He’s writings.
Two key points made by Ms. He will help someone understand how to read the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) media.
First, for anything that may be considered “bad news” such as disasters, stories involving public security or public safety, or corruption, the reality is usually much worse than what is reported. The CCP’s rule is to only tell the news in a way that always makes them look good.
For example, whenever there is a disaster or major incident, the CCP strictly controls the actual situation by reducing the death toll numbers, and minimizing the damage report, in order to demonstrate that the CCP is diligently taking care of people.
Second, the news is always reported from the CCP’s viewpoint. For example, when the news is about a high number of laborers being laid off, the issue is reported as if the CCP is concerned about serious unemployment.
Or when one local leader speaks out about the farmers’ issue, the story does not focus on the local leader. Rather, the story will claim the farmers’ issue became so big that the local leader was forced to pay attention to it.
When a senior official’s corruption has been revealed, the story is about the CCP’s success in cracking down on corruption.
Even when a senior official’s corruption has been revealed, the story is about the CCP’s success in cracking down on corruption, instead of the root cause of the problem.
According to He Qinglian, the CCP’s control over media is “systematized” through laws, regulations, and statutory documents.
In controlling the media, the power of the CCP Propaganda Department surpasses that of the State Press and Publication Administration, He says.
The CCP deals with political issues as if they were non-political matters. No documents are issued; instead, communications are made through telephone calls or interior meetings. The contents of the meetings are never written, recorded, or exposed.
When it comes to media reports, He says, state-run media will not keep silent about certain issues as they did before. Rather, they will confuse the public by publishing “some lies mingled with partial facts.” This kind of propaganda mingled with partial facts is indeed more interesting than sheer lies.
The “China” constructed by the CCP-affiliated media is a far cry from the China perceived by rural or smaller-sized city dwellers, Ms. He says. The “China” exposed to the international community is purposefully shaped in the media by the communist regime.
Intelligence agencies of the CCP Public Security Bureau monitor the Internet and follow orders from some state security departments to arrest those who are charged with threatening state security for spreading damaging rumors.
With the popularity of the Internet, the CCP has developed the biggest firewalls in the world, such as the unusually costly “Golden Shield Project,” which aims to monitor public behavior.
Because the CCP uses propaganda to gain control over people’s thoughts, Chinese people have completely different concepts of universal values, like human rights, freedom, and democracy, Ms. He says.
For example, many overseas Chinese students, particularly those born after 1989, adopt skeptical attitudes toward the Western description of historical events in China, like the Korean War, the relationship between China and America, and the history of the CCP.
Translation by Rebecca Chen and Amy Lien.
More in Thinking About China
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Li Zhen, Epoch Times, Cheryl Ng, Epoch Times and Karen Tsang
HONG KONG—A campaign of anonymous phone calls made on Sept. 11 and 12 sought to discredit Epoch Times and drive off its advertisers. This phone campaign follows upon earlier, similar efforts using letters and text messages.
According to the Epoch Times sales manager, Ms. Lu Jie, on Sept. 11 and 12, clients of the Chinese-language Epoch Times received anonymous, harassing calls several times a day. Some of the calls took place at midnight or in the early morning.
The Epoch Times offices also received the same calls on the evening of Sept. 11, and calls were also made to the personal phones of Epoch Times staff. Some missed calls showed the number the call was from. When called back, the other end of the line played the tape that had been heard when similar calls had been picked up.
The tape starts by saying the call is from Epoch Times, and thanks clients for advertising with the paper. The tone then changes and, Lu said, what follows is identical to a tape that has been played for months in Hong Kong over loudspeakers by the Hong Kong Youth Care Association.
According to Hong Kong’s Next magazine, the Hong Kong Youth Care Association is a Chinese Communist Party front group that shares office space and staff with the 610 Office in Shenzhen, just across the border in mainland China. The 610 Office is an extra-legal Party organization created for the purpose of eradicating the Falun Gong spiritual practice.
Since June 2012, the Youth Care Association has besieged Falun Gong practitioners on the streets of Hong Kong, attempting to cover the Falun Gong booths with giant banners that slander the practice, while shouting at, cursing, and, at times, physically abusing the practitioners.
The tape played in this recent round of phone calls and by the Youth Care Association over their loudspeakers repeats the propaganda used by the CCP in its attempts to demonize Falun Gong.
Before this phone campaign, some clients have also received threatening letters and text messages with similar content aimed at stopping clients from buying ads from Epoch Times. The letters were signed “Hong Kong Anti-cult Alliance,” but no such organization is registered in Hong Kong.
Lu said the Youth Care Association has also hired people to steal Epoch Times newspapers from racks. She believes the phone calls, text messages, and letters are simply another tactic by the same group.
“This new move only highlights the CCP’s fear of truthful reporting and exposes its malice,” said Lu.
She said that the effect of the harassing phone calls was the opposite of what the CCP intended. “Readers, clients, and the general public have gotten in touch with Epoch Times and offered support,” Lu said. “They praise our paper for having a conscience and truthfully reporting the facts.”
“On Sept. 12 we reported these incidents to the police, and we are demanding a full investigation,” Lu said.
Interference With the Free Market
One of Epoch Times’ clients, the executive director of Goldentime Property Agency, Wong Sau-yim, is very angry with the CCP’s tactics. He said he first received text messages, then letters, then long-distance harassing calls. And he has reported these to the police.
“First of all, I am a businessman and a Buddhist.” Wong said angrily. “Epoch Times is a legal, local newspaper, and, after advertising on Epoch Times, I received calls from mainland clients, some of whom are from elite society.
“I have more business now and really enjoy the benefit from it. If you ask me not to advertise on Epoch Times, isn’t it cutting my business? Isn’t it a violent interference in the free market?”
Wong stressed that advertising is a business decision, and this kind of harassment is a violation of a person’s freedom.
When Wong reported these incidents to the police, they did not do any further investigation. They said the matter only involved a letter and should be processed as a civil case.
But Wong said this is a criminal case, because it has violated his personal freedom and the freedom of Hong Kongers. “This is not a civil matter,” Wong said. “The government should sue them!”
He urged all the merchants who have been harassed to report to the police.
Concern For Hong Kong
Woo Lai Wan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, expressed great concern.
“As a journalist or news organization, if someone counterfeits messages in someone or some company’s name, despite the content, this conduct is deceit,” Wu Lai Wan said. “If such a message has caused recipients nuisance and fear, then I believe this is likely to be a criminal intimidation. Therefore we urge the police to investigate this case right away.”
Freedom of the press is protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law, Woo Lai Wan said. Speaking directly to those responsible, she said, “Do not let yourself be involved in such illegal and dangerous actions.”
Legislative Council member Mr. Leung Yiu-chung denounced the harassment and slander in the messages directed at Epoch Times and urged police to do a thorough investigation. He also looked to Hong Kong’s leadership for the underlying causes of the incident.
He said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (no relation to Leung Yiu-chung) has been trying to govern Hong Kong like the CCP, creating all sorts of conflicts and triggering public resentment.
“I hope such a thing will not happen again, because Hong Kong has become worse,” Leung Yiu-chung said. “Such things make people jittery and undermine their normal life which is most unfortunate and most unwanted.”
Leung Yiu Chung sees the phone calls and other messages aimed Epoch Times as raising fundamental issues for all of Hong Kong.
We must respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press…If we lose it, Hong Kong will have only one voice and one view from autocracy. – Legislative Councilor Leung Yiu-chung
“We must respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Leung Yiu-chung said. “This is the core value of Hong Kong.
“Besides, different voices and different points of views are what the people want to hear. If we lose it, Hong Kong will have only one voice and one view from autocracy.”
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Tags: archaeology, Body & Mind, CCP, China, Culture, environmental issues, film, funny things, health, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, Nature, persecution of dissidents, Science, Society, sustainable development
And some more…
By Michelle Yu
“When I die, bury me on the sunny side of the hill, because I’m afraid of the cold,” a child, now nameless and faceless, said to his fellow teenage prisoners over half a century ago. For the 4,000-5,000 juvenile prisoners at the Dabao labor camp, such requests were common, as the children were surrounded by death every day.
By Gu Qinger
Chinese torture victims have confronted Xinhua, the official propaganda organ of the Chinese regime, over its publication of a report by Liaoning officials which denies that inmates are being tortured at a labor camp in the northeast of the country called Masanjia.
By Matthew Robertson
It would have been impossible even very recently in China to produce a documentary about torture and slavery in an officially-run labor camp, and not be thrown in jail for it. Chinese independent filmmaker Du Bin, however, has done just that, and he’s now in Hong Kong speaking at film screenings and blithely taking interviews from overseas media.
By Shar Adams
WASHINGTON—After five days and 40 testimonies from international witnesses from the military, scientific and academic fields, a committee of six former Congress members agreed to seek international support to break a “truth embargo” on encounters with extraterrestrial life.
By Jack Phillips
Some are questioning the origin so-called “ring around the sun” that appeared on Monday.Reports said that the ring is a 22-degree halo, also known as a sun halo, according to ABC News. The halo is formed by small ice crystals that are contained in cirrostratus clouds. The sunlight then refracts through the ice at the 22-degree angle, creating the optical phenomenon.
By Matthew Robertson and Carol Wickenkamp
A group of nearly a dozen Chinese human rights lawyers who attempted to investigate an extralegal “brainwashing center” in the southeast of the country were violently set upon by guards on May 13, before being handed over to police, who beat them further and held them overnight before releasing them.
By Cassie Ryan
While the latest official news from China says that the H7N9 bird flu outbreak is now under control, a new international study urges continued caution.
By Gao Zitan
Chinese media recently exposed quality issues in the bottled water industry, saying its regulation levels are from the Soviet era.
Beijing News reported May 2 that over 10 Chinese experts had found that the standards for bottled water are very low, with only 20 test indices versus 106 for tap water quality.
By Will Hickey
One reason behind greater pollution leading to global warming has been artificially lowered gas prices brought by subsidies. Governments have carried on this shortsighted policy to foster growth and satisfy consumers. But as world fuel prices begin rising again, the costs of subsidy—both budgetary and environmental—will come to the fore.
By Matthew Robertson
University professors and administrators in China have been given clear instructions recently about precisely what topics of discussion are off-limits in the classroom.
By Sally Appert
Communist officials in Shaanxi Province have resorted to hiring fake monks to collect donations in an attempt to recover the debt they incurred from a large development project near the ancient Famen Temple.
Accused of violating one-child policy, Zhang Yimou’s real crime was backing Jiang Zemin
By Xia Xiaoqiang
A successful Chinese film director becomes entangled with the propaganda schemes of a brutal dictator. The director enjoys a rich and privileged life, but then loses everything when the dictator’s political opponents charge him with violating the nation’s family-planning laws.
By Zachary Stieber
Byzantine mosaic floor: The “extraordinary” floor was in a public building during the Byzantine Period in what is today Isreal, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, Culture, documentary, environmental issues, film, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, Nature, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Science, Society, sustainable development, technology
Since I have not posted any articles in a long time I will post some so you can select those that are of interest to you.
By Sarah Laskow
We have seen a lot of solar chargers in our day. And among all of them, this is the first one we’ve seen that we will definitely run out and buy as soon as it’s made available in the U.S. It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy.
By Joshua Philipp
Epoch Times Staff
Watching the soft glow of fireflies could become a more common activity if researchers at Syracuse University have anything to do with it. They’re developing a method to artificially create luciferase, the chemical behind the soft glow of fireflies, and are working to create commercial lights that mimic the insects’ bioluminescence.
These migrants know why they keep moving
By Francisco Gavilán
When I was going to travel through Central Asia for the umpteenth time, I was looking for new and enriching experiences, including living for a while with the nomads of Song Kul, in Kyrgyzstan.
By Tara MacIsaac
Earth permanently deformed: Geologists have discovered that the Earth’s crust may not be as elastic as previously thought. Quakes in Northern Chile have permanently deformed the Earth.
Celebrating compassion and higher living across the globe
By Arshdeep Sarao
In India the full moon day of May 25, 2013, is being celebrated as Buddha Purnima or the birth anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni. This year the Buddha becomes 2,556 years old.
By Matthew Robertson
‘I didn’t take blood money from a government that is murdering its people,’ says Jeffrey Van Middlebrook, Silicon Valley inventor.
By Leonardo Vintini
Everybody longs for happiness, but it seems like a hidden treasure. One way or another—consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly—everything we do, our every hope, is related to a deep desire for happiness.
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, 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, IT and Media, Society
Chinese online media company Sina says it has 500 million people—about a third of China’s population—on its Twitter-like platform called Weibo. But a recent report suggests the numbers include many fraudulent “zombie” accounts, meant to pad the books.
A report titled “The Illusion and Shadow Behind Sina’s Flourishing Numbers,” was published at TMT Post, a Chinese online media that focuses on market research in online technology. Its author Wang Shuai works for CCID Consulting Company Limited. The report was later deleted from the website.
Of Sina’s 500 million registered Weibo users, the number of active daily users was 46.3 million—a 74 percent increase compared with the same period last year—according to data recently released by the company.
100 Million Zombies
According to Wang Shuai’s article, Sina has adopted many “secret methods” for attempting to make its business profitable, most notably by creating fake users whose accounts can follow, comment, and vote.
“Sina’s technical staff have developed an internal Weibo platform with over 100 million ‘users,’ and the number is still increasing on a massive scale. However, those so-called users are all ‘dead;’ some of them are zombie followers, and some are still breathing.”
The term “zombie” refers to accounts with profile pictures that follow other accounts, but have no followers and do not post comments; while those who are “still breathing” actually post comments.
It’s all computer-generated though, Wang writes. They follow each other, and comment and vote on each others’ content. Sina then attempts to sell advertising space based on the numbers created by all this fake activity, Wang alleges.
Alongside this is an industry in selling fake Weibo followers. Wang cites some 2013 prices: $0.80 per thousand zombie followers, $4.50 per thousand super followers (with less than 100 followers each), $5.60 per thousand premium followers (with hundreds of followers and over 100 posts), and $16 per thousand customized followers.
Buyers can also determine the activities of their zombie hordes.
Between Feb. 11 and 17, Sina had the highest number of visitors of the five Chinese Weibo (or “microblog”) platforms–Sina, QQ Tencent, Sohu, NetEase, and Digu–as shown by data from the China Internet Information Centre (CNNIC). Specifically, Sina accounted for 63.5 percent of the total Weibo traffic, had the highest number of page views with 80.6 percent, and the longest user time at 81.2 percent during this period.
Although Sina is proud to be number one and has invested heavily in its Weibo platform, it has not enjoyed matching returns.
In its recent 2012 financial report, Sina achieved a net revenue of US$139 million, netting a profit of US$2.4 million, which is a 74.3 percent drop from 2011.
The TMT Post article attributes this loss to the large investment Sina pumped into staffing, office space, and sales costs for its Weibo business. However, the financial report shows that Sina’s daily active user figure is less than 10 percent of its claimed total registered users.
Herman Yu, Sina’s chief financial officer, said that the company lost US$93 million due to its Weibo business, mainland media Netease reported on Feb. 20.
Research by Ariel Tian. Translation by Amy Lien and Gao Hao. Written in English by Cassie Ryan.
Read Original Chinese article.
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Tags: Body & Mind, Children, health, IT and Media, psychology, Society
The noise the first student is referring to is the background noise of television, radio and music, plus a multitude of social media and online curiosities. And the silence the second student refers to is a world devoid of such background noise.
Drawing on six years (2007-12) of observations from 580 undergraduate students, it can be reasonably argued that their need for noise and their struggle with silence is a learned behavior.
The desire for media-generated background noise is acquired more from parents and grandparents than from my students’ new-found relationship with social media.
To that extent, Larry D. Rosen’s excellent advice on how teachers can address student social media anxiety – such as by introducing one-minute technology breaks–shouldn’t be confused with issues surrounding the same students’ need for background noise.
With obvious exceptions, mum and dad also inherited this need for background noise: “My grandparents have the television on practically all the time in the background”, observes one student.
It is not surprising then when another writes, “the television was switched on by my parents earlier in the morning for the news and left on … even when no-one was watching”.
For all but one of the 580 students, television and radio was in the home prior to their birth. For most students, the family home also had at least one computer before they were born. Indeed, this year we had our first student that can’t remember her family’s first mobile phone.
Beginning at infancy, the constant media soundscape has provided the background noise either side of bassinet, kindergarten, school and university. It is little wonder many of my students feel agitated and ill-at-ease when there is not at least one portal providing background noise.
Such background noise speaks to Bill McKibben’s observations of the Third Parent.
More often than not, a student’s third parent (whether that be analogue or digital media) speaks to them more often than their biological parents. As one participant noted, “the noise of the TV and the communication on Facebook helps me feel more in touch with people”.
By and large my students report they can’t function in silence. As one explained, “I actually began doing this assignment in the library and had to return to my room minutes later to get my iPod as I found the library was so quiet that I couldn’t concentrate properly!”
It’s not just the silence of a library that students report as disturbing. Having gone home to the farm, one student observed how she found it hard to walk down to the dam without an iPod.
When the students were provided with the tools to reflect on their media consumption they began to recognize the nature of background noise. Having filled in their spreadsheets, they were asked to spend one hour walking, sitting and/or reading in a quiet place. This is the moment in the assignment when students tend to discover their relationship with silence:
“The lack of noise made me uncomfortable, it actually seemed foreboding”, observed one student. Another said “perhaps, because media consistently surrounds us today, we have a fear of peace and quiet”.
Could it be that it’s the background noise and not the discrete content of each media portal that creates the perception of well-being my students write about?
Either way, it’s clear that students (and doubtless many others) have become accustomed to the background noise that’s become such a feature of modern life.
So what about you: are you scared of silence?
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
Strike and protest follow China’s Southern Weekly censorship
Scores of protesters amassed in front of the headquarters of the Guangdong-based Southern Weekend to support media freedom after it emerged that the prominent publication’s New Year’s editorial was doctored by a local Chinese Communist official.
Some experts believe it is one of the most important incidents to raise public awareness about China’s beleaguered media environment in some time.
“Get rid of censorship. The Chinese people want freedom,” wrote one user on Twitter.
The protest came after the Southern Weekend’s editorial staff went on strike over the weekend, a rare public demonstration in support of media freedom in China, one of the most tightly censored countries in the world.
The South China Morning Post reported that the editorial staff went on strike–the first such strike at a major newspaper in several decades.
The decision to strike was made after the paper’s management took control over the editorial department’s microblog account, and said that its New Year’s statement was written by staff and not the provincial propaganda chief Tuo Zhen, who formerly headed Xinhua. Reports emerged over the weekend that Tuo Zhen made the changes without editorial consent, drawing condemnation from reporters, commentators, and numerous Chinese academics.
“The statement [on the official microblog] does not represent the opinion of the editorial staff. It is a result of pressure applied by the authorities on the … management,” reads a statement from Southern Weekly staff members on another microblog, according to the Morning Post. “The editorial staff will fight against the falsified statement … Until the issue is resolved, we will not do any editorial work.”
The original editorial touched on reviving constitutionalism in China, but the new one apparently authored by Tuo removed sensitive topics and praised the Communist Party.
All media organizations–state-run and private–are subject to the Communist Party’s censorship and oftentimes remove content that is deemed sensitive or contrary to its propaganda line. China is consistently ranked as one of the world’s worst press freedom violators in the world by watchdogs.
Protesters in front of the Southern Weekend’s office brought chrysanthemum flowers and chanted “for democracy, press freedom, and human rights,” according to John Kennedy of the South China Morning Post. He also said that middle school students came out to show support. There were minor scuffles between police officers and protesters.
“End press censorship. The Chinese people want freedom!” another Chinese protester said.
“I feel that the ordinary people must awaken,” protester Yuan Fengchu, told The Associated Press via telephone. “The people are starting to realize that their rights have been taken away by the Communist Party and they are feeling that they are being constantly oppressed.”
David Bandurski of Hong Kong University’s China Media Project said the incident “is without a doubt one of the most important we will witness in China this year.”
According to the China Media Project, editorial staff at a Southern Weekend meeting demanded the formation of an investigative team to look into the New Year’s editorial incident and produce a public report. However, editorial board chief Huang Can said that there “there would be no settling of scores and that the censorship process would be ‘returned to normal,’” according to the Media Project.
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
Tags: IT and Media, Society
Paper lauded for efforts to bridge cultural divide and ‘fight for the truth’
TORONTO—The Chinese edition of The Epoch Times has received the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada award for “Excellence in editorial/free expression, best concept and visual presentation.”
Cindy Gu, publisher of the paper, accepted the award from Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley on behalf of what she described as an “excellent team of reporters, editors, photographers and designers” at an event Nov. 9 at Queen’s Park.
Gu said The Epoch Times has come a long way since it first began as a weekly tabloid in 2000. Since then, the paper has grown into Canada’s largest Chinese broadsheet and the only daily Chinese newspaper with an audited circulation.
The newspaper’s growth includes the addition of English and French editions and expansion across the country to Canada’s six largest cities.
It is the second time The Epoch Times has won the award. In 2005, the paper won for its coverage of SARS. It was the first newspaper to report on SARS while official Chinese channels still denied the existence of the disease.
Thomas Saras, president of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council, lauded The Epoch Times’ efforts to bridge the cultural divide between Chinese newcomers and mainstream Canadian society while reporting on ongoing problems in China.
“The Epoch Times are real good fighters. They bring many, many stories about what is happening in China with issues like organ harvesting and the killing of people for their organs. [The award] shows that it is a paper well respected in the community, by the community, and it is working for the benefits of the human family,” Saras said.
“They have the ability to fight for the truth and to fight for human rights.”
Ethnic Media Rising
Once considered relatively insignificant, Canada’s ethnic press has grown in stature as its ethnic communities have grown.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is credited in part with delivering to the Conservatives suburban ridings with large ethnic communities during the last federal election
Looking to the future, Saras said it isn’t hard to project that ethnic press will be increasingly viewed as mainstream media.
“The Ethnic media at this point is thriving. According to Statistics Canada data released last month, 6.4 million Canadians are communicating at home in their mother tongue, in a language that is not English or French,” he said.
“That means 6.4 million Canadians are relying on the ethnic media to get their news from either Canada or their old country. So under those circumstances I believe the ethnic media has a very good chance to prosper.”
Saras said mainstream media currently overlook that demographic and stories relevant to Canada’s diverse cultural communities.
“The members of these communities get their stories from the ethnic media, and one that has done well is The Epoch Times. It is a very good example.”
He predicted that media now considered ethnic would be mainstream outlets within 20 years, playing a critical role for newcomers integrating into Canadian society.
Bridge to the West
Saras said one distinguishing quality of The Epoch Times was its effort to report mainstream news, helping newcomers better understand their adopted country while simultaneously keeping up with issues in China.
Too often now, he said, many Chinese newcomers remain locked into the Chinese community with little interaction with mainstream Canadian society.
“To the credit of The Epoch Times, it got out of that block and created a newspaper that goes everywhere in Toronto—not only areas of Chinese people, but also mainstream events. And the anglophone edition goes everywhere. This is the right policy to bring the problems of the Chinese community to other committees, and at same time report what happens with government to the Chinese community,” Saras said.
“[The English and Chinese editions] are the main bridge between the new culture and the old country. These people who are coming to Canada—they have very little idea of the Canadian culture.”
Gu noted that the English edition also provides a bridge for second-generation Chinese to connect with their culture by carrying stories about the mainland and the essence of traditional Chinese culture.
Big News, Big Readers
Earlier this year, upheaval in the Chinese Communist Party became the biggest story in China and The Epoch Times staked its claim on the story with inside sources and coverage that predicted major events, including the downfall of Bo Xilai, once the Chinese regimes commerce minister before being demoted and eventually purged.
That coverage saw visits to The Epoch Times website increase from 1 million per day to 600 million.
Such coverage is part of why Chinese community leaders attending the award ceremony said they make reading Epoch a regular habit.
Hong Shizhong, chairman of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Greater Toronto, said he and his wife read the paper every day because they believe that “you can really see the real situation in China in Epoch Times.”
Hong Kong and Canadian Alliance chairman Li Shude said he reads the paper two or three times a week, but more often if there is big news.
The Epoch Times features outspoken reports with rich information, he said.
Political commentator Li Tianming reads the website daily for news covering politics, human rights, the economy, and more, he said. He praised The Epoch Times for holding the Chinese regime to account for its numerous abuses of the Chinese people.
“They are very brave to stand up,” he said. “This award is well-deserved.”
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Tags: CCP, China, IT and Media, Society
Deleting online posts has become China’s latest get-rich-quick opportunity. Some web portals have what they call in-house public relations companies, which charge clients to delete unflattering posts. A recent scandal involving Japanese porn stars has raised prices for deleting content.
In May, after PetroChina’s Sichuan Petrochemical Company announced a 38 billion yuan (US$6.06 billion) project, Japan’s Shimadzu Corporation and its representative in Beijing, Beijing HED Group, allegedly won a contract to supply chromatograph machines with a low bid to the company, and then bribed officials by inviting officials from the company and a contractor to Japan, where top Japanese porn stars entertained them. The scandal went viral on the Internet.
A source told The Epoch Times that PetroChina’s investigators learned that the corruption in Sichuan Petroleum & Chemical was worse than the public had imagined. Because it involved executives in PetroChina with high connections, the investigation had to stop. Instead, PetroChina paid to have all online postings about the scandal deleted.
The Epoch Times learned that in order to delete all the posts about the scandal, PetroChina has so far spent 37 billion yuan ($5.9 billion). It is estimated that the total cost of deleting the posts will exceed 50 billion yuan ($7.98 billion). The implicated official is said to be of much higher rank than the CEO of PetroChina. The scandal reaches the highest level of Chinese politics.
Boxun, a Chinese-language website outside China, reported that a high-level manager at a popular Internet public relations company said the main source of income for Internet forums and blog sites is not advertisements but deleting posts.
“The business of deleting online content is so good right now that many websites that were losing money for the past few years became profitable in just one month,” the manager said. This sudden profitability was the contribution of PetroChina’s porn scandal, he said.
Liu Hu, a reporter for the Guangzhou-based New Express Daily, wrote on his Sina microblog on Oct. 14, “A gold mine owner in Shaanxi Province sent me a message. He asked me to delete one of my blog posts and all related articles, because the post has been a headache for certain high-ranking officials. In return, I will be paid handsomely—as much money as in the attached picture. My friends, should I delete or not delete?”
The picture provided showed a pile of RMB worth about 300,000 yuan (almost US$47,000).
The headache-inducing blog post on sohu.com is “Shaanxi Province Disciplinary Inspection Committee gives free coal mine.” Wang Erxiao, from Fugu in Shaanxi Province, ran a coal mine with an official who retired in 1979. Wang held one-third ownership.
The two disputed the ownership arrangement and fought county, city and provincial lawsuits. Wang lost all the lawsuits.
Wang cooked up a “letter from the people,” sent it to a provincial level official and received a reply. The provincial level Disciplinary Inspection Committee intervened and eventually helped Wang win ownership of the mine. Officials from the Disciplinary Inspection Committee were said to own some shares of the mine, according to Liu’s blog post.
Liu’s Weibo post attracted much attention. Fu Liang, a communications analyst from Beijing wrote, “let’s dig around for this valuable blog and repost it so that we all can get rich.” Many others echoed his suggestion.
Because of the rapid development of the Internet, deleting negative content on portals, chat rooms, forums, video and audio sharing sites, wikis, blogs and search engines is an emerging business. Some companies that delete posts offer a “lifetime guarantee” on deleted content, according to an Aug. 6 report by Southern Metropolis Daily.
The Daily said one service offers slow deletion and fast deletion. Slow deletion takes one to three business days and costs 1,200 yuan ($192) per post for businesses and 800 yuan ($128) per post for individuals. Fast deletion takes from a few minutes to over 10 minutes, up to 1,100 seconds and costs about 2,500 yuan ($399) per post.
According to the article, portals such as sina.com and tianya.cn are more expensive than other online platforms. The cost to delete a post on a portal averages 2,500 to 3,800 yuan ($399 to $606). Some charge more than 10,000 yuan ($1596) per post.
An experienced “deleting posts” professional told Southern Metropolis Daily that the standard of deletion charges depends mainly on the type of websites, and the popularity of the post.