By Lu Chen
The first public trial in China that would use a unique interpretation of the law to criminalize “rumors” began Friday in Beijing. Microblogger Qin Zhihui was accused of using the Internet to spread rumors, and was indicted by the state prosecutor for “defamation” and “harming society.”
The case of 30-year-old Qin, known by the online moniker “Qin Huohuo,” came to public attention last August when he was put in criminal detention by Beijing police for posting what the authorities said was “untruthful information” on social media.
Plain old truthfulness may not be the ultimate priority of Chinese communist authorities in the matter, though: Observers said that the trial is primarily another sign of the authorities’ determination to rid the Internet of speech about official corruption and other social ills.
Though the Communist Party is currently waging a high-profile campaign against corruption, the focus of propaganda is always on individual officials. Allowing ordinary citizens to freely voice their opinions about the corruption of the entire system could quickly become problematic and inconvenient for the authorities.
“The authorities are actually abusing their power to reach the goal of purging and rectifying the Internet,” said Wen Yunchao, a Chinese media researcher based in the United States, and formerly a visiting scholar at Columbia University.
The arrest of Qin last year took place as the regime announced plans to “fundamentally eradicate Internet rumors,” signaling a crackdown on social media and a tightening of the space online in which Chinese can speak freely about society.
A rule announced then said that someone who posts “fake information” that is viewed over 5,000 times or reposted over 500 times could face criminal charges, depending on the social impact.
The public prosecutor in Qin’s case said that Qin had posted more than 3,000 online rumors that had attracted a lot of attention and negative remarks against the government, “which seriously harmed society.”
An example given was Qin’s comments on the Ministry of Railways (which was later disbanded because of corruption) on the topic of compensation to victims of a severe rear-end train collision that took place on July 23, 2011.
Qin wrote that the Chinese regime gave a large compensation of 200 million yuan ($32 million) to foreign passengers in the accident, which the authorities said is not true. More than 12,000 netizens reposted this information within an hour, many tacking on a few words of their own resentment toward authorities.
A number of Qin’s other posts alleged corruption of well-known public figures. He charged, for example, that Yang Lan, a wealthy media entrepreneur, faked donations, and that Guo Meimei, a young lady who became famous for posting photographs as she posed alongside expensive sports cars, had used money embezzled from the Chinese Red Cross. Qin was in both cases said to have used “fake information” to damage the reputations of the two women.
But neither Yang Lan nor Guo Meimei joined a lawsuit against Qin. Instead, the procuratorate directly indicted him for “defamation” and “harming society.”
Whether what he wrote is true or false, the regime’s manner of handling it gave the unmistakable impression that a campaign to squelch free speech was afoot.
Chinese law says that “harming society” must consist of acts that are directly, rather than indirectly damaging, and that victims of defamation can only be natural persons, not governments.
“If Qin Huohuo lived in a democratic country, it’s obvious that he might face civil lawsuits, at the most, to give compensations and apologize,” Wen said. “But it would be impossible for a state judicial organization to prosecute someone like him.”
As in previous cases of prosecuting Internet users, Qin confessed his guilt. His apparent remorse and guilt was made a central focus on China Central Television and Xinhua, the state mouthpiece.
“It’s all my fault that I’m standing here today,” he said. “I hope my case can give others a warning not to do such stupid things as I’ve done,” he said in his court statement.
Qin also gave profuse thanks to society, the court, the police, lawyers, the media, his parents, and more. The compliant demeanor will likely serve to reduce his punishment. The sentence has not been handed down yet.
“Qin had no choice but to confess under such high pressure,” said Wen Yunchao. “The authorities also need Qin to have an attitude like that, to show the achievements of their Internet purge.”
Observers found it difficult not to draw an unwelcome contrast between Qin’s prosecution and the demonstrably false statements regularly made by the Chinese authorities themselves, none of which have yet been punished.
Internet user Yuyue Yunqi wrote: “Who’s going to put the Lanzhou government on trial for making rumors?” A recent news report showed that 20 times the regulated limit of Benzene, which causes cancer, has been found in the water in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, after the local government announced that “the water meets state standards of safe drinking.”
Chinese authorities are known to conceal disease epidemics like bird flu, and play down the death tolls of natural or man-made disasters. No legal actions have been taken in those cases, netizens said.
Two widely forwarded complaints on the QQ microblog said: “The law only serves people with power,” and “The government can make rumors, but the people can’t.”
By Sarah Knapton
The number of Brits reporting to be sleep deprived has jumped 50 per cent with many more now using smartphones and computers before bed which can disrupt sleep, the University of Hertfordshire has found.
The number of sleep deprived Brits has risen by 50 per cent in a year as people increasingly use smartphones and computers before bed.
Nearly six in ten people in Britain now get seven hours of less sleep a night putting them at risk of cancer, diabetes and heart attacks, it has been warned.
Academics at the University of Hertfordshire found that 80 per cent of people are making it worse by using technology before sleeping which exposes them to disruptive blue light.
Blue light is present in morning light so late night gadget use can trick the body into speeding up the metabolism and making sleep more difficult.
By Ivan Pentchoukov
NEW YORK—Epoch Times staff reporters, photographers, and designers won 16 awards at the annual New York Press Association Conference held on April 4 and 5.
Six of the awards were for the first place, including top honors for overall excellence in photography, design, and advertising.
Epoch Times reporters Joshua Philipp and Zachary Stieber won second-place awards for best feature series and in-depth reporting respectively.
Philipp followed the trial and conviction of former city comptroller John Liu’s aides and Liu’s connection to the Chinese Communist Party. Stieber examined New York City’s subway system and compared it to those in major cities around the world.
“The awards are, of course, great as recognition from our peers in the industry, and as encouragement for everyone at Epoch Times. I would just point out that the awards are a natural outgrowth of a lot of sustained hard work during the past year,” said John Nania, Epoch Times editor-in-chief.
Nania continued: “We aren’t focused on winning awards per se, but we are focused on bringing a better and better product to our readers, and there is no thought of anyone resting on their laurels now. We will continue to push to bring our readers something better with every article, every photo, and every piece of design, every day.”
The New York Press Association represents more than 900 newspapers across the state.
The full list of awards, including links to winning entries:
Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence
Overall Design Excellence (Richard L. Stein Award)
Judges said: “Stands out above the rest in design, printing, use of photography, creative typography, and overall design.”
Advertising Excellence (John J. Evans Award)
First Place (Tie)
Judges said: “We’ve never had a tie before—but we’re thrilled! The more winners, the better.”
“We’re very excited for our first-timer, The Epoch Times, and we’re very happy for our perennial winner, The Record-Review, which has won this award seven times—tying the record set by its sister paper, The Scarsdale Inquirer.”
Best Ad Campaign: First Place
Jens Almroth — Sushi Zen campaign:
Judges said: “Beautiful unique pictures. Great use of white space.”
Best Color Ad: First Place
Judges said: “Comprehensive feature—clean layout, great pastels, use of panels to separate messaging, simple yet representative icons, easy to read font selection, beautiful!”
Best House Ad: First Place
Judges said: “Love it!”
Best House Ad: Second Place
Judges said: “Clean, eye-catching!”
Best Small Ad: Second Place
Rob Counts — Dr. Roland
Judges said: “Very creative ad! Fantastic use of art and white space, and gets the message across instantly.”
Graphic Illustration: Honorable Mention
Seth Holehouse — Health Care Fumble
Judges said: “Some of the best visual elements are the simple ones. There are few major bells or whistles with this page-shaping image, but it ties together very well the concept of Obama’s health care planning and how the ‘play’ fell apart somewhere along the way.”
Best Special Section Cover: Honorable Mention
Judges said: “Very strong and classic special sections cover complimenting antique sibjet matter. Good color, excellent typography and striking layout.”
Overall Photographic Excellence: First Place
Judges said: “These issues represent first-rate design and graphics combined with photos that complement the effort. The Epoch Times sets a high standard for clean and informative presentation at a glance.
Special Sections / Niche Publications: Third Place
Judges said: “Extraordinary photography and design carries this complete, complex look at a year like no other.”
Spot News Photo: Honorable Mention
Samira Bouaou — Photo of Jenny Hou & lawyer, John Liu’s campaign treasurer
Judges said: “Good general news image witnessed by the photographer as the subjects are fully engaged in an environment that blends well with the right moment. Presentation on the pages is beautifully done as well.”
Best News or Feature Series: Second Place
Joshua Philipp — John Liu’s relationship to Chinese regime
- FBI Evidence Links John Liu to Chinese Front Groups; Inside Page
- John Liu Shuns Former Aide at Fujianese Meeting
- Exposing the Chinese Regime’s Influence in NYC
- In Backing Disgraced Treasurer, John Liu Sticks Close to Beijing
Judges said: “The staff not only looks into the allegations surrounding comptroller John Liu, bit it also exposes his links within Queens to nonprofits and those connections to Beijing. Exceptional reporting.”
In-Depth Reporting: Second Place
Zachary Stieber — Fare Game
Judges said: “Well written and well presented. The series raises important questions about a service that affects millions of people. Who else would help the reader with such knowledge? Nice job.”
Editorial Coverage of Election / Politics: Third Place
Kristen Meriwether — City Hall coverage
- How the Stars Aligned for Bill de Blasio
- Taking a Gamble Against Quinn; Inside Page
- Looking to Write the Code for Politicians; Inside Page
- Bloomberg’s Quest for a Healthy City; Inside Page
Judges said: “Great depth of coverage and great use of pulling reader into the newspaper.”
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- Epoch Times Reporter Honored for Reporting on Organ Harvesting
- As Chinese Media Reshuffle, Epoch Times Makes Great Leap
By Epoch Times
A blogger from Shanxi Province in north-central China was recently arrested for warning on Weibo a twitter-like platform popular in China that forced organ harvesting has been occurring in the area in which he lives.
Mr. Han, 41 years old, is from Wenshui County. He used his cellphone to blog the information of several cases of people being killed for their organs recently in Wenshui and Qingxu counties.
The information had been posted 253 times when he was apprehended. When police arrested Mr. Han, they claimed the blog could cause people to panic.
In September China’s top judicial authorities issued new regulations according to which someone may be jailed if a blog post is forwarded more than 500 times. The broadly worded regulations criminalize “rumor mongering” in the name of preventing harm “to the social order or the national interests.”
In 2006, independent investigators outside of China reported that prisoners of conscience detained in China, particularly adherents of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong, were in effect being used as a live organ bank. When someone needing an organ presented him or herself, the needed organs would be harvested from a detainee, killing him or her.
Discussion of forced organ harvesting has been censored in China, but in recent years on scattered occasions China’s state-run media have reported instances of gangs engaging in a black market organ trade independent of the detention system.
Chinese netizens have been discussing the arrest of Mr. Han at great length, pointing out that according to the new regulations a blog post needed to be forwarded more than 500 times before an arrest could be made.
“Sadly, I could post something insignificant in the morning, and be arrested in the afternoon. The content was about highlighting corruption,” a netizen said.
“Was it [Han’s post about organ harvesting] really spreading rumors?” another netizen said. “Did it really result in disrupting public order, such as suspension of classes or production? Did it cause chaos or an event involving large group of people? How could you tell that locals were unsettled by the panic? Were there really 200 people who said they got frightened by the news?”
And another netizen said: “Because of “spreading rumors,” regardless of how many times a blog is forwarded, maintaining social stability is considered of the utmost importance. How much fear would this arrest instill in the hearts of the netizens?”
Recently efforts to stop illegal organ harvesting have increased around the world. On Dec. 9 Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting presented a petition calling for an end to forced organ harvesting in China to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that was signed by nearly 1.5 million people in 53 countries.
On Dec. 12, the European Union passed a resolution condemning forced organ harvesting in China, and legislation to curb the practice has recently been introduced in Canada and Australia.
Translated by Frank Fang. Written in English by Christine Ford.
Read the original Chinese report.
By Lu Chen
When shopping for groceries in a supermarket in Wuhan the other day, Mrs. Wu received for her change four one yuan notes, each with symbols on them that she had never seen before.
Underneath a black and white square of pixellated dots—which had evidently been stamped onto the note—were the words: “Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall.”
Wu took the bank notes to the Wuhan Evening News, and the story then went national. Even the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, reposted the article on its website.
In comments responding to the news articles, and in remarks made on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in China, users wrote about how they had themselves encountered notes with the symbols, called QR codes, on them.
QR codes can be scanned, like a barcode scanner in a supermarket, by mobile devices. They then automatically take the user to a website. In this case, it goes to a Google short link that redirects to an Amazon cloud link, where a software file may be downloaded.
QR codes are not unusual, nor are efforts to circumvent the Internet blockade, but Chinese Internet users were fascinated by the way the matter was appearing in media across China: it was an admission that there is an Internet firewall in China and that there are established ways to get around it.
Most curious of all, perhaps, was the identity of the individuals who likely stamped the QR codes onto the money. Though there is no way of definitively proving who is responsible in this case, putting messages on money is a tactic long used by practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice that has been persecuted in mainland China since 1999.
Meeting a Need
Anyone, in fact, can download the QR codes from the website dongtaiwang.com, which belongs to Dynamic Internet Technology, a company that produces the Freegate circumvention software.
Typically, a website that hosted anti-censorship software would itself be censored. But Bill Xia, the president of Dynamic Internet Technology, said in a telephone interview that there are ways to disguise the URL at the time that its scanned, so that users can still access a page from which they can download the software to their smartphones. If the Chinese authorities wanted to block these links, they would probably have to cut off access to Amazon Web Services, where the files are stored. Blocking Amazon in China could have serious business ramifications.
He said that it only works on Android and PC operating systems at this stage.
“We found this usage of the QR codes interesting,” Xia said. “We did get input from China, user feedback that we should provide QR codes so they can distribute them in China,” he said. “It’s interesting to see that it’s actually happening and see the news get publicized.”
The reports in China did not indicate that practitioners of Falun Gong may have been behind the effort to stamp the notes. The report identified the code as an “advertisement,” and warned readers “never to try scan it.”
But netizens seemed unswayed. Many left their sentiments in the comments sections of popular websites. “I often see Falun Dafa words [printed on money],” said netizen yubos1. Another remarked: “Whoever has seen one yuan bills with words stamped on it will understand what the code is about.”
Another user, woaixuneng520, wrote: “I tried to scan it. Oh my! I can finally watch YouTube.”
Some were disappointed with the blurry photographs that the newspapers published of the bank notes with the codes on them. “Can’t the reporter take a clearer picture? I scanned my screen for so long,” one user said.
“It’s so useful,” wrote Qingwenwoding. “Only when you break through the firewall can you see China clearly.”
Those Who Stamp
Soon after the persecution of Falun Gong started in 1999, practitioners of the discipline began using a variety of nonviolent ways to inform the Chinese people about it. The regime has attempted to shut down independent information about both the practice and the persecution, while also spreading anti-Falun Gong propaganda to justify their actions. The use of QR codes on banknotes—or posted onto telephone poles on the street—is the latest development in this strategy.
Hu Ping, the chief editor of Beijing Spring, a pro-democracy magazine, said in a telephone interview: “We all know that Falun Gong has contributed a lot in developing circumvention software, which has helped break the Internet blockade. The recent reports, especially in official media, will obviously expand the profile of Falun Gong in China.”
Hu added that, given that the persecution of the practice was highly contentious even inside the Communist Party, and was one of the pet projects of the political foes of current leader Xi Jinping, the appearance of these news articles may be a kind of warning to that faction—which includes the recently troubled security czar Zhou Yongkang and former regime leader Jiang Zemin—not to attempt a political comeback.
It has been widely reported that American reporters in China are having problems getting their residency visas renewed and might soon be forced to leave the country. As more consumers of news pay more attention to China, China news has higher value.
Last year, the New York Times published an article about the wealth of then-Premier Wen Jiabao’s family. The Times article won a Pulitzer Prize. Seemingly a victory of sorts for Western media in China, the article actually serves as tangible evidence of political maneuvering inside China. It also serves as a cautionary tale for how a prominent media company can be oblivious to how it was used as a tool by a political force.
The United States has developed more ties of all kinds with China. Much of what Americans buy is made in China, and China is the single-largest holder of U.S. debt (other than the U.S. Treasury). What is happening in China matters a great deal to Americans.
Media in free nations is supposed to help us understand what is happening around the world. But China is a tough nut to crack. Even Westerners who have lived there for a long time may not understand what is happening there.
In response to the threats to kick out Western journalists, Western journalists have begun talking about the rights of the press. They are saying that China should respect the rights of the world’s press or, at least, China should give the same number of spots to American journalists as the United States does to Chinese journalists.
In talking about their rights, the journalists are approaching this China problem from a Western perspective. They can’t see the real reasons that China wants to kick U.S. reporters out now, at this particular moment in history.
Politics Not as Usual
Since Xi Jinping has become paramount leader, he has been like a captain trying to direct a giant ship—some people call it the “Titanic”—in a big storm. He has been trying hard to keep it from sinking. Any extra push from any direction could be fatal.
This year, Xi started an anti-corruption campaign. In the last 10 years, any such campaign has been a war for power that is disguised under the name of anti-corruption. Under former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head Jiang Zemin’s rule, the CCP encouraged corruption. The system is set up so that no government can get anything done without corruption.
With this system, Jiang Zemin could do whatever he wanted to people. All levels of government officials were so corrupt that no one wanted any change that would wipe out their opportunity to get rich.
In the trial of disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai earlier this year, one can see how corruption charges are used. He was charged with corruption big enough to send him to jail, but small enough not to cause the Chinese people to feel strong resentment toward the CCP. The corruption charges were just a tool in the war for power.
Any Western journalists who participate in exposing corruption of high-level officials are unwitting participants in a high-stakes power struggle. And in doing so they are shooting in the dark.
The corruption information is so complex and hidden. It is not something a Western journalist can easily dig out, let alone understand. When a journalist does happen to get some information, it is not clear whether or not the information is a complete setup.
Last year, Bloomberg published an article on the wealth of Xi Jinping’s family. The New York Times article on Wen’s family wealth (mentioned above) was published at the exact time that Wen Jiabao and then-CCP head Hu Jintao were taking down Bo Xilai. Unfortunately, these two articles resulted from falling into traps set up by Zhou Yongkang’s camp, and the information was certainly fabricated.
Bo Xilai was allied with domestic security czar Zhou Yongkang. Through Zhou’s control of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, they had power over all of the legal system, the public security system, and prisons and labor camps. They had built strong relations with leading websites inside China, and had also built relationships with media in the West.
Zhou and Bo had a complete plan to take the top power in China. They had long planned to defame Wen Jiabao, and to defame Xi Jinping, and their fabrications were well-prepared.
The New York Times article was published at exactly the time Zhou Yongkang wanted it, in exactly the way Zhou Yongkang wanted it. When Zhou was threatened by Bo’s arrest, the Times article caused trouble for Wen Jiabao and for the Hu Jintao–Wen Jiabao–Xi Jinping camp.
In China, media has always been a weapon controlled by top CCP officials. Zhou and Bo had systematically controlled the media, including the Internet. Google losing out to Baidu is part of the game, because Baidu is easier for them to manipulate.
The Bloomberg article on Xi and the NY Times article on Wen both had direct effects on the struggle for power at the top.
The Bloomberg article on Xi and the New York Times article on Wen both had direct effects on the struggle for power at the top.
The Western media should talk about their rights. They should demand the Chinese regime respect the press and they should report as aggressively as they can inside China. At the same time, Western journalists should learn how not to be used as instruments in China’s internal power struggles.
In general, when Western journalists talk to Chinese people in China and gather highly sensitive information, such as the wealth of the CCP’s leading families, it is highly possible their encounters and conversations were carefully set up.
The CCP is in a very fragile situation. Xi Jinping understands that. And he is trying hard to keep the “Titanic” afloat. If any additional compartment gets broken, the CCP ship will sink right away. He will have no difficulty in tossing the rights of Western press overboard if he thinks that will help the ship stay afloat a little longer.
No one’s rights in China are respected, and the Western media shouldn’t be surprised that, if they meddle in the struggle for power—whether intentionally or inadvertently, they will get tossed out.
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By Ma Youzhi, Epoch Times and Katy Mantyk
Paul Mooney is one of those genuine journalists of the old-school—he focuses on people, the stories they need to know, and the stories they have to tell. After covering China for 18 years and having won multiple awards for his work, he has been refused a visa to return as a reporter for Reuters.
Sitting down with the Epoch Times in Berkeley, California, Mooney opened up on why the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Ministry of Foreign Affairs won’t let him into China. He also told some stories he reported on that will break your heart, the kind of stories the CCP doesn’t want people to hear. His gift for telling those stories is why he was not allowed back in the country.
“I focus a lot on human rights and social justice. I reported on Tibet, Xinjiang, and these are sensitive topics in China. I’m sure the government wasn’t happy with the reporting I did.”
He says it’s not so bad for him, though. The real heroes are the Chinese reporters. “I have a great amount of respect for the Chinese journalists trying to do those stories (blocked by the CCP). There’s a great risk for them, they’ll lose their jobs, and some have even gone to jail. I have no hope in the CCP, but I do in those reporters.”
Chinese Embassy Warns Him
The Chinese regime over the last year has tightened its already firm grip on media, and many foreign journalists like Mooney are getting squeezed out. The Reporters Without Borders’ latest analysis map of world freedom of the press has China labeled totally black.
During the eight-month wait to get his visa, Mooney was summoned to the Chinese Embassy in San Francisco for his interview. He was asked about his views on Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and high profile human rights lawyers. He answered frankly that he didn’t think they were a threat to China. His interviewer warned him that if he wanted the visa he would have to report more “objectively.” “It was obviously a threat,” Mooney said.
“As a journalist I was always objective, I never injected my own opinion in any of those stories. I reported the same way in China as I would have in the U.S. That’s something the Chinese government doesn’t understand. They say that the Western media has it in for China. But that’s not true.”
One issue Mooney has to face as a reporter on China is the accusations that he is anti-China. He hears the CCP say it, but also hears the notion coming from Westerners, too.
“I think they thought I was anti-China. But I am actually very pro-China. The people that I interviewed, they never once called me anti-China. If the communist party doesn’t like the truth, that’s their problem.
“I felt like I was giving a voice to the people who had none, and I’ve even stayed in touch with many of the people I reported on. I’ve helped people get medicine from the U.S., and people get doctors who need surgery. I stay in touch on Skype. These people know there’s no hope for them also, but the fact that somebody cares means a lot to them.”
A report in Business Insider pointed out that it was after the 2008 Beijing Olympics that the CCP quit being so accommodating to foreign journalists. With the pressure off to appease the rest of the world, Mooney said he’s never seen so many foreign reporters waiting for visas.
“If you look at the reporting from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, from Indonesia, Malaysia, from Latin America, they all report the same problems. The Chinese [propaganda] succeeds by saying America is out to stop China, but really the U.S. government and U.S. citizens do so much for Chinese people,” Mooney said.
“Countless NGO’s go into China. And for the Chinese students we have open schools and campuses in the U.S. If the U.S. really wanted to keep China down they wouldn’t do these things. But you don’t see those things reported in the People’s Daily or China Daily, we always hear that America’s out to stop them, that kind of slant.”
Mooney doesn’t think the situation for journalists will improve in China without reciprocal pressure from foreign countries. The United States should take the same restrictive approach to giving Chinese reporters visas.
“I’d like the American government to say, OK, if you’re not approving visas for American journalists, we are going to stop approving visas for Chinese journalists. China has more that 700 correspondents in the United States. We don’t delay their visas; we don’t refuse them in most cases. We don’t harass or follow them, or have the police intimidate them, and we don’t beat them up.”
“Chinese correspondents have free rein in the U.S., and some of them are even spies. I guarantee that if we start denying visas, within two weeks they’ll start granting visas for American journalists again, but right now there are no repercussions for them.”
Mooney explained that the rest of the world is afraid to put pressure on China in case they lose business and trade opportunities, but what they don’t realize is that China needs the rest of the world just as badly, and so pressure will work.
Reporting Injustice is Pro-China
“One story I wrote about was kidnapped rural children. Young boys kidnapped and forced to work in black kilns—illegal brick kilns where they were kept like slaves.
“A few years ago a lot of young teenagers started disappearing. They came from Henan [Province] to Zhengzhou [Henan’s capital] looking for work. So I went out with a group of about nine parents for about a week, and stayed with these families while they drove around these out-of-the-way places looking for their kids, and it was incredibly sad. They cried all the time.”
Mooney said some Chinese reporters did briefly cover these stories, but it didn’t last long.
“The people I helped put hope in me, but in my experience there is very little reaction from government,” Mooney said. “One father told me the police had done nothing to help find the children.”
Mooney recounted one story about a boy who escaped a kiln, and went to the Labor Bureau for help, only to be sold back to the kiln by one of the officials, then sold again by the same official to another kiln, for 600 yuan (US$98).
“I also did stories on cancer villages. I went to one village in Hunan Province with a battery factory. A lot of people started getting sick, so the government sent in doctors to test them, when they found out 1,000 people were poisoned with cadmium in their blood, they stopped all testing.
“The factory didn’t have any equipment to deal with the waste. The battery industry is a heavy metal polluter. They bribed local environmental officials to give them certificates; they were working with local government and local gangs. They pumped the waste water into the village river.”
The water, rice, and produce were all contaminated.
“One little girl died from cadmium poisoning. The eighty-year old grandma fell to her knees crying, and her mother bent down and was crying too, when they looked up and saw me crying they were shocked for a moment, then they just started howling even louder. It was heartbreaking.”
The father spent 90,000 yuan (US$14,770) to try to save her. Everyone else in the village was too scared to even talk to Mooney about the situation.
“I reported on this story because I hoped the government would compensate these people.”
Mooney hoped his reporting could help Chinese people, and therefore sees himself as pro-China, but in the end, “It was writing about these things that got me into trouble.”
Mooney explained that there are about 400 cancer villages in southern China. The rivers are all polluted with heavy metals. He hasn’t seen the CCP do anything about it.
“They talk a lot, but no action. The government sides with the local business and local officials, so they’re making money. The Communist Party’s face is much more important than the well-being of the Chinese people. So in the end, it is the Chinese people who always pay the price.”
‘Mean and Ruthless’
Mooney started to get interested in China in the 70s. Like many Americans at the time, he was fascinated with Chinese communism. But all that changed. “As a human being, one cannot imagine or understand the behavior of the CCP.”
He realized that many Chinese might not like what he says. “I think a lot of people, Chinese and Western, are duped by the CCP propaganda news. A lot of it is so positive, you never get the real picture of China.”
Mooney points out that the communists are harming the Chinese far deeper than the Japanese ever did.
“360,000 kids got sick on melamine poisoned baby formula. The story was blocked because the communist party wouldn’t allow any negative news leading up to the Olympics to save face.”
Another example: “A Chinese reporter had her story about high-speed train safety blocked. A year later a big accident happened. This is a government that is willing to let the Chinese people get poisoned, injured, or killed rather than lose face.”
“There is going to be a huge problem with lung cancer due to all the severe pollution. So it looks like a modern society but it’s really just a façade.”
“The communist party is really mean and ruthless. Regarding all the problems in society, unless the CCP feels there is a serious threat to their authority, they won’t do anything. So I anticipate that things will get much, much worse before the government responds and takes any action on these issues. I feel no hope.”
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More in China Human Rights
The widely respected Zhang Lifan one of those shut down
Recent news from China tells of a massive and an exemplary denial of freedom of speech on the Internet, with huge numbers having their accounts closed, including one widely respected commentator.
On Nov. 13, Beijing Youth Daily reported that more than 100,000 microblog accounts accused of violating “seven bottom lines” have been canceled by Sina Weibo.
The report also stated, “Sina Weibo [a popular microblog service similar to Twitter] will further improve the online reporting mechanism to curb Internet irregularities.”
Lu Wei, director of the China Internet Information Office, held a meeting on Aug. 10 with several network celebrities, including Jilian Hai, Xue Manzi, Chen Li, and Pan Shiyi (also known as Big Vs on Weibo). Lu claimed that a consensus on adhering to the “seven bottom lines” had been reached with the Big Vs—individuals who use their real names when they blog and attract millions of followers.
The “seven bottom lines” are meant to identify topics about which bloggers know the CCP will scrutinize what they write with special care: laws and regulations, the socialist system, national interests, legitimate interests of citizens, social public order, trends in morality, and the authenticity of information.
Revered Scholar Silenced
Coinciding with the Daily report, several of Zhang Lifan’s registered website accounts were closed.
The 63-year-old Zhang, a scholar of modern Chinese history and a newspaper columnist, is considered to be an Internet celebrity. He often published political articles on the Internet, urging the authorities to conduct political reform.
Zhang Lifan spoke with Voice of America about the Internet environment in China, freedom of speech, and the ruling that penalizes for spreading “rumors” a blogger whose comments are viewed or forwarded too many times.
“The Internet rules should not hinder freedom of speech,” Zhang said.
“The Internet should have rules, but they need to be reasonable and conform to the freedom of speech stipulated in the Constitution’s Article 35, rather than restricting it,” Zhang said.
He admits that there should be boundaries between freedom of speech and rumor or slander, but the boundaries are hard to define in China.
In Zhang’s view, the “two highs,” namely the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Supreme People’s Court in China, in setting forth Internet regulations, did not actually interpret the law, but took it upon themselves to make new law, overstepping the power of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and sparking controversy in legal circles.
Despite the contrived legal interpretation, Zhang and the other network celebrities were not deterred from talking.
He said: “In fact, we fear nothing. Now the netizens are mocking the interpretation. This has shown that the government’s laws and the ‘two highs’ are without any authority at all.”
Zhang’s main concern was who would become the first victim of the judicial interpretation, because when making the law, the CCP could have targeted some people. Therefore, once such a case occurs, it would typically be significant.
Zhang mentioned as an example the case of Li Zhuang, a lawyer in Chongqing who was prosecuted in 2011 on the suspicion of instigating men to fabricate testimony, because they were unwilling to cooperate with authorities in their “crackdown on gangs” campaign.
The ‘Two Highs’ Crack Down
In September, the “two highs” promulgated provisions to combat rumors spreading through the Internet, stipulating: “If the same defamatory information is clicked and viewed 5,000 times or more, or forwarded more than 500 times, it will be regarded as ‘serious’ and the rumormonger will be sentenced to three years imprisonment.”
Subsequently, in order to strengthen the Internet control, the CCP’s new leadership launched a campaign to occupy the new battlefield of public opinion, leading to the arrest of many Internet celebrities and opinion leaders.
Dong Liwen, who is a member/advisor of Taiwan Think Tank and familiar with China’s politics, told the media that after coming to power, Xi Jinping has shown no signs of loosening constraints on free speech. He believes the recent arrests demonstrate continued constraints in the Xi era, which are worse than under the previous leader.
Dong says Xi Jinping “stabilizes political power by all means.” But Dong cautions that Xi’s move toward further constraint doesn’t exclude the possibility of triggering a greater backlash against him by the people. Xi simply “walks on the cliff.”
Translation by Joseph Wu. Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.
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This song wins 2013 “Best Song for Indie/Documentary Film” at Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
By Joshua Philipp
While inspecting shipments from China, Russian customs agents found something odd. Inside several of the kettles and irons they found WiFi chips and microprocessors. If the devices were plugged in, the chips would search for unsecured WiFi networks up to 650 feet away, then “call home” to grant access to cybercriminals.
While the unusual form of cybercrime took researchers by surprise, it was only the latest in an emerging threat of hacked electronics coming straight from the Chinese factories.
There is a long list of devices riddled with backdoors, infected with malware, or fitted with spying devices before leaving Chinese factories. These range from kettles to laptops, from USB keys to cameras, and from consumer software right up to military components.
In June 2011, Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily uncovered recording devices installed in all dual-plate Chinese-Hong Kong vehicles. They were labeled as “inspection and quarantine cards,” and were installed free of charge by China’s Shenzhen Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.
In June 2010, an auto-run virus in China-made memory cards in Olympus Stylus Tough cameras was infecting computers in Japan. The virus was uncovered just a week after an identical virus was in the memory cards of Samsung smartphones. Prior to that were viruses in devices including China-made TomTom GPS systems, and Insignia digital picture frames sold at major outlets, including Best Buy, Target, and Sam’s Club.
While the recently discovered chips in kettles and irons were among the more bizarre cases, they were also among the least sophisticated. They only targeted WiFi networks not protected with passwords. In Russia, where the devices were found, this would have been a threat. In the United States, where most networks are protected, it wouldn’t be much of a threat.
Yet, the concern is less about the chips themselves, and instead what they could mean for the future of cyberthreats.
“This is a generation beyond what we’ve seen before,” said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at cybersecurity company Sophos, regarding the spy kettles and irons.
Wisniewski said the chips were not very concerning, yet with a bit of work they could be. They could easily be programmed to bypass password protected networks, and being both small and inexpensive, the recent discovery could very well be only the tip of the iceberg.
“Who’s to say these things couldn’t be put into any device on anybody’s home network,” he said. “They could be in anything you plug in. Anything that gets power, this kind of thing can be hidden inside it.”
A Hidden Threat
Greg Schaffer stood before congress on July 8, 2011. At the time, Schaffer worked in the cybersecurity office of the Department of Homeland Security. He was asked whether there are risks of having electronics built overseas.
Schaffer tried avoiding the question. Yet when he was pressed to give a clear answer, Schaffer gave a short, yet grim response.
Schaffer said he knew of cases where foreign-made devices had been pre-installed with infected software or hardware, noting “We believe there is significant risk in the area of supply chain.”
“This is one of the most complicated and difficult challenges that we have,” he said.
Schaffer’s on-record admission to the problem was one of few. Yet, the problem of spying electronics coming out of China, in particular, is frequent and ongoing.
Some of the most common vulnerabilities are “backdoors” left in products. These can resemble programming errors left by the creators—the nature of which makes it difficult to prove whether the backdoors are intentional or unintentional.
Backdoors in Chinese routers are frequently exposed by security researcher and former NSA employee Craig Heffner. Within the last month, Heffner uncovered several backdoors in routers from Chinese manufacturer Tenda, which sells Medialink routers, as well routers from D-Link. D-Link is headquartered in Taiwan, but its routers are manufactured in Mainland China.
Heffner told We Live Security, the blog of cybersecurity company ESET, that a Nov. 10 backdoor in D-Link routers appears to have been left deliberately.
“You can access the Web interface without any authentication and view/change the device settings,” Heffner said, noting that the access code for the backdoor was found on a Russian cybercrime forum.
The most controversial routers come from Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei. The House Intelligence Committee released a report in October 2012 warning American businesses to avoid the two companies due to security risks. Similar warnings against Huawei, in particular, have been upheld by governments around the world, including in Taiwan and Australia.
“China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyber espionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation,” said Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in a press release. “American businesses should use other vendors.”
Huawei has launched a public relations campaign to fire back, yet independent research has only justified concerns. Just prior to the report from the House Intelligence Committee, in July 2012, security researchers at hacker conference Defcon uncovered critical, and extremely basic, vulnerabilities in Huawei routers.
“This stuff is distrusting,” Dan Kaminsky, a well-known security researcher, told International Data Group News Service. “If I were to teach someone from scratch how to write binary exploits, these routers would be what I’d demonstrate on.”
They also noted that, going with Huawei’s infamous lack of transparency, it had no security contact for reporting vulnerabilities.
According to Wisniewski, however, the nature of the threats—and of cybersecurity, in general—makes it difficult to prove guilt.
“The problem is there’s a scarcity of truth, and there is unlimited room for speculation,” Wisniewski said. “Only the person who wrote the code knows.”
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By Joshua Philipp
On the Chinese hacker black market, you can buy your way into a compromised computer in South Korea or Japan for 16 cents each. If you want to watch someone through their webcam, access to computers with cameras connected come in packages of $16.27 for 500.
Cybersecurity company TrendMicro took a tour through China’s online, underground market for everything from automated hacking tools to stolen credentials in America and Europe. Researchers detailed their findings on Oct. 29 in a new report, “Beyond Online Gaming Cybercrime: Revisiting the Chinese Underground Market.”
“The Chinese underground market is hidden to the public but is not very difficult to find,” the report states. To access the Chinese hacker black market, researchers went to China’s two main methods for online communication: Baidu Web forums and QQ chat groups.
It states that cybercriminals frequent both Baidu and QQ, noting that each Chinese cybercrime group has a unique ID. “Would-be customers can simply search for a certain group of interest in QQ to gain access to its service and product offerings.”
After gaining access, researchers were greeted with an underground market that is “a lot like any Chinese market.” Users on the Chinese-language market can haggle for goods, and sellers use attractive advertisements to entice buyers.
“Everything you can possibly need is readily available,” the report states.
Under the services section researchers found groups of Chinese mercenary hackers ready to launch attacks for the right price. They can be hired for simple jobs, like launching Distributed Denial of Service attacks to overload websites and take them offline, to more complex jobs like testing a piece of malware against antivirus software.
For cybercriminals interested in working for themselves, there are also plenty of automated hacking tools available. These include phishing kits that can help hackers trick unsuspecting foreigners into granting access to their computers. Or they can grab a remote access tool (RAT) that allows them to control a victim’s computer remotely.
Since their last visit to China’s underground hacker black market, researchers at TrendMicro noted, “It now offers a wider variety of services and products that any cybercriminal would love to get his hands on.”
They also gave a word of warning: “Because cybercriminals find a great deal of value from stealing and buying stolen personal credentials, users should make sure they practice safe computing habits.”
Officials of the Chinese Communist Party CCP have launched a fresh attempt to censor the Internet under the pretext of “fighting corruption.” Internet users are encouraged to submit information to a new tip-off website; those who do may be arrested.
However, Chinese people are fighting back as they continue to use the Internet to expose corrupt officials and speak their mind.
The tip-off website was started by the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) in order to receive complaints from the public as “an important source of clues in the fight against corruption,” according to CCP mouthpiece Xinhua.
The website opened on Sept. 2 and received 377,450 reports that day, according to the Sept. issue of Hong Kong-based The Trend Magazine. The large number of access requests overloaded the website, and it stopped working five times that day, with the longest breakdown lasting 31 minutes. In the subsequent two days, the website received 257,420 reports and 313,821 reports respectively.
On China’s Internet there are 500 million surfers and 200 million Weibo accounts (China’s version of Twitter). In recent months, police in many areas have arrested dozens of well-known Internet users who uncovered local corrupt officials, giving reasons for the arrests such as “disturbing public order” and “fabricating rumors.”
For instance, police arrested Duan Xiaowen of Central China’s Hunan province for “suspected troublemaking,” according to a Southern Metropolis Daily report.
Duan is well-known for posting questions about why a local beauty pageant queen quickly become a city government official and for exposing who owned a house that was apparently built illegally on top of a 5-story building, the Daily reported.
Beijing Police confirmed on Sept. 28 the arrest of renowned environmental activist Dong Liangjie for “making trouble,” Xinhua reported.
Dong has over 300,000 followers on Weibo and has exposed issues such as contraceptives in tap water and high lead content in pork in Nanjing City. The regime claims that Dong made these issues up to boost his reputation.
Current affair commentator Chen Simin said he believes the regime’s crackdown won’t be effective, and even with such a massive propaganda machine, the regime cannot beat Weibo.
Chen said that Weibo is spreading the uncensored truth people long for. He believes Chinese Internet users are actually the ones who control the spread of information on the Internet.
Pei Minxin, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, commented on the CCP’s current situation in an article on New Straits Times.
“In the last decade, a series of scandals and crises—involving public safety, adulterated food and drugs, and environmental pollution—has thoroughly destroyed what little credibility lingered [for the CCP],” Pei wrote.
He added that many successful and influential people have emerged on the Internet. “Taking advantage of the Internet and Weibo, they have become champions of social justice. Their moral courage and social stature have, in turn, helped them to build mass support (measured by the tens of millions of their Weibo followers). Their voices often reframe the terms of social-policy debate and put the CCP on the defensive.”
“But several emerging trends, unobserved or noted only in isolation, have greatly altered the balance of power between the CCP and Chinese society, with the former losing credibility and control and the latter gaining strength and confidence,” Pei added.
Translation by Olivia Li. Written in English by Sally Appert.
Read the original Chinese Article.
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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.”