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By Chang Ping, July 18, 2017
On July 7, the German professor Markus W Büchler, Chairman of the Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg, traveled to Shenyang to take part in diagnosing the condition of Liu Xiaobo. Media reports noted that it was the first time in almost a decade that Liu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had seen a foreigner. When I read this line I felt full of grief. The visit of a doctor isn’t anything like that of a friend calling in. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for his speech and thought, and apart from the small number of family members who’ve long been under house arrest, no one has been able to see him for all these years. Until he got late-stage liver cancer, when his days on earth were numbered, the only people he was able to see — apart from the doctors, nurses, and a few family members — were the police who had been ordered to keep him under close guard. On July 13, he left the world completely cut off from it.
A group of 154 Nobel Prize laureates signed a joint statement hoping that the Chinese authorities would let Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia freely see their family, and that Liu be allowed to receive treatment anywhere he wished. UN human rights officials, politicians from around the world, human rights organizations and numerous Chinese citizens have said the same thing. The Chinese government pretends they don’t hear it — like a black hole that swallows everything that enters.
While silencing dissidents and shutting up their supporters, the Chinese government has also started projecting its voice on the international scene. Xi Jinping has been more assertive and bolder than any previous leader in boasting in international fora; Chinese state media has even suggested that he’s going to point toward the future direction of mankind. Buying up media, suppressing foreign journalists, and changing global public opinion have become the Chinese government’s undisguised combat strategies. Angela Merkel is content to chat with Xi Jinping for a long while about pandas at the zoo, but when it comes to a dying Liu Xiaobo, she won’t say a word in public. It’s clearly not that she doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care for Liu Xiaobo, but that she’s being stifled by the Chinese government.
Publicly humiliate the Communist Party, or let the Party publicly humiliate you?
Last week, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) held a hearing on human rights conditions in China, which included the remarks of Terence Halliday, co-director of the Center on Law & Globalization at the American Bar Foundation. Halliday said that “At this moment from our longstanding research I have no doubt that when the world speaks out loud and publicly, China listens. China has a very thin skin” (video, 1’33”). Some may see this as publicly shaming to China — but in fact, it’s the Communist Party that has been shaming human rights and democracy. The most Western nations can do is stop or lessen this dishonor.
Would publicly criticizing China have any use? Some would defend Merkel’s failure to publicly mention Liu Xiaobo — that she is making a compromise and getting things done in a low-key manner. Whether it’s getting the Nobel Peace Prize laureate on the brink of death released, or changing China’s authoritarian political system, many people think that “private dialogue” is the most effective path. They even suppose that public pressure will have the opposite of the result intended. Over the past twenty years, the European Union has been holding dialogues on human rights with China quietly, and it is termed “quiet diplomacy.”
But in fact, those who are provided succor are those who have been reported on in the media the most — those who make dictators truly feel the pressure of international public opinion. There are countless unknown victims who have received no lenience since they are so “low key.” In fact, they’re often subject to the most cruel and brutal treatment.
This is not limited to only individual cases. The German scholar Katrin Kinzelbach’s 2014 book “The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits,” traced the development of the EU’s rights dialogue with China from its founding in 1995 until 2010, relying on internal memoranda, a vast array of documents, and extensive interviews with officials from over 20 member states. She spoke with former chairpersons of the dialogue committees and traced the institutional changes in the process. The conclusion of her research was that “quiet diplomacy” exerts almost no positive impact at all on human rights in China. Not only did the dialogue fail to achieve the hoped-for outcome, but it led to the Chinese government holding human rights in more contempt, turning the dialogue into a perfunctory affair and an occasion for them to rebut all questions, criticisms, and suggestions.
China points the world in a dark direction
Two weeks ago Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Initiatives for China, International Campaign for Tibet, Human Rights in China, International Society for Human Rights, and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) made a joint statement calling on the European Union to suspend human rights dialogues with China. Their reasoning was that this sort of quiet diplomacy, on a particularly low-level this year, hasn’t improved the circumstances of China’s human rights in China, but instead has become a shield for the EU to avoid a thorny issue.
In her book, Kinzelbach writes that the “quiet diplomacy” strategy of human rights dialogues has shown itself to be weak and ineffectual, and that the only effective policy that Europe had on the issue was the prohibition of weapons sales to China after the June 4 massacre. If it wants to change human rights in China, the EU needs to summon up the courage, truly persevere, and support the immense significance of the human rights cause.
When politicians are laughing together about how cute the pandas are, and silent and unmoved while China’s most prominent dissident is dying in isolation, perhaps what China’s official propaganda mouthpieces have said is entirely accurate: In fact, Xi Jinping is pointing to a new direction for mankind, that is, abandoning the painful development of a political culture that safeguards human rights, democracy and liberty, and instead focusing on success in advanced economics and high technology, establishing an even more barbaric, darker, and despicable society that operates according to the law of the jungle.
Chang Ping is a Chinese media veteran and current events commentator now living in political exile in Germany.
The Path Forward in the Wake of Liu Xiaobo’s Passing, Yaxue Cao, July 16, 2017.
Liu Xiaobo: The Founder of China’s Political Opposition Movements, Wu Qiang, June 30, 2017.
Also by Chang Ping:
One Belt, One Road, Total Corruption, May 18, 2017.
China’s ‘Freedom’ Cage, by Chang Ping, 2015.
We’d Be Satisfied With Any Government!, October, 2015.
A China Change interview with Chang Ping:
Li Aijie, April 29, 2017
This is the second and last installment of Li Aijie’s account of her trip. Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 15, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years for “providing intelligence to foreign organizations.” He’s currently imprisoned in Shaya Prison in remote western Xinjiang. He believes that he is innocent, and has retained an attorney to represent him for a petition for retrial (申诉). — The Editors
On April 22, 2017 I took a train from Urumqi, and arrived in Aksu on the morning of April 23 at around 8:00 a.m. Human rights volunteer Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏) was already waiting at the train station. After breakfast the four of us—Huang, attorney Ran Tong (冉彤), a driver and I—drove in the cold drizzle. We arrived in the Shaya county seat soon after 5:00 p.m.
After we arranged accommodation, on the morning of April 24 we set off for Shaya Prison. Because we weren’t familiar with the road, we went the wrong way and had to turn back midway. At about 10:30 a.m. we finally arrived at the prison gates. My uneasiness and insomnia due to worrying whether the meeting would take place made me even more exhausted and nervous.
Upon seeing our IDs and paperwork, the guard told us that more procedures were necessary. Attorney Ran Tong and Teacher Huang argued, negotiated, and mediated on the basis of reason and law. The prison guard told us that he needed to ask for instructions from his supervisor. We waited anxiously. After inquiring with his supervisor twice, the guard slowly walked toward us and said: “Your paperwork isn’t complete, and today isn’t a visiting day.” My heart leapt into my throat. He continued, “But we’ve taken into account that you came such a long way. Remember to bring complete paperwork next time.”
The stone hanging in my heart finally fell. I was excited, and silently said to myself: “Praise the Lord! Thank God!” My ardent morning prayer was answered.
I was put on a prison bus with some visiting Uighur family members. Sitting on the bus, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears ran down my face just thinking that I would soon see my husband who I missed so much. The bus passed through an expanse of desert. Red poplar trees gave a sense of vicissitude and decay. Under the bright sunlight, they looked scorched and desolate.
About five or six minutes later, the bus stopped in front of a solitary white building. After we got off, men and women each formed a line and went through a strict security check that required removing our shoes. I took out my ID and money and stored the rest of my documents in a prison locker. I deposited 600 yuan, the maximum permitted, for Haitao. I sat on a stool waiting. The television on the wall was streaming the life of the prisoners.
A staff member led me to an office and explained some rules, such as that talking about politics would result in the termination of the visit, and the visit would only last 30 minutes. I was then taken out of the room. After going a short distance we entered another room.
“Your man is in this room,” a police officer said, pointing to my left. Upon entering, I saw three police officers waiting. I immediately saw Haitao sitting on the other side of the glass partition, with two officers standing behind him. Excited, I quickly walked up and sat down opposite. “Husband, you’ve lost weight!” I said hurriedly. “Wife, you have, too!” Haitao said it with a smile. He looked in good spirits and his complexion was good. He appeared clean and calm, which also comforted me.
“Husband, how are you? How is life in here? Have your foot shackles been removed? Does your stomach still hurt?” I bombarded him with questions, concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time to say everything. “I’m not wearing foot shackles anymore. My stomach doesn’t hurt either. When I arrived at the prison I was given a physical exam at Shaya Hospital. Everything is fine. We have a regular routine here. Every morning we get up at 7:30 a.m. After washing, we exercise and then eat. After breakfast, we exercise for another ten minutes or so before we begin studying.” “What do you study?” “We study some traditional culture, such as the teachings of Confucius and Mencius.”
“Do you have a Bible inside? Can you read it? I brought you a Bible the Autumn Rain Church* gave you but I wasn’t allowed to bring it in.” “We’re not allowed to read it inside!” “But you need to pray to God for yourself, your family, friends, for this country, nation, even the police around you. You need to love yourself and love others, okay?” Haitao nodded.
He told me that for meals he has steamed bread, watery gruel, and some small side dishes. If they’re given soybean milk then they get no other dishes. He can have eggs, tofu, even chicken and rice pilaf when it comes time to “improve prisoners’ lives.” “I’m in very good health,” he said.
“Stand up then, walk around and let me see!” I wanted to see for myself. Haitao stood up and walked around. “Okay, not bad. You’re still full of spirit!” I felt relieved and sat back down. “Who accompanied you this time?” Haitao asked. “Huang Xiaomin and attorney Ran Tong. But they’re not allowed to come inside!” “Oh, that makes me feel better. Please thank them for me!” Haitao folded his hands in prayer.
“Before I left, friends all asked me to convey their concern and say hello to you. Sister Wang Yi and her husband Hua Chunhui, and many other friends. Even after I arrived in Shaya County there were still many friends who called to ask me to tell you to exercise, take care of your health, be strong, and hold on, that they’re sure that you will be free soon. We’re all waiting for you!”
Haitao became quiet for quite a while, hands folded in front of him. “Please thank everyone for me. I won’t get discouraged. Please tell everyone not to worry!”
Haitao told me that he will continue to appeal his case.
“I brought our son’s photos, but wasn’t allowed to bring them in. Our son is very naughty, he can’t stop kissing your picture. He also knows how to make calls and he ‘calls’ you. Next time I come I’ll bring him with me.” “Can he talk a lot? Are you all spoiling him too much, and that’s why he’s acting so naughty? Don’t pamper him too much. Can he stand such a long trip? If not, wait until he’s older,” he said, seeming calm. But I saw his eyes getting moist.
I asked Haitao if the prison allowed writing letters to family members. He said he’d mailed two letters. One of them was inspected and rejected by the prison authorities, but the other had been mailed. “You didn’t receive it?” He said he would send me letters every month.
“How are your parents? If you need anything ask my sisters, and tell them I said to do it.” “Okay,” I nodded emphatically.
Presently I heard an urgent voice from behind telling me that I had five minutes left. “Haitao, you must take care of your health. You owe me and our son a lot. When you get out you have to doubly repay us!” I said in a hastened and stern tone of voice.
Thinking that I would part with him soon, I couldn’t help letting my tears flow. A prison guard handed me tissues.
“Wife, I had a dream. It’s so clear I feel it’s real. You’re sitting at the small table where the phone is at home, and you can’t stop calling me. But all you hear is the message that no one is available at the number you’ve dialed. You keep calling, and the phone keeps saying the same thing.”
At this point Haitao was pulled up by two prison guards.
“You’ve gone overtime by almost five minutes!” the prison guard behind me said.
I stood up, putting my hands on the window. Haitao also stretched his hands out and put them against mine on the other side of the glass partition. “Yes, this is true. When you were just arrested I did call you non-stop like this. Husband, you must take good care of your health. Our son and I will wait for you. We will all wait for you!” I choked up with sobs, my tears falling like pearls from a broken thread.
The waiting room door opened. Haitao turned his head toward me, his hands shaking in prayer. Sunlight flooded in, making the whole room very bright, leaving only the corner dark.
I saw Haitao’s smiling face full of brightness and hope, and he was determined and calm. This greatly comforted me.
On my return journey, I thought of the poplar trees that can live for a thousand years. I believe that before long I will be walking freely hand in hand with Haitao.
I can’t help thinking of the suffering Mr. Gao Zhisheng experienced in this prison. It was the unremitting effort and resistance of him and others after him that improved the conditions Zhang Haitao is in now.
This was a long trip. Words can’t express how hard and mentally exhausting it was. A visit like this is also very expensive, something a family like mine can’t afford. I thank all my friends out there for the helping hands you extended to us. It’s your attention, love, and support that give me the strength to go forward. Without you it’s hard to carry on. I would also like to thank Huang Xiaomin for her company and support on this trip, and those who made contacts, arranged drivers and vehicles. Attorney Ran Tong also traveled with us the whole way and gave us free legal assistance. I, on behalf of my husband Zhang Haitao, thank all of you!
Next month I will take my son Little Mandela to Shaya Prison to visit his father whom he has never met. I respectfully invite my friends and people from all walks of life to continue to pay attention. My next visit will be May 25-26. However, the prison told us that we must contact them in advance.
Again, my deepest gratitude to everyone!**
April 25, 2017
*The Autumn Rain Church (秋雨之福) is a large house church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
**A note from our translator: “At first it seemed a bit stilted but it grew on me and I found it affecting.”
U. S. Government Must Intervene in Zhang Haitao’s Case, November 21, 2016.
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Li Aijie, April 23, 2017
Born in 1971, the Urumqi-based Zhang Haitao (张海涛) was arrested on June 26, 2015 for his online speech: to be precise, 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets of others’ tweets. On January 15, 2016, Zhang was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years in prison for “providing intelligence to overseas [entities].” He was given a 19-year sentence. On November 28, 2016, the Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the lower court’s ruling. On December 2, 2016, Zhang Haitao was sent to Shaya Prison in southwestern Xinjiang to serve his jail term, which ends on June 25, 2034, when he will be 63 years old. He hasn’t met his son, “Little Mandela,” born after his incarceration. On April 19, 2017, his wife Li Aijie (李爱杰) embarked on a journey over 2,000 miles that began from their hometown in central China to visit him. — The Editors
April 19, 2017
Zhang Haitao is a native of Henan Province. He’s a prisoner of conscience in Xinjiang for the crime of inciting subversion of state power. He received a severe sentence of 19 years for his “thought crimes.” His second trial was held on November 28, 2016. The Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the original judgement and sentence. On December 2, 2016 he was sent to Shaya Prison in the desert of southwestern Xinjiang. On April 13, 2017, after four months waiting, Haitao’s second eldest sister finally received a telephone call from Shaya Prison approving a family visit.
I feel like a knight-errant. I packed my luggage and set out on the journey. But I don’t have the chivalrous calm and natural gracefulness of a knight-errant, nor his speed and sharpness.
This trip I didn’t bring Little Mandela to see his father, and felt very guilty! Even though I knew Haitao eagerly awaited seeing his son, and Little Mandela missed his father terribly, the journey is long and I didn’t know if his young body could bear it. I have to go first on my own, experience, feel, and learn from it, in order to know just how arduous the journey is.
First stop: Zhenping county — Nanyang city — Zhengzhou city (Henan Province). On the road it was hard to calm my thoughts. My heart and mind was agitated and sad, to such an extent that just starting the trip made me cry. On November 30, 2016, after almost five months of agony, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region detention center Haitao and I met for a brief 20 minutes. It felt like it had been ages since we last saw each other. It was such a difficult meeting, under what circumstances will we meet again? What condition will you be in?
Setting out, I pretend to be strong and chivalrous, but I know I’m just a weak little bird that can’t stand up to any wind. It’s all you friends that give our whole family selfless love and support that gives me the strength to spread my wings and move forward. Following in the footsteps of Mr. Gao Zhisheng*, I cherish the companionship, concern, and support of all you friends on this long journey to Shaya to see my husband! My deep and profound thanks!
April 21, 2017
Dear friends, yesterday I arrived safely at our home in Urumqi. As the plane was delayed, after arriving I had to do some errands and couldn’t respond to friends’ messages in a timely manner. My apologies.
After arriving back at the home I’d left almost five months ago, everything was the same, except it’s all covered by a layer of dust. Opening the bedroom door, my eyes were met by the sight of Haitao’s clothes I’d brought back from the detention center on November 30, 2016, folded neatly on the bed. I was overwhelmed by sadness. Things remain but people are no more. Haitao’s familiar silhouette appears before my eyes, and past events flash back scene by scene…
Although our home is small, only one bedroom and one living room, it’s suffused with love. After eating dinner you always carried me from room to room, never tiring of it, and calling it: “Losing-weight exercise.”
Returning from our walk after dinner, I’d petulantly say I couldn’t walk anymore because when I had just arrived in Xinjiang I thought living on the sixth floor was too high and there was no elevator. You pledged to me: “Don’t worry, I’ll carry you on my back!” You carried me up from the first floor, huffing and puffing, and I teased you: “Piggy carrying his bride!” Your Chinese zodiac animal is the pig, but you don’t want to live like a pig!
Often when we got to the third floor I would try to get off your back. You wanted to keep carrying me, but I didn’t want to tire you, my sweetheart. I remember our happy laughter and cheerful voices as if it was yesterday.
How I want to lean on your sturdy back, and let you carry me one more time! Until we’re so old we can’t go anywhere…
And the chubby child’s poster on the wall. I remember that day you entered the house in low spirits, I took your hand and pushed open the bedroom door. This cute chubby child’s poster appeared before our eyes and you immediately broke into laughter: We are ready to have a child of our own.
But you were not in a hurry: “The doctor said after taking medicine you should wait at least half a year before getting pregnant!” Yes, I was taking medicine to cure six uterine fibroids, and had only stopped for three months. And a month ago I was still taking anti-inflammatory medication (the doctor also said I should stop taking that medicine four months before pregnancy). And you said that we hadn’t shared enough of our two-person paradise yet. I disagreed: “We’re both getting old, we can’t just have a child whenever you want.”
Having so many uterine fibroids, I worried whether I could conceive. Not long before that you also received calls from your family, they wanted us to return home and adopt a child. Your elder sisters didn’t believe I could have a child of my own.
Whenever I think of our son Little Mandela, I am moved to tears! God had mercy on us and granted us this son. When I had been pregnant for a little more than three months, we were immersed in happiness, and then disaster struck. You were taken from our home. Since then, I’ve searched for you so many times in my dreams and couldn’t find you. Our family of three should be enjoying happiness, but now we’re separated by such a great distance.
Opening up the friend group [on WeChat], messages poured in from so many friends. Their love, support, and encouragement overflowed in their words. Their love moved me to tears. I invite all of my friends to continue this journey to Shaya with me!
Editor’s note: On 21st, Li Aijie told RFA that she was leaving Urumqi on the 22nd, she would arrive in Aksu on the 23rd, and Shaya on the 24th. There has been no updates from Li Aijie since the 22nd.
*Lawyer Gao Zhisheng was imprisoned in Shaya Prison from December, 2011 to August, 2014.
China Change, November 21, 2016
Zhang Haitao (张海涛) is a 45-year-old Han Chinese man living in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. He is originally from Henan Province, and relocated to Xinjiang after being laid off from state employment in the 1990s. Since 2009 he’s been an active participant in rights defense activities and subsequently became a “sensitive” person who was harassed by police.
Zhang was detained on June 27, 2015, in Urumqi, indicted on December 25, 2015, and tried in January 11, 2016.
Based on 69 WeChat posts, 205 Twitter posts, and interviews by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia during the period from 2010 to 2015, a court in Urumqi found Zhang guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The court also found him guilty of “secretly gathering and illegally providing intelligence to overseas entities,” and sentenced him to five years in prison. The court ruled to confiscate 120,000 yuan ($17,400) of his personal property.
The court decision, dated on January 15, 2016, repeatedly cited Voice of America and Radio Free Asia as “overseas hostile organizations.”
Zhang Haitao filed an appeal in February, 2016, but it has been delayed several times.
On November 14, lawyer Chen Jinxue (陈进学) visited Zhang and reported that he has kept in manacles since the beginning of the year, despite repeated protests from his lawyers. In the prison cell, Zhang is forced to sit in one small spot all day, and is not allowed to move around and subjected to prison bullying.
On November 15, his lawyers received a notice from the appeals court in Urumqi that the appeal will be conducted only in writing. The lawyers are asked to present their defense in writing. No ruling date is given, but it could be any day now.
Zhang Haitao’s wife called on the World Organization Against Torture to pay attention to the case, and speak out for her husband.
China Change strongly urges the U. S. government to intervene in this case: the USG must defend Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, two entities under the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors, and demand that the guilty verdict based on interviews with VOA and RFA be rescinded. The USG must also defend independent media outlets and websites in the United States that are cited by the verdict. It must defend Zhang Haitao’s right to freedom of expression, and call on China to stop the barbaric act of punishing citizens for peacefully expressing dissent.
Zhang Haitao Court Decision, a Full Translation by China Change
Zhang Haitao’s Appeal, a Translation by China Change
Statement by Seven Former Chinese Political Prisoners Regarding the Death of Harry Wu and the Abuses of the Yahoo Human Rights Fund
Published: 9:25 pm, April 28, 2016
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of China Change. – The Editors
According to reports, Mr. Harry Wu (known as 吴弘达, or Wu Hongda, among Chinese) died suddenly on April 26, 2016, in Honduras while vacationing with friends. We wish to express our sincere condolences to his family. While the media has been inundated with obituaries and statements that celebrate Mr. Wu’s life as a human rights champion, we feel we too must say a few words in order to shed light on an investigation we have been conducting, and our preliminary findings.
We will start with the Yahoo Human Rights Fund. Yahoo was the first Western company to provide an email service in China. From 2000 to 2004, many Chinese dissidents chose to use Yahoo email out of information security reasons, because they believed that an American company, not controlled by the Chinese government, would have high ethical standards and not provide personal information and emails to the Chinese government. But Yahoo did exactly that, providing dissidents’ information to Chinese police, leading to their arrests and prison sentences, where emails were used as criminal evidence. In April, 2007, with help of Mr. Wu, two Chinese prisoners of conscience, Wang Xiaoning (王小宁) and Shi Tao (师涛) and their families brought a lawsuit against Yahoo. In November 2007, Yahoo settled the case with the two families, providing 3.2 million to each family, and establishing the approximately $17 million Yahoo Human Rights Fund (YHRF hereafter) “to provide humanitarian and legal aid to dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online.” The YHRF was entrusted to Laogai Research Foundation (LRF hereafter), which Mr. Wu co-founded in 1992 with Jeffrey Fiedler, the current Commissioner of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The $17 million was transferred to the accounts of LRF in 2008. In 2009, Laogai Human Rights Organization (LHRO) was established, with Yahoo’s General Counsel on the board as the vice chairperson, to oversee the use of the YHRF. According to a LRF announcement in February 2008 (the original posting on Laogai website is unavailable), the YHRF was designed to “help victims of Chinese internet censorship and other political prisoners.”
The seven of us were all Yahoo email users from 2000 to 2003, and the court decisions of six of us quoted emails as “criminal” evidence. In total, we served 38 years and all of us suffered torture and degrading treatment (see biographies at the end).
Two among us were once on friendly terms with Mr. Wu, and four of us were beneficiaries of the YHRF. Precisely because all four of us experienced gross irregularities during the process, we have long felt the management of the fund has been problematic. The experiences of others, and the fact that so few people have benefited from the fund (fewer than 150 over eight years) confirms our belief.
Since last November, we have been conducting an investigation into the use of the YHRF; our work is based on the IRS tax filings of LRF and LHRO, documents in Chinese, and interviews with beneficiaries and others with inside knowledge. We have found:
- By the end of 2015, the balance of LRF and LHRO that can be used (excluding property assets) was about $3 million or less (we can only estimate because we have yet to see the 2015 filing of the two organizations). Furthermore, the Yahoo Human Rights Fund has ceased to exist.
- Out of the approximately $14-15 million of the YHRF that has been spent from 2008 to 2015, only about $700,000 was used to provide humanitarian aid to Chinese dissidents, or less than 5% of the fund spent. Most of the $700,000 was distributed between 2008 to 2010, and from 2013 to 2015, the portion used for humanitarian relief was less than 2%.
- There are widespread irregularities in the distribution of the mere $700,000. So much so that, short of opening the books of LRF, we are not sure that the LRF indeed distributed this amount to political prisoners and their families. The irregularities include but are not limited to:
- In some cases, applicants were asked to fill out blank applications;
- In other cases, applicants were not asked to fill in application forms, nor provide receipts upon obtaining the funds;
- Amounts smaller than those approved were remitted;
- The application process was intentionally made difficult. To begin with, the Laogai.org website, or its Chinese site called Gauncha (观察), does not even provide the announcement of the humanitarian assistance program and the application form in Chinese;
- Many who clearly met the criteria for assistance were rejected, and many more never heard back from LRF after submitting applications;
- There are more examples that we will not list for the time being.
- In January, 2011, Yu Ling, the wife of Wang Xiaoning, brought a lawsuit against Harry Wu, LRF, LHRO, and Yahoo Human Rights Trust, for extorting Yahoo’s payment to her and her husband, listing 47 counts against, mainly, Harry Hongda Wu. According to No. 54 (page 17-18) of the Complaint, “Defendant Wu converted to his own use….one million dollars of Plaintiffs’ monies, which was to be held in trust, and transferred said funds into his own name, when he purchased an annuity in his own name from Trans America Capital Builders.” The Complaint also reveals how Harry Wu tried to control the payments to the two political prisoners from the very beginning, and is worth reading in its entirety for all the revelations it makes. The case was settled in April, 2011.
- During 2008 to 2015, LRF was plagued by one lawsuit after another, and its legal fees alone during this period are close to, or exceed (again, we haven’t seen the 2015 filing), one million dollars.
- We discovered more than one fraudulent asset transfer on the tax filings of LRF where a sum was transferred to a related organization, but there was no record of receiving that transfer on the other organization’s tax forms—this is regardless, for the time being, whether the transfer was appropriate or legal, and whether it was approved by the Board.
- The YHRF has been used for the operations of the Laogai Museum in Washington, DC, including to pay the salaries and benefits of executives and employees, museum installations, rent, real estate purchases, extravagant traveling expenses, large legal fees, and an assortment of other costs. The museum, according to former employees, has been sparsely visited and its educational programs nominal, little more than Mr. Wu giving a short lecture to an occasional touring student group. Over the past eight years, LRF has published merely a handful of reports and other publications. LRF’s research work has been slim, and in terms of quantity, quality, and thoroughness of reports, far from that of other, smaller rights organizations with much less funding.
- Yahoo’s General Counsel, first Michael Callahan, and then Ron Bell, has been the vice chairperson of the LHRO that oversees the Yahoo Human Rights Trust (Mr. Wu was the chairperson). According to its tax filing, it is responsible for reviewing and approving LRF’s operational budget and programs; it is responsible for reviewing and approving applications for humanitarian assistance, and “such decisions will be recorded in the corporation’s corporate record book before any money is disbursed.” But our findings indicate that neither the General Counsel, nor the boards of LHRO and LRF, have exercised their fiduciary duties. According to our investigation, the boards were not unaware of the misconduct of Mr. Wu, but they chose to look the other way instead of confronting him, let alone implement standard practices. We learned from a former employee that Yahoo’s current General Counsel Ron Bell even flew to Washington, D.C. in 2014 to voice his displeasure at the fact that so little of the funds had been used for humanitarian assistance. But he didn’t seem to do anything to correct the matter, since subsequently nothing changed.
At the end of February, we sent a letter to Mr. Ron Bell, essentially providing the same findings we are presenting here, though with somewhat fewer details. In a reply in March, he refused to address our concerns, citing confidentiality, and he said that our holding him partially accountable for the misuse of the YHRF is “misplaced and lacks merit.”
- A former LRF employee told us that the IRS investigated LRF between 2013 and 2014 and found its books chaotic, among other irregularities, almost revoking its tax-exempt status. In the end, LRF was given a fine.
- We’re unable to identify a date, but as far as we know, before Mr. Harry Wu’s passing, the humanitarian assistance had already ceased entirely.
Our investigation is no doubt very limited for understandable reasons, and we believe that our findings are merely the tip of the iceberg. Even though Mr. Wu suddenly died while outside the United States, at such an unusual time, the Laogai Research Foundation is still here, the Laogai Human Rights Organization is still here, and the two boards are still here. So is Yahoo!
First of all, we urge the two organizations’ boards to take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously, take actions to clean up the problems left behind by Mr. Wu, and do so in a transparent manner. These two organizations are tax-exempt charities serving the public interest, and they must be held accountable by the public.
We urge the media to investigate the use of Yahoo funds and the death of Mr. Wu—issuing an obituary is not the end of the story. Rather, it is the beginning of the story. We urge the US judiciary, law enforcement, and the IRS to conduct investigations and audits of LRF, LHRO and the abuses of the Yahoo Human Rights Fund, clarifying facts, identifying the responsible parties, auditing the funds, recovering the YHRF as much as possible, and making reasonable and transparent arrangements for the funds through consultation with the community of Chinese political prisoners.
Finally, we hope such investigations receive the attention and the help of the U. S. Congress and human rights organizations.
The Yahoo Human Rights Fund was intended for the entire community of Chinese political prisoners. It is a community that has long suffered humanitarian disasters caused by cruel persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, simply for their ideals and work toward helping build a free China. They suffer enormously and are in great need of financial relief, given that their activism often costs them their only source of income. Such relief is hard to come by from inside China. That the $17 million Yahoo Human Rights Fund (it would be over $18 million if including investment revenue from interest and dividends) has been abused, misused, and even embezzled is not only shocking, but inflicts direct damage on the Chinese dissident community.
Though most of us are far away in China, we believe that the rule of law will prevail in the U. S. and that justice will be done.
Everything we write in this statement is based on verifiable facts. It is our belief that our appeals to the American media, judicial system, Congress, and the public will be echoed widely by the community of Chinese political prisoners.
He Depu (何德普), Beijing, contact person, email@example.com
Yang Zili (杨子立), Shenzhen
Li Dawei (李大伟), Tianshui, Gansu province
Wang Jinbo (王金波), Beijing
Ouyang Yi (欧阳懿), Suining, Sichuan
Xu Yonghai (徐永海), Beijing
Liu Fenggang (刘凤刚), Canada
Beijing Time, 10pm, April 28, 2016
Biographies of the Seven Political Prisoners (in the order of their arrest):
Yang Zili was on March 13, 2001, along with three others, detained on suspicion of “subversion of state power.” This case became the well-known “New Youth Study Group.” The crimes cited in the judgement include “using the Internet to publicize essays, and preparing to organize a website and online publication,” as well as “using the Internet to publicize” articles of political commentary. On May 28, 2003 Yang was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by the Beijing Municipal Intermediate People’s Court; the Beijing Supreme People’s Court upheld the sentence after appeal on November 6, 2003.
Li Dawei was detained on April 15, 2001, on charges of subversion of state power. The judgement against him said that his “criminal” activities included using the Internet to publicize an open letter, and “using the Internet” to send letters to activists outside of China, as well as using the Internet to collect information, etc. The Tianshui Municipal Intermediate People’s Court in Gansu Province sentenced Li to 11 years imprisonment on July 17, 2003.
Wang Jinbo was detained on May 24, 2001, for inciting subversion of state power. On December 4, 2001, Wang was sentenced to four years imprisonment by the Linyi Municipal Intermediate People’s Court in Shandong Province. The court verdict makes clear that Wang was made a criminal for his speech.
He Depu was summoned by police on November 4, 2002; he was 85 days later formally arrested and charged with the crime of inciting subversion of state power. The evidence used in trial was almost solely composed of the contents of his email communications and “provocative” articles published online or with his signature. The court verdict repeatedly quoted from evidence obtained by the the Beijing municipal Public Security Bureau’s “Public Information Cyberspace Security Division.” On November 6, 2003, He Depu was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People’s Court. After completing his sentence in 2011, He Depu published the article “The Darkest 85 Days,” in which he described the torture he suffered in secret detention from November 4, 2002 until January 27, 2003. He was locked in a small room with no windows and forced to lay in a fixed posture on a wooden bed; between four and six guards were positioned around him 24 hours a day, watching him. He could not move, could not change the position of his body, could not sit down, could not speak, and could not shower, change his clothes, or shave. Every movement that he made, including scratching an itch, first required gaining permission. In the 8 years of jail that followed, He Depu was tortured innumerable times. In November 2005, Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, saw He Depu in the Beijing No. 2 Prison (an impossibility in today’s China), and in his subsequent report on torture in China specifically emphasized that he was “left with a deep impression” by the torture that He Depu had suffered.
Ouyang Yi was detained by the Chengdu Municipal Public Security bureau on December 5, 2002. The evidence referred to in his court verdict includes: an open letter to the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2002, sent to friends via email, and “sent using email to overseas websites and propagated online.” On March 1, 2004, the Chengdu Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, in Sichuan Province, sentenced Ouyang Yi to 2 years imprisonment for the crime of inciting subversion of state power.
Xu Yonghai and Liu Fenggang are of the same case. They were arrested in Hangzhou and charged with “suspicion of illegally providing state secrets and information for those out of borders” on October 13 and November 9, 2003, respectively. The charges against them related to an investigative report they had compiled on the persecution of Christian house churches around China. The verdict said that this investigation had “been provided to foreign personnel through email.” On August 6, 2004, the two individuals were sentenced respectively to 2 and 3 years imprisonment.
Apart from Liu Fenggang, who has left China, the remaining six are still active in the defense of human rights in China; they are still subject to government surveillance, summonses, and interrogation. Xu Yonghai, the pastor in a house church in Beijing, is often harassed by the government as well.
By Yaxue Cao, April 17, 2016
This story has been updated.
On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the new managing director of Twitter for the Greater China region. By Saturday the news had excited a fierce reaction among Twitter users in China.
It’s well known that Twitter, YouTube, Google and other major social media networks are banned in mainland China. While there aren’t many users of Twitter in the mainland (one estimate has it that there are roughly 10,000 active users), those who do use it are among the most ardent believers in internet freedom, and have a special love for Twitter. A large number are IT experts who migrated from Fanfou (a Chinese social media site) in 2009 and became almost religious users of Twitter; another large group are political dissidents. The former group can’t stand being stifled by the Great Firewall’s internet strictures, while the latter uses Twitter as a space where they can communicate to one another freely even as China continues to ratchet up internet controls. Twitter has thus become an enclave for a group of mainland Chinese users and a sanctuary of freedom of speech online. Over the last couple of years, Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency have also opened Twitter accounts, spreading Party propaganda to the world, apparently with no sense of shame that China’s government prevents its own citizens from using those social networks. And it should surprise no one that on Twitter they’re often the butt of jokes.
It’s only natural that Chinese Twitter users were highly curious about Twitter’s new managing director for Greater China—and they were repelled instantly. According to Baike, China’s equivalent of Wikipedia controlled by Baidu, Kathy Chen (陈葵) graduated with a degree in computer science from Beijing Jiaotong University in 1987. She immediately joined the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery—China’s strategic missile force—and became an engineer in its No. 1 Research Academy. There, according to another article, she worked “as a programmer on the top-secret missile protocol design.” After seven years in the Second Artillery, she returned to civilian life and in August of 1994 became head of sales at Digital Equipment Corporation in China. DEC is a Massachusetts-based specialty computer company founded in 1957, and one of the earliest of America’s computer firms. From June 1995 to May 1997 she was Compaq’s chief sales representative in Beijing, and from May 1997 to December 1999 was the China regional sales manager for 3Com.
For the next four years, until 2004, Chen was the CEO of a newly-founded software company called CA-Jinchen, which primarily supplies anti-virus software. The firm is a joint venture between Computer Associates International (now known as CA Technologies) and China’s Ministry of Public Security, the first US-China software joint venture. Leveraging the resources of China’s public security apparatus, CA-Jinchen’s products are used in finance, government, the military, enterprises, telecommunications, education, the energy sector, and many key network systems. Reviewing CA-Jinchen’s 10-year history in 2008, Chen’s successor said: “China Jinchen Security Technology Co., Ltd. joined with the second-largest global software firm Computer Associations in a strategic partnership, promoting anti-virus technology globally and bringing ‘Preemptible Kernel’ technology into China.” She also remarked that: “Public security, the military, and the government are the troika behind Jinchen.” In 2010, CA’s 80% holding in CA-Jinchen was bought out by two Chinese investment firms (the transaction might not be as willing on the part of CA as the Chinese media portrayed it to be), and Jinchen became a corporation solely-owned by China. “Research and development is focused on preventing information leaks, designing anti-spy and code-breaking software. The user base will remain the traditional market: large domestic enterprises, government, public security, and will include a renewed focus on our roots in the military-industrial sector.”
Are there any problems here? To begin with, Chen is without a doubt a Chinese Communist Party member, based on a common sense understanding of China. She has been through the most strict and exacting process of political examination, and has been found by the Party to be reliable—all this is certain. My sense is that Kathy Chen’s rapid shift from extremely secret and politically sensitive missile protocol design work, straight to an American software company, is very unusual: in China, even a regular member of the armed forces dealing with secret information isn’t allowed to make overseas visits as they wish, either while in the army or soon after leaving (I have some anecdotal evidence here and here). They may apply, but I understand that it’s difficult to gain approval. I think it’s a fair assertion that Kathy Chen’s transition from a programmer of top-secret missile protocol to DEC sales could only have happened with the approval of a Chinese government agency. And then there are the four years with CA-Jinchen, which raises questions about the depth of Chen’s involvement in China’s public security sector.
When she was the CEO of CA-Jinchen, Chen once used the term “3S” to describe the scope of the company’s work: “Security Solution” provides the user with a complete security program, including anti-virus, firewall, intrusion detection, defense, and weakness detection mechanisms, among others, for the host machine, internet traffic, and the internet peripheries; “Security Application” provides on-demand security programs for government, telecommunications, finance, energy, and enterprise firms; and “Security Service” enquires as to the needs of the client and provides a complete, customized security service, from spec to roll-out, as well as ongoing consultation.
The main products of CA-Jinchen included anti-virus, firewall, invasion test, email filtering, mainframe protection, and etc. Describing a product called “The First Fortress Under the Heaven (天下第一关) in a 2004 interview, she said it could kill virus, block spam, and “filter Falun Gong content, politically sensitive information, or other harmful information.” CA-Jinchen also provided products for university campus surveillance on online browsing activities and other “illegal information and emails (such as Falun Gong).”
In the same interview, she also acknowledged that CA-Jinchen was the host of China’s national computer virus collecting and sampling center under the aegis of the Ministry of Public Security.
In May, 2004, Chen Kui was awarded the China Information Security Special Contribution Award (中国信息安全保障突出贡献奖) by a consortium of state agencies overseeing China’s internet security.
Following CA-Jinchen, Chen served in a high-level capacity at Microsoft, Cisco and then Microsoft again. As Cisco’s general manager of the Eastern Region, her job “included market development, and building and developing relationship with government agencies, research and educational institutions, and enterprises. In particular, [she] dedicated to maintain good relationship with government departments and their direct affiliations, engaging in broad strategic cooperation on macro level.” Cisco has long been criticized for selling advanced internet surveillance and control software to China, having allegedly helped the Party build its Firewall and Golden Shield to target dissidents, according to two legal complaints (both dismissed, one still under appeal).
During the two years at Microsoft before she takes up the Twitter position, she was responsible, among other things, “for key initiatives for Microsoft Azure in China,” according to her LinkedIn page.
Tech media outside China reported the appointment briefly and matter-of-factly. Twitter said in a statement, “As a global platform, we are already engaged with advertisers, content providers and influencers across greater China to help them reach audiences around the world. Going forward, we will look to Kathy’s leadership to help us identify ways in which Twitter’s platform and technology assets can be utilized to create further value for enterprises, creators, influencers, partners and developers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
The appointment of Kathy Chen was also widely reported in mainland China, even though Twitter is banned. Netease Tech reported that it learned from Twitter insiders that Kathy Chen has “three clear goals” as the Managing Director of Greater China: “the first is to tell the China story, introducing to the world the best of Chinese culture, tradition, history and tourism and making China better known to the world utilizing the Twitter platform; the second is to help large and medium-sized Chinese companies tell the story of their brands, building their names and marketing overseas; the third is to communicate and exchange in the areas of technology and advertisement with rapidly growing Chinese internet companies and mobile internet companies.”
All this may sound innocuous to untrained ears, but it’s alarming to mainland Chinese Twitter users and seasoned China watchers: In February, Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping warned mouthpiece media CCTV and Xinhua that they must do a good job of “telling the China story.” CCTV responded with the notorious slogan: “The Party’s media bears the surname of the Party!” Getting Chinese companies to advertise on Twitter is obviously a revenue stream, but what does it mean to “communicate and exchange with Chinese internet companies and mobile internet companies in technology and advertisements?” It sounds unnerving to Chinese Twitter users.
While direct Twitter censorship is unlikely, the Chinese Twitter users are concerned that the hiring of Chen Kui could be the beginning of Twitter’s cooperation (it does not have to be overt) with the Public Security apparatus and mobile companies in China that will make use of Twitter more difficult for independent users, but at the same time, open up Twitter to government-owned accounts, to government-hired propaganda workers known as fifty-centers, and dubious sales accounts, thus changing – or trashing – the Chinese language environment on Twitter. After all such change has occurred already on domestic microblogs over the last couple of years.
The Chinese govt has long been weary of Twitter as a fertile ground for anti-CCP sentiments and a place where dissidents gather. The Chinese government’s fear of a color revolution and Twitter’s role in recent social changes in other countries are well known.
Until the day of her appointment, the new Managing Director of the Greater China region was not a Twitter user. In a video clip, she greeted Twitter users with the equally new @TwitterGCN account. It’s clear that she has little understanding of the Twitter ecology. Of her total 15 tweets, the 6th encouraged @CCTVNews and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to “work together to tell the great China story to the world!” The 10th thanked @XHNews with: “look forward to closer partnership in the future!”
My friend @Yaqiu was appalled. “Twitter working with CCTV to tell the story of China? I can’t believe she said this. I’ve taken a screen grab.”
Another user pointed out, “Greater China = PRC, HK, Taiwan – people in TW/HK are NOT interested in CCP’s ‘great story’.” Indeed, China story means different things to different audiences.
Chinese tweeps—though not just Chinese tweeps—sneered out of disappointment and concern. I share their disgust, but I’m also deeply saddened, because just recently these same tweeps sang the tenderest tribute to Twitter on its 10th birthday. I had been encountering these tweeps everyday on Twitter, but hadn’t until that point known that they were so smart, witty, genuine and free.
One tweep was brutal. “Twitter has between 300 and 400 million users around the world. Nobody cares about the 10,0000 or 20,000 mainland Chinese users—do whatever you want to do and go wherever you want to go.” But it turns out he was deeply troubled as well.
Yaxue Cao is the editor of this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao.
A Month or so in the House of Twitter, by Yaxue Cao, January 23, 2012.