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Hu Ping, November 19, 2018   Recently, there have been two hot topics in China: the Sino-U.S. trade war and the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening up. We have noticed that many people in the system have written articles or made speeches enthusiastically praising Deng Xiaoping while covertly and in some cases even openly criticizing Xi Jinping. They believe that in bringing back lifelong leadership terms and the cult of personality, abandoning Deng’s policy of “hiding one’s capabilities and biding one’s time” (韬光养晦) and promoting state-owned businesses over private firms, Xi Jinping has significantly deviated from Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up. For this year’s May 4th anniversary, Fan Liqin (樊立勤), a Peking University alumnus and an old friend of […]


Hermann Aubié, August 9, 2017     Dear Xiaobo, About three weeks ago, shortly after the world learned about your terminal liver cancer diagnosis of late May 2017, you died aged 61 in the Northeast region of China where you were born. As the poet Tang Danhong wrote, you departed as “an innocent prisoner into the eternal light” (无罪的囚徒,融入永恒的光芒). What a cruel tragedy to live out your last days in a hospital bed under lock and key after fighting most of your life for freedom and human rights! Although I’ve never had the chance to meet you in person, I feel like I’ve lost someone very close to me, as if your death has torn away a part of myself. While you were behind bars […]


Wang Dan, July 20, 2017 “Liu Xiaobo’s death also lays bare a reality we sometimes are reluctant to acknowledge: even the most moderate position, so long as it is premised on constitutional democracy, cannot be accepted by the Chinese Communist Party.”       When I heard that Liu Xiaobo had died, I quickly posted the news on Facebook. So many online friends shared their condolences. One message among them struck me as particularly incisive and worthy of our consideration — this friend said that Liu Xiaobo “walked the path of Kang Youwei (康有为), and spilled his blood like Tan Sitong (谭嗣同).” Of course, to say that Liu Xiaobo “walked the path of Kang Youwei” is not to say that Liu advocated for constitutional monarchy, […]


Yaxue Cao, July 16, 2017       It was heartbreaking and depressing recently to watch the community of Chinese activists and dissidents, especially friends of Liu Xiaobo, congregating on WhatsApp and frantically thinking of ways to save him. The appeals and statements, and the calls for signatures from a dozen or so sources, sounded like echoes bouncing off the walls that Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia were trapped behind. For China’s opposition movement, the passing of Liu Xiaobo feels like the climax of a continuous and ruthless campaign of elimination. Now, people are left to pick up the pieces, and they will need time. I have been pointing out that over the past few years, starting from the now benign-looking crackdown on […]


March 31, 2017 Taiwanese pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che disappeared on March 19 after clearing immigration in Macau. China has confirmed that Lee is being investigated on suspicion of ‘pursuing activity harmful to national security.’ This is an unauthorized translation of his wife’s statement. — The Editors   Lee Ching-yu’s Press Release: I’ve been a historian of Taiwan’s period of political violence, the “White Terror,” for many years. Now that my own my loved one is detained, terror grips my heart. I’ve tried so hard to calm myself, to carefully compose my thoughts. I know from the history of the White Terror in Taiwan that when a country’s system of rule of law hasn’t risen to international standards, all attempts to offer defenses according to the […]


Mo Zhixu, July 1, 2016 2016 is also an election year in China, in case you are not aware of it.     A struggle is once again brewing in Wukan. Four years ago, after a protracted struggle during which village representative Xue Jinbo (薛锦波) lost his life under mysterious circumstances in police custody, the people of Wukan were able to elect a village leader that they trusted. But several years later, they still haven’t been able to win back their rights and things have again become unsettled. Police recently detained Lin Zulian (林祖恋), the elected head of Wukan’s village committee, and then put him on television to confess to accepting bribes. And in just the past few days in Gansu Province, independent candidates for […]


By Hu Ping, translated by Matthew Robertson, June 2, 2015 “What we need to grasp is that the existence of a political system that is so perverse in its reason, and so unfair and unjust to its subjects, is an open taunt to the conscience and sense of justice of humanity. The international rise of that system, too, is perforce a threat to freedom and world peace.”     Twenty-six years ago in China, a peaceful civil movement of unprecedented proportions suddenly blossomed, demonstrating once and for all that democracy in China wasn’t the special province of a few dissidents, but the deepest wish of millions. But before long the movement was brutally crushed by the Chinese Communist Party’s hardline faction, headed by Party leader Deng […]


By Liu Yu, published: February 25, 2015 “You see?  No hands are raised by those who are absent in the classroom.  Everyone is here. What a wonderful class!”   I complain about China now and then, and a friend of mine pointed out my failing to appreciate it. “China is in great shape now,” she pointed to the window. “Can’t you see? It is now in many ways a lot more advanced than overseas!” I guess I have to agree. Following the direction of her finger, I can see the gleaming facades of skyscrapers, the new cars of all makes and models, and the hustle and bustle of daily activities, even with the polluted air and reduced visibility. The prosperity is real. And add to […]


Last December as soon as I started tweeting and getting to know Twitter’s Chinese community, I was shaken by the news of two men—Chen Wei (陈卫) and Chen Xi (陈西) –being sentenced for nine and ten years in prison, respectively, for writing pro-democracy articles. Even though I was no fan of the Chinese communist party, it seemed to me utterly preposterous that in the 21st century China was still locking people up for thought crimes while it postured itself on world stage as a great power and tried to exert influence. All of a sudden, I was guilt-stricken by everything I enjoyed and took for granted, such as the sunlight slanting across my dining table and the morning peace enveloping me. Then again, shouldn’t there be a few […]


When former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), sacked by Deng Xiaoping for his bolder calls for re-evaluating the past and reforming for the future, died on April 15, 1989, college students in Beijing began a wave of memorials to express their sadness and anger. Soon the students were on the street demanding freedom and democracy. Quickly the movement spread to cities all over China and to people from all walks of life. On June 4th, it ended with guns, tanks and deaths. At the time I lived in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and was among the few in China that had the news coming from Hong Kong TV. I remember, among the last images available, bulldozers rolling over the makeshift tents in […]


Last week we looked at why the Two Meetings matter, today we’re looking at what this year’s recurring themes were. Equality Since opening up in the 80’s, gov’t resources have been increasingly targeted at creating advanced cities, abandoning the more equitable development that had been encouraged under Mao. Rural China now finds itself with few medical personnel and crumbling schools while their land is sold out from under them by greedy officials. Meanwhile Chinese cities have benefited immensely from the policies, which has created a wealthy class that in some cases spends more on a single meal than many farmers make in a year. This new wealth has helped spark a real-estate boom that has led to the quadrupling of real-estate prices in some cities, moving housing out of […]


The idea that democracy doesn’t fit China’s national condition seems to be a weekly feature in the Global Times (like today’s article). The arguments provided in these pieces not only show a disgusting contempt for the common Chinese person (we’ll call them “laobaixing (老百姓) from here on), but also expose the deeper flaws in the current electoral-system which is a faux-democracy at best. At present, China’s political system allows for choosing representatives at the local government level, these candidates though are handpicked by the Party. In the last round of elections there were several independent candidates, but many of these were harassed by the police and marginalized in the election. These elected officials are partially responsible for selecting the higher levels of gov’t although they too face […]


I don’t always read the local papers, and for the most part my Chinese co-workers don’t either. So when something big comes to Nanjing, we don’t usually hear about it until it has passed, but we can always tell that something is approaching. For example, about three weeks ago we noticed a shift in our favorite DVD shops. The most visible one, located on a busy street across from the foreign student housing of a large university, was not only shut, but completely empty. Just days before it had displayed at least 1,000 pirated DVD’s, CD’s and computer games. Two other nearby shops were closed as well. When we returned home, the two shops nearby that sell more than just DVD’s had been shut down too. At […]


When I first arrived in China in 2007, the attitude of many of my Chinese friends was that the system was broken, but there was absolutely nothing they could do to fix it. I clearly remember chatting with a professor in Longzhou. He said, “They talk a lot about a ‘harmonious society’ but what the hell does that mean? The price of everything is going up and things are getting worse. I don’t care about ‘harmony’ I care about actually having a good life.” At that time I was surprised to hear people openly complain about their situation, and was bothered by their sense of hopelessness. Now though people are far more willing to vent their frustration, not only with foreigners (who are seen as a safe […]


This week’s Heard on Weibo offers translation of postings about the violence in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, where store keepers revolted against increased taxes; China should provide nuclear protection to North Korea; a young man being arrested for founding a pro-democracy website; what is “dignity”; and the continued activism to free the blind rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng (latest NYT report here and two powerful video clips: here and here). Click on date below item for link to the original. Zhou Tianyong / 周天勇/(Professor at University of Science & Technology Beijing) : The revolt against increased taxes in Huzhou is a milestone. In the past I have appealed many times regarding over-taxation, excessive fees and fines, high cost for small and micro businesses to borrow money, high […]


Continued from yesterday  When life satisfaction disconnects from GDP growth, it has to be met in other ways to ensure the Party’s rule, and I believe we are approaching that moment. Today we will be looking at some of those options. Note: while I do not have access to a crystal ball, I’m putting time frames on these issues to emphasize that these are not things that will be changed instantly, and to clarify the order in which they may happen. Lowering Costs (The Present) The Party knows that even though many Chinese people are far richer than their parents, many of them still cannot afford many of the basic appliances that can improve living standards. This is why the gov’t offers generous subsidies to […]


For my non-American readers please excuse this burst of patriotism, as it is Independence day Today I wanted to share a few of the aspects of American life I enjoy more after living in China for four years. Freedom to Report In China there is a special vocabulary that has evolved out of the need to define events that have never happened before. Words like: “Gutter oil” (Used oil that has had the garbage strained from it, that is reused in restaurants), “Cancer village” (unusually high rates of cancer caused by pollutants) and Naked officials (gov’t officials who have sent their assets and family overseas so they can escape when their misdeeds surface). These are words we don’t have in the US, and I think […]


I apologize, but today you get a little China rant. Our News Story of the Week today looks at an article that argued China should not have an independent judiciary (something argued for by the Jasmine Protestors). In that article the author called China a democracy THREE times! Another article also praised villagers in their attempts at democracy. This of course just days after the 3rd in command gave a speech saying China would never be a western style democracy with multiparty elections. So when this author says “democracy” he is referring to the fact that in the last few years the Chinese gov’t has listened to what the people want, when it agrees with what they are already doing, or if it enables them […]


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