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Jeff Rambin, December 11, 2018     “There is no word for the pain, sadness, humiliation and anger I feel in my heart.” After six years and four months of tweeting, Wang Jiangsong was forced to delete his account. Wang calls himself a “labor scholar,” but he is too modest. William Nee of Amnesty International calls Wang “arguably the most prominent labor academic in China.” This is due not only to Wang’s scholarship, but also to his connections, and most importantly, his compassion. Wang’s perspective has been relied on by the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, and Reuters. Last year, Wang became part of the news himself. As reported by Radio Free Asia, officials in a Beijing neighborhood used a November fire as a chance to […]


Yaxue Cao, December 5, 2018     If you have been with Twitter’s simplified Chinese community long enough, you know it’s nothing new that handles disappear and in some cases the persons behind them go to jail – it’s a freedom tunnel that the Chinese Communist regime is leery of. But over the last few months, and still ongoing, we keep hearing mainland tweeps reporting that they have been summoned by police who ordered them to delete tweets or accounts altogether. AFP’s Eva Xiao and Human Rights Watch’s Yaqiu Wang reported on the trend early on.  I myself reported one particular instance – the deletion of Wu Gan (吴淦)’s account. As of today, I collected 42 tweets from users themselves tweeting about what had happened […]


Yaxue Cao, November 11, 2018       Around 10:10 pm eastern time on Nov. 8, as I was browsing my Twitter timeline and taking a breaking from editing a website post, a tweet by Wu Gan (吴淦) jumped into my vision. Even though he has gone for three years and a half, his avatar immediately stood out. It’s an auto-generated tweet that reads: “I just activated @Tweet_Delete on my account to automatically delete my old tweets (is.gd/delete)!” Instinctively, I pressed the “prt src” key: It was 11 am on Nov. 9, Beijing Time. Wu Gan, better known as the “Super Vulgar Butcher,” is serving an eight-year sentence in a prison somewhere in the mountains on the border of Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. He was […]


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 […]


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 […]


China Change, March 24, 2016. In no particular order and with a couple of exceptions, we sample Chinese netizens’ thoughts on March 21, 2016, Twitter’s 10th anniversary. We don’t know who else will be touched by this, but we certainly are. – The Editors   乌鸦哥哥 ‏@wuyagege : Twitter is like a small cafe that never closes. People come and go, connecting with each other in ways both lasting and fleeting. You can exchange a few words if you feel the urge, otherwise everyone goes about their own business. After these many years, I have so many friends from all over, both old and new. Some have faded away, others are still around. Still others have been made to vanish. I somehow manage to continue on. I […]


On return from more than a week on the road, I caught up with my China news and found it all to be a bit…predictable. In response I’ve created the following template that seems to exist somewhere to save all of you time. A gov’t official (or family member of an official) was caught abusing their power by murdering/embezzling/forcing farmers off their land/covering up a scandal for a company in X province. The story first appeared on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, late last week and built to a crescendo over the weekend. SomeGuyWithACamera posted pictures of an angry crowd ranging between dozens and thousands, which were deleted within 24 hours by censors. Calls to the local gov’t went unanswered. A man from the […]


Yesterday we looked at three soft suppression tactics commonly used in China to end confrontations before they come to a head. These concepts from recent papers by  Kevin O’Brien and Rachel Stern were: using family members to negotiate with protesters, often with threats that these family members would lose their jobs or pensions (relational repression); vague boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable speech; and the traditional harsh punishments without clear explanations that push observers to see warnings for their own work (morality parables). Today I want to use these ideas to explore how these gov’t tactics can work to the protesters’ advantage, and how these soft suppression failures factored into the recent violence in Shifang. Relational Repression (link) As Kevin O’Brien saw in the protests in Zhejiang, while many people […]


While instances of violence and coercion in China are well-known overseas, they actually make up a small percentage of the total cases that are silenced in less visible ways. For every Chen Guangcheng, there are likely hundreds (thousands?) of others who never dared to speak, or shut up shortly after first opening their mouths. In a great series of papers from Kevin O’Brien and Rachel Stern, they show that China has developed a wide variety of tools for maintaining stability (the following sections are a combination of information from the papers and my own observations). Relational Repression (link) As O’Brien shows with a case study of an environmental protest in Zhejiang, people’s family members and friends are often mobilized to apply pressure to activists. In many cases […]


By Yaxue Cao …Continued from yesterday Components of a He Cha Session When the state security police descended on these law-biding citizens, often in plain clothes, asking to have a talk with him or her, they didn’t bother to show their ID and did so only reluctantly in some cases when the interrogatee insisted. Never mind the warrant. There was none. In one case, the wife of an interrogatee opened the door to find policemen asking her husband to go with them. When she asked why, she was told “it’s inconvenient to say.” When she insisted the police show a warrant, the police said there was no warrant, threatened to use force, adding, “You are in China.” The Interrogation: The security police asked an interrogatee’s name, […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: March 1, 2012   It’s been a while since “he cha” (drink tea, 喝茶) came to mean, in certain contexts, “summoned and interrogated by the state security police.” A cup of tea may or may not, be present, but either way, it is “having tea” in the parlance of the Chinese netizens. It occurs like this: the interrogatee is called upon by at least two or more state security police at home or at work, approached by them somewhere else, or telephoned for a forced appointment. He cha itself occurs mostly in police stations, but also in secluded offices at workplaces or in schools; in some cases, in one’s home where security police show up at the door and force their […]


I came across a blog post yesterday that compares Weibo and Twitter, and the conclusion is that Weibo is not international and its power to promote change is limited. To that I will add that Weibo is really a glass house where it feels like you are free but you keep hitting the walls all the time. It is also becoming a mirror of the twisted world that China is, because, for example, while posts about what’s going on in the Tibetan area of Sichuan can result in a night visit by police (an artist friend of mine in Beijing emailed me on the 9th about being visited by four policemen the night before and taken to a station and warned of his posts about […]


By Ge Xun, translated by Yaxue Cao This is the continuation of Ge Xun’s account of his ordeal in Beijing that happened just one week ago. – Part One They asked what prompted me to “come back (to activism)” in 2009. I told them because the human rights situation in China was deteriorating badly, and I wanted to do something to be useful. They asked me what other organization(s) I had joined apart from IFCSS. Any organization having to do with Tibetans overseas? I realized they were asking about the Bay Area Chinese and Tibetan Friendship (BACTF). I joined in 2010. It’s a young organization for mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese and Tibetans in the bay area. I was elected Secretary. “Why did you […]


By Ge Xun, published: February 8, 2012 A Chinese-American activist’s kidnap.    I came to the United States to study physics in 1986 and stayed and became an American citizen. I believe in universal values such as freedom and basic human rights. I admire the best of humans wherever I see it, and I do what I do openly with nothing to hide. My mother died at 83 on January 24, 2012, in Beijing. I flew back on the 28th for her funeral. By the 31st my siblings and I had taken care of everything and made arrangements to put my parents’ remains together. For the rest of my stay I planned to meet a few people, among them, Ding Zilin (丁子霖), or the “Tian’anmen Mother” […]


You know things are going wrong in Tibet and other Tibetan areas when CCTV tells you that Tibetans are living happily as never before, Global Times hits hard on “lawless Tibetans”, and Wumaos (五毛) are swarming Twitter accounts of Woeser and other sources of Tibetan news and spitting hate. On Weibo, there are loose items by travelers, local Chinese, or even one or two members of the armed police, about what they see and do. Otherwise they do a pretty good job making sure there isn’t much news. Click to see a set of pictures taken in Lhasa, Tibet,  on Jan. 31. In this issue we have items about the makeup of China’s new leadership, political reform or the absence of it, a reminiscence about […]


By Yaxue Cao, January 23, 2012   I registered a Twitter account two months ago, but didn’t start actively using it until my Sina Weibo was blocked in mid-December. Since then, I have made 600 plus tweets (including a lot of retweets and some replies) and been following over 200 people as of now. Every so often, I feel like sitting in a bustling tea house, the southern kind where all windows are flung open and a steady stream of people come in and out of the door, alone at a corner table, occasionally joined by one or the other of the two friends I have, listening to conversations twirling around me and, over time, getting to “know” some of the frequenters as well as […]


This week, Chinese citizen Li Tie (李铁) was sentenced in Wuhan to 10 year prison, while another,  Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫), was charged in Hangzhou, both for “inciting to subvert the state power,” namely, for promoting freedom and democracy. News like these doesn’t fly on Weibo because, censorship aside, most people shun such topics out of fear. Meanwhile, all over Weibo many are talking about the case of Wu Ying (吴英), a young business woman in Dongyang, Zhejiang (浙江东阳), who was sentenced to death for “illegal fund-raising and financing.” The public overwhelmingly opposes not only the sentence but also the “crime.” Also, find out how people are relishing the fun of being “buried alive”. Click date below for link to the original. In a reply to […]


If you aren’t familiar with the Great Firewall of China I would suggest reading this and this first. Several months ago Hillary Clinton described the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to maintain their firm grasp on power as a “fool’s errand.” I think her succinct statement was right on target. The gov’t’s attempts to limit freedom of speech only seem to be accelerating the causes pushed by China’s activists. Today we’ll be looking at how the Great Firewall is likely to create more problems than it solves. First just a touch of history. Despite popular belief, the Great Wall as we know it (the brick one built after the Yuan dynasty), was built largely due to gov’t inaction. While the national gov’t bickered over whether or […]


People’s daily and other state news sources have been pointing to the influence of Weibo as a sign of China’s shift toward democracy (here and here), but is social media really creating a more just China? Note: Weibo is a Chinese networking site, something like a combination of Twitter, Facebook and a blog. It is also carefully monitored by gov’t censors (a.k.a. internet police) for stories on sensitive topics, and imposes keyword bans. One way that Weibo is contributing to the development of democracy in China, is that it has helped introduce the idea that the gov’t should actually listen to its people. Weibo has accomplished this largely because it has given common people a way of airing grievances in a public forum. In the past […]


Censorship in China at times is so extreme that it is almost laughable, like when they claimed foreigners couldn’t go to Tibet because of the weather (it was the anniversary of anti-Chinese riots). The news articles are so carefully screened for any material that doesn’t portray the official line that they can end up being whittled down to a single sentence. So today we are going to be looking at the ways the Chinese gov’t controls the news and the net. It’s no secret that the internet here is tightly controlled. Over the past four years I have seen (most of) Wikipedia become available, and have seen Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and countless other sites disappear without explanation. These sites are referred to as being beyond […]


The events in the Middle East have a lot of people wondering just how far these anti-government riots will spread. A few people have even been speculating as to whether or not they could pop up in China (Here, Here, Here, Here). I know I did for a couple of minutes after seeing a video that called for the “rabbits” to rebel (I’m not going to link it to my blog because I still enjoy holding a Chinese visa, but a quick youtube search will help you find it). I also found it surprising that there was no mention of the Egypt riots on People’s Daily until Jan. 30th, maybe the gov’t has been speculating a bit too. The parallel people are drawing is that […]


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