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Pu Zhiqiang’s Indictment and the Seven Incriminating Weibo Posts

Number Two Branch of Beijing People’s Procuratorate

Bill of Indictment

BJ 2d Br Proc Crim Indict (2015) No. 48

 

浦志强起诉书1

Page 1. Click to enlarge.

Defendant Pu Zhiqiang, male, born January 17, 1965, identification number [redacted], Han ethnicity, from Hebei Province, master’s degree education, is a lawyer at the Beijing Huayi Law Firm and resides at [redacted] in Beijing. Placed under criminal detention by the Haidian Precinct of the Beijing Public Security Bureau on May 6, 2014, under suspicion of provoking a serious disturbance. With the approval of this procuratorate, arrested by the Beijing Public Security Bureau on June 13, 2014, under suspicion of illegally obtaining citizens’ personal information and provoking a serious disturbance.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau has concluded its investigation of this case and, on November 13, 2014, referred the case to this procuratorate for prosecutorial review of defendant Pu Zhiqiang’s culpability for the crimes of inciting separatism, inciting ethnic hatred, provoking a serious disturbance, and illegally obtaining personal citizen information. Upon receiving the case, this procuratorate notified the defendant of his right to retain defense counsel, questioned the defendant in accordance with the law, heard the defense lawyer’s opinions, and reviewed the complete set of

Page 2. Click to enlarge.

Page 2. Click to enlarge.

documents in this case. Because of the complexity of the case, it was sent back to the investigating organ twice for additional investigation in accordance with the law and the deadline for prosecutorial review was extended twice in accordance with the law, each time by half a month.

Having reviewed the case in accordance with the law, we find:

1. Inciting Ethnic Hatred

Between January 2012 and May 2014 and in Beijing’s Fengtai District and other locations, defendant Pu Zhiqiang used several Sina Weibo accounts including “Little Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang,” “Simpleton Lawyer for the

Fake Tax Case,” and “Simpleton Lawyer for the Yongzhou Shuanggui Case (with a total of more than 130,000 combined followers) to publish eight Weibo posts in response to

Page 3. Click to enlarge.

Page 3. Click to enlarge.

incidents such as the violent terrorist attacks in Kunming, Yunnan, thereby using information networks to provoke ethnic relations, attracting a large number of online users to view, repost, and comment on his posts, undermining ethnic unity.

2.  Provoking Disturbances

From 2011 onward and in Beijing’s Xicheng District and other locations, defendant Pu Zhiqiang used several Sina Weibo accounts, including “Little Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang,” “Hopeful Simpleton Pu Zhiqiang,” and “Lawyer Pu Cuilan” (with a total of more than 200,000 combined followers), to vent his emotions by publishing Weibo posts in response to controversial public incidents. In these posts, he used abusive language to brazenly insult numerous people involved [in these incidents], such as Tian XX and Shen XX, attracting a large number of online users to view, repost, and comment on his posts and creating an odious social impact.

The evidence confirming the facts above includes: (1) documentary evidence, including an informational memorandum from the Beijing Network Industry Association; (2) testimony of witnesses, such as Tian XX and Shen XX; (3) search records from the Haidian Precinct of the Beijing PSB; (4) electronic data; (5) defendant Pu Zhiqiang’s statement and defense.

This procuratorate maintains that defendant Pu Zhiqiang used information networks to incite ethnic hatred with aggravated circumstances and brazenly insulted others with odious circumstances and damage to social order. His actions constitute a violation of Articles 249, 293(1)(2), and 69(1) of the Criminal Law of the PRC. The facts being clear and the evidence being reliable and sufficient, defendant Pu Zhiqiang should be held criminally responsible for the crimes of inciting ethnic hatred and provoking a serious disturbance. Therefore, in accordance with Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the PRC, this procuratorate hereby submits its indictment and requests that punishment be imposed in accordance with the law.

 

To: Beijing Number Two Intermediate People’s Court

Prosecutors: Jin Yi

                   Du Miao

Acting Prosecutor: Gao Peng

[seal]

May 15, 2015

Notes and Attachments:

  1. Defendant Pu Zhiqiang is currently detained in Beijing Number One Detention Center
  2. Case file (26 folders)
  3. Witness list
  4. List of seized items

 

[End of Indictment]

———————–

浦志强

The Seven Weibo Posts Used to Prosecute Pu Zhiqiang (posted 12 times) with translator’s notes

(I) Three Posts Related to the Charge of “Provoking a Disturbance”

  1. July 29, 2011 (12:55:56) [Account #3]

“That lady at the press conference was annoying, but the reporters are personally protected. She’s also proven how exceptional a spokesman Wang Yongping is for the Ministry of Railways. ‘In any case, that’s what I believe.’ [1] At least the Ministry of Railways lets you ask questions. Last July, CNPC made Dalian explode; [2] this year, they set another fire to mark the anniversary but wouldn’t tell you about it. [3] At least she’s just an old sow; if they sent one of those rabid-dog types, he’d be asking you: ‘What unit are you from? Your boss and I know each other! Can I play with your pen recorder for a bit?’” [4]

Comments: 49 Reposts: 97

[1] This references a Wang Yongping’s famous response to a question about the Wenzhou high-speed rail crash, in which he said: “Whether you believe it or not, in any case that’s what I believe” (至于你信不信,我反正信了).

[2] Refers to an explosion at a China National Petroleum Corp. pipeline in Dalian in July 2010.

[3] Refers to a PetroChina refinery fire in Dalian in July 2011.

[4] Refers to a March 2010 incident involving then-Hunan governor Li Hongzhong and a reporter from the Beijing Times. (Good summary in English here.)

  1. January 31, 2013 (14:48:18) [Account #10]

“Besides luck and blood relations, Shen Jilan is an NPC delegate and Mao Xinyu is a CCPPC committee member by dint of pretending to be a fool and truly being a fool. This shows that it doesn’t take much to be on either the NPC or the CCPPC—if you want to fit in, you either have to play the fool or be a fool. There’s no hope of Member Mao being smart, so I have to entreat old lady Shen: Life is as inconsequential as a goose feather, while death is as weighty as Mt. Tai—how great it would be if you just ended your life right now! You’re already 84, and you’ve been a delegate for 60 years. You’re finally reaching the end, so how about you take the opportunity to die on the battlefield and make the NPC confer on you the title of martyr?”

Comments: 145 Reposts: 129      Comments: 97 Reposts: 120

3, 4. July 26, 2013 (23:29:23) [Accounts # 9 & 8]

“‘Why Things Would Go Bad Without the Communist Party’? [1] How do you fucking know things would go bad?! Besides lies, deceit, and waving the hammer and sickle, what’s the fucking mystery that keeps this party in power? Listen, Xiang Ping: China will do just fine without anyone, so quit giving me directions. “A Book Every Chinese Person Should Read”? You’re nothing but a disgrace for writing such a lousy book! If Wu Hongfei hadn’t just gone to jail, [2] I’d tell your ancestors to get fucked! It makes me sick to have to read this stuff! Uggh!” (Note: There is suspicion that this was not written by Pu)

Comments: 165/192 Reposts: 251/330 (posted twice)

[1] Refers to this book.

[2] Refers to detention of singer Wu Hongfei for making a fake bomb threat in July 2013.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

(II) Four Posts Related to the “Inciting Ethnic Hatred” Charge

  1. January 25, 2012 (23:58:01) [Account #3]

“In the Tibetan Region [the government] is imposing the ‘Nine Haves’ [1] on temples and requiring them to hang portraits of Mao, Deng, Jiang and Hu. In Ghulja, they’re banning beards and the wearing of veils. They take this series of actions and claim to be weakening religious consciousness. Are the Han people crazy in the head or are those who head the Han people crazy?!”

Comments: 22 Reposts: 2

[1] Note: The “Nine Haves” are: portraits of the four leaders, the national flag, roads, running water, radio and television, movies, libraries, and newspapers.

2, 3. January 25, 2012 (23:43:40) [Account #3]

“In Ghulja, they’ve completely banned Muslims from wearing veils, claiming that it’s to weaken religious consciousness. Have the Han gone completely crazy?”

Comments: 38 Reposts: 0 (posted twice)

4. March 2, 2014 (14:03:52) [Account #12]

“The Kunming Incident is so bloody, and the perpetrators have committed grievous sins. They say that those who support independence for Xinjiang carried out the terror, and this time I believe it. But this is the result, not the cause. When you sum up such heavy casualties and unbearable consequences in a sentence by saying that those who promote Xinjiang independence are savages and you bear no responsibility, I can’t agree. Day after day, you say that Party policies are good and that the Uyghur people favor the Party, so how can things get so bloody? Wang Lequan, president of the China Law Society, you pacified the western regions for more than a decade and know the area better than anyone. Tell me: Why? Who are they attacking?”

Comments: 1071 Reposts: 1930

5, 6, 7, 8. May 1, 2014 (13:36:02, 14:39:23) [Account #1] (14:33:21) [Account #4]

“‘Under the wide heaven, all is the king’s land/Within the seas, all are the king’s servants.’ If you say Xinjiang belongs to China, then don’t treat it like a colony and don’t act like conquerors and plunderers. Whether you ‘take the initiative to subdue the enemy’ or ‘gain mastery through counterattack,’ it’s all about subduing those you treat as your enemy and makes for a ridiculous national policy. The troubles have been brewing for quite a while and old habits are hard to break, so conflict is unavoidable. If people don’t fear death, then it’s pointless to use death to try to scare them. The attackers long to become martyrs for Allah, so whether you take the initiative or wait to counterattack, who’s going to be frightened? It’s time to adjust the policy toward Xinjiang.”

Comments: 23/42 Reposts: 60/81 (posted four times)

 

Source: https://twitter.com/duyanpili/status/674130882400161793

 

Weibo Is Dying Out

By @beidaijin, published: February 17, 2014

Total control that leaves no stone unturned. 

 

In November, 2014, 163.com suddenly announced that it would close down its microblog service, or Weibo. Three months ago, qq.com announced that it would not add new features to its microblog service. It is unsure how long qq’s microblog will last before it also closes down. Sohu CEO Zhang Chaoyao (张朝阳) no longer uses his own Sohu microblog account to interact with users. Chen Tong (陈彤), Sina’s vice president, left Sina with a group of key personnel, and this was regarded as the fall of the biggest internet portal in China. “Big V” Ning Caishen (宁财神) announced that he would sell his account [with 6 million followers] for only 50 yuan, or about $8, and it’s hard not to taste the dour self-mockery of the popular online opinion leader.  Such is the devastated scene of social media in China backed by each major internet portal website and used by millions of Chinese. Weibo is dying. Of what?

Statistics from January, 2014, show that the number of Weibo users in 2013 declined by 27,830,000 in 2013 compared to the number of users at the end of 2012, and the level of activity had also plummeted. It is reported that 80 percent of the 500 million Weibo users have hardly ever logged in. The number of daily active users has fallen from 60 million in mid-2013 to 25 million in the beginning of June, 2014. While we cannot verify these numbers for the time being, published statistics have sufficiently shown that the popularity of Weibo has been declining since 2013.

Some people think the fall of Weibo is due to companies failing to find the right business model, and others believe that the rise of WeChat drew users away from Weibo. Still others are of the opinion that excessive advertisements, marketing accounts and “chicken-soup” postings diluted valuable information.  These might all be valid causes, but more important causes seem to lie elsewhere.

Weibo have never been a pure social media platform; it has always been a form of media, and its vitality arose from disseminating and commenting on public events, known as User Generated Content (UGC).  But suppression of free expression is a political reality in China, and the State Internet Information Office’s (SIIO) censorship mechanism has been strangling the Weibo.  A user becomes a criminal, punishable by law, when a rumor is shared over 500 times, and reposting a “rumor” can be a liability too. One constantly hits on “sensitive words” like hitting on nail snags.   Posts are frequently deleted by behind-the-scene censors, not to mention suspension or deletion of accounts altogether. More and more people join the ranks of the “Reincarnation Party,” people who come back to Weibo with new accounts after their original accounts were shut down. One can be summoned by police for interrogation, or detained, or even tried and sentenced, for a single Weibo posting. Fear puts a damper on a user’s enthusiasm, if not killing it altogether. To divert users’ attention away from sensitive public events while maintaining Weibo’s vitality, service providers have resorted to cheap entertainment, resulting in a large number of quality users leaving Weibo.

Both the quantity and quality of UGC have declined and there is no sign of a reversal. Nowadays even the comment section is often closed up either by the censor or by the users themselves.

Last November, Xinhua reported that SIIO held a conference on the management of online comment. During the conference, 29 websites, including Xinhuanet.com, People.com.cn, Sina.com, Sohu.com, 163.com and qq.com, signed a pledge, promising that they would “discipline” online comments. The Deputy Director of SIIO Ren Xianliang (任贤良) said, “[We must] use the law to manage online comments in order to direct public opinion online, build an eco-system for online public opinion, to legalize the rules of cyberspace. These are an integral part of governing the Internet according to the law. And to govern the Internet according to the law, we must put halters on the comment sections.”

Caijing’s Sina Weibo account attached a photo image of the Pledge when posting news about the conference. The Pledge contains 18 categories of information that cannot be allowed. Below is a brief analysis of each of the 18 categories.

29 websites pledged to eliminate the 18 categories of online comments. Click to enlarge.

29 websites pledged to eliminate the 18 categories of online comments. Click to enlarge.

1.  Information that is in violation of the basic principles of the Constitution.

This covers comments that voice support for universal values from the comments sections.

The CCTV’s xinwen lianbo (evening news) that evening emphasized that “China’s governance according to the constitution is fundamentally different from western countries’ constitutional democracy.”

2. Information that endangers state security, divulges state secrets, subverts state power or undermines national unity.

This category prohibits those who are in the know because of their jobs to reveal the untruth perpetrated by the official media or “experts” working for the government.

3. Information that harms the national reputation and interest.

This can include all the so-called negative news. Censorship at media outlets begins from topic selection, blocking out the dissemination of negative news to begin with. Users who wish to expose government abuses and social injustice will be constrained by this rule.

4. Information that instigates ethnic hatred and discrimination, and undermines ethnic unity.

The CCP’s ethnic policies have been a focal point of increased ethnic tension. Information regarding Uighurs’ violent resistance or Tibetans’ self-immolations has always been sensitive content, and this restriction echoes the judicial interpretation issued in October by the Supreme People’s Court criminalizing separatist speeches.

5. Information that instigates regional discrimination and regional hatred.

Discriminatory comments based on geographic origins have always been a popular form of joke. It looks like jokes will be no joking matter anymore.

6. Information that undermines national policies on religion and promotes “evil cults” and superstition.

This is in sync with the government’s crackdown on “evil cults” that promote anti-totalitarian thinking. It is more about “anti-totalitarian thinking” than “evil cults.”

7. Rumors that disrupt social order or undermine social stability.

This is the “pocket crime,” a vaguely defined offences that can cover anything, and the government holds the authority to interpret what is a “rumor” that “disrupts social order and undermines social stability.”

8. Vulgarity and pornography, information about gambling, murder or terrorism, or crime abetting.

Postings of violent clashes not covered by official media outlets can fall into this category.

9. Insults, defamation, or information that harms other people’s legitimate rights and interests.

This category will probably take care of netizens’ mocking of the fifty-centers, corrupt officials, untruthful media, or verified government social media accounts.

10. Threatening violence against others, or carrying out humanflesh searches.

This rule make grassroots anti-corruption activities impossible, thus helping protect corrupt or abusive local officials and the much despised fifty-centers.

11. Minors’ privacy information without written consent from their legal guardians.

This rule effectively neutralizes the once wildly popular campaign “Snap a Photo and Rescue a Kidnapped Child” that encourages citizens to take photos of homeless children and post them online.

12. Abusive language bad for social order and customs.

This can be another giant “pocket” to cover a wide range of the expressions, including heated debates that often lead to use of strong language.

13. Infringement of intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights should indeed be protected. Plagiarism is rife on Weibo, but “selective enforcement” is probably inevitable.

A MOF spokesman states, "In China internet is open...." but the comment section of the official post is closed.

A MOF spokesman states, “In China internet is open….” but the comment section of the official post is closed.

14. Disseminating advertisements or other marketing information

To market on Weibo, one is required to register and pay a membership fee. Advertisers who do not want to pay membership or were unwilling to provide their true identities have been using the comment section, and from now on, they will no longer be able to do so.

15. Using languages other than commonly used languages.

This rule targets postings that use a foreign language or words to issue sensitive information to avoid censorship.

16. Information unrelated to the original posts.

As many rights activists’ postings, and even accounts, are repeatedly censored, they resort to posting their complaints in the comment section of popular posts in order to attract attention to their cases. This rule is designed to eliminate this type of information.

17. Information that is unreadable or is written in a combination of characters and marks to circumvent censorship.

This rule targets netizens’ smart use of puns and other language innovations to dodge key words censorship.

18. Other information whose dissemination is prohibited by laws and regulations.

This will take care anything that’s missed by the 17 rules above.

Lack of confidence in state-owned media had once made Weibo a main source of information for many Chinese. However, as online censorship has steadily intensified and netizens have been criminalized for online expression, the free flow of information has been choked off, driving away a great number of users who are on Weibo for real news and information but can’t get it anymore. These 18 pledges will further render ineffective netizens’ battle-tested self-defense skills against censors, making online dissemination dangerous. Weibo is dying of suffocation, as the government is determined to occupy and control it totally, leaving no stone unturned.

 

———-

@beidajing (贝带劲) is a journalist and contributor to Paopao, a site that observes internet and media in China.

 

Related:

Internet Freedom in China: A Menace that Must Be Removed, by Mo Zhixu, March 14, 2014.

The Advent of a National LAN in China, by Mo Zhixu, July 3, 2014.

The Coming Information Totalitarianism in China, by Mo Zhixu, April 6, 2013

The Anxiety of a Propaganda Chief in the Face of Media Changes, by Song Zhibiao, April 28, 2013.

 

(Translated by Yaqiu Wang)

Original Chinese, published in November 7, 2014

Out of control gov’t official abuses power – a very generic post

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 gov’t in the neighboring district said that, “The foreign forces conspiring to bring down China,” had organized this protest in co-operation with the Dalai Lama, he only gave his surname – Wang.

On Weibo there was a wide variety of reactions. ImAngry tweeted, “Gov’t officials are always abusing their power while they claim to be serving the people.” A very different response came later from PossiblyWuMao saying, “Gov’t officials only have our best interests at heart and we shouldn’t expect them to stop at red lights/refuse invitations to expensive dinners/not flee overseas with embezzled money.”

I could go on, but I think you get my point. After several years of consuming almost every scrap of Chinese news, the narrative has gotten stale. The idea that seems to be behind these cases is that Weibo is a tool for ensuring justice in an unjust country, and that the Chinese gov’t is slowly reforming.

As an American, I am lured to this reading, as it reflects my own desire to see the Chinese people taking control over their country. However, we have yet to see a meaningful clean up in gov’t as a result of the widespread abuses we learn of on a daily basis. As much as I hate to say it, Weibo is at best a band-aid or a safety valve – not a source of meaningful reform. If it were, we would be seeing aggressive legislation and an easing of the limits placed on Chinese journalists instead of GT fluff pieces about acceptable levels of graft.

I don’t mean to say that Weibo is fruitless, it has enabled us to get a much bigger picture of what is happening in China, but it is still a carefully managed virtual world with very real boundaries. As a friend in Chengdu told me, he had seen reports of a self-immolation near his home (unrelated to Tibet) and within fifteen minutes of stumbling across the story it had completely disappeared, far too quickly to be picked up by foreign media or anyone else.

Weibo gives a voice to individual Chinese people, but does not allow for a collective voice to call for change. As was noted in a recent study, most criticisms of the gov’t survive censorship while posts relating to organizing much of anything are quickly deleted.

My fear is that in an effort to show the growth of people power in China, we’ve created an image of a  country that is reforming while officials are allowed to bend laws for their own needs and the gov’t shies away from anything that might someday curb their power. Instead of portraying Weibo as the hero of the tales we tell, it would be a better use of ink (and bandwidth) to focus more closely on the groups and individuals pushing for change.

Weibo has flown completely off the rails – Why is the rumor mill still spinning?

Last week Weibo was swept up in rumors of a completely imagined coup in Beijing (Yaxue covered the extent of the madness excellently). It seems that this week is bringing yet another wave of crazed speculation, again involving former star Bo Xilai, as well as an international man of mystery, and most of Bo’s family (NYT coverage or the more entertaining and similarly accurate movie version).

For me the question has nothing to do with whether or not these rumors bare any resemblance to what has actually happened (they probably don’t), the big question is why aren’t these rumors being squashed like a bug?

There are several possibilities. While nobody really knows the answer, my Chinese friends have assured me that “this is absolutely not normal”. Weibo has come off the rails in a surprising way, even though China is not big on surprises when it comes to politics and stability.

One option seems to be that the authorities (being either from Weibo or the Party) are simply not able to keep up with the speed at which these rumors are spreading. Much of Weibo’s controls rely on mass blocking of a few key words (like “Bo Xilai”), while individuals scour posts for oblique references to the parties involved. The Bo story may have simply gone viral in a way that censors were unprepared and ill-equipped for. As I’ve discussed before, Chinese has so many homophones and puns that blocking keywords can hardly be called an effective way of stemming discussion of sensitive topics. Furthermore, the rare opportunity of “openly” gossiping about a gov’t official seems to be irresistible to many, and further drives netizens to create new ways around the blocks. Censors also seem to be failing to block even the obvious keywords effectively, like only blocking the Chinese character, or blocking only a full name and not the family name. If this is the case, than I wouldn’t be surprised if micro-blogging sites were closed soon for “maintenance,” to give time for the rumors to die. I favor this option slightly more than others because censors did seem to accidentally let an inordinate amount of “sensitive” information come through the wall last week.

A second possibility, is that those in control of the Party (and no one is actually certain that there is a power struggle), want to make sure that Bo Xilai and his allies have been thrown completely under the bus. A number of stories have appeared about Bo’s Chongqing policies being reversed that support this theory. I also suspect this because my co-workers have been uncharacteristically well informed about the rumors, even though they don’t spend much time on Weibo, and don’t know how to escape the limits of the Chinese web. While there haven’t been any explicit descriptions of what has happened, there have been more nods than in the past. Global Times stated last week that,

“There are a lot of social discussions around Chongqing at present. This is normal, since the changes in the city deserve public attention.”

Global Times usually prefers to remind me that it’s none of my business and that I should just accept what the Party tells me – after all this article was titled “Trust in Party authority shows social maturity.” To me this indicates that the gov’t is allowing Bo’s reputation to be damaged to some extent, but doesn’t want the discussion to spread to other topics.

And still there are several other possibilities that I’ll leave to others to explore (The Party thinks the rumors have been contained, Weibo is benefiting too much from the traffic bump to crackdown completely, all the leaders are on vacation after the Two Sessions and haven’t bothered to look online…).

And while we’re enjoying a period of wild speculation, I thought I’d add my two-cents as to why these rumors matter.

For three decades now China has managed to build economic momentum, despite glaring human rights abuses, largely because the Party offered something that no other developing country could: long-term stability. While the amount of power the Party actually has over its people is debatable, the appearance of stability is what has lured multinationals to invest billions. The rumors on Weibo challenge that notion in a way that could cause bigger problems.

That Global Times article I mentioned earlier makes me think that the Party is aware of this issue as well. The article emphasized a few key points; that the Party is still the ultimate authority, that the transition of power later this year will go smoothly, and that the 18th CPC meeting was a success. If the Party’s voice on these topics is ignored, it would cause people to doubt China’s stability, and foreign investors would worry. If foreign investors worry, China’s economy slowly eats away at the Party’s mandate to rule.

An irrational fear of crossing an invisible line

A recurring topic on the blog is that in China many things are sensitive, but nobody is actually certain what is on that list (as we saw yesterday). For instance, due to a strange turn of events, “Ferrari” was blocked on Weibo, while rumors of a coup in Beijing remained intact. This lack of clarity on what can and can’t be discussed not only impedes the free flow of information and discourages efficiency, but also has very real costs for individuals and organizations.

I know a Chinese Christian charity who would benefit greatly from greater exposure overseas. A number of scandals in other Chinese charities this year and continued concerns about the global economy have reduced contributions to them. So when I heard about a journalist doing research on Christians in China, I urged him to get in touch with this organization knowing that a mention in the media could translate to additional funding. Those donations would have been used to send impoverished children to school, build bio-gas pools, and promote health initiatives in the countryside.  Unfortunately, his emails went unanswered. The charity told me that it was best for them to be “cautious” when dealing with the foreign media, even though People’s Daily had just run an article encouraging religious charities to contribute more to society.

This highlights the fact that at this moment, even the Party can’t convince charities that their work isn’t sensitive.

Similar things have happened at the hospital where I work. American graduate students meet with doctors hoping to research trends in China’s health, and quickly find themselves unwelcome. One friend spent months working on making contacts, but each doctor’s enthusiasm faded as soon as they discussed the possibility with their bosses (his topic had been researched in Chinese dozens of times as well as by foreign NGO’s). One eager doctor hoped that there could be someway to work together unofficially, but anonymous sources draw a great deal of scrutiny in scientific papers.

For the individual doctors, the opportunity provided clear benefits – a chance to publish in English, and have help with translating their own papers. Furthermore, publishing is tied to promotions and pay raises, if their work appears in a foreign journal, it can come with substantial rewards (I’ve heard that it can be equivalent to several months’ salary). For the heads of the departments, the small chance that the topic could someday be seen as sensitive was an unacceptable risk. The result was that the hospital missed out on the chance to take a closer look at how a common disease is being treated, and ultimately, those infected lost out over what was an irrational fear of crossing an invisible line.

I received word from another friend who is a sociologist interested in China’s migrant population. While her work is largely apolitical, it does show a side of China that the Party would rather keep out of the spotlight, and for that reason she fears for the safety of her contacts. Due to increased scrutiny she had to considerably scale back her project, which cuts off yet another line of communication that could help gov’t officials better understand how to provide support for the nearly 1/3 of China’s population that shifts between the cities and the countryside.

While these are just a few small examples, when you multiply that by the thousands of opportunities that are being missed in other places, you realize that China is squandering millions of chances to help alleviate poverty, treat diseases, and create a more just China (which would ultimately bolster the Party). For the Party to reverse this trend, it will take concerted efforts to show that this time, they really do want a hundred flowers to bloom.

Heard on Weibo 2/19-2/25 – A plea for opening up, national secrets, and gov’t oversight

This week we have an interesting assortment for you. Before shutting himself up, an economist makes one last plea; the word to use to accuse someone who advocates change; China has a lot of “national secrets” and I bet this is one of them; the party asks you to oversee it, but you wonder how; a patriot defends his country, loud and clear; friendship cracks under fear; and what a Chinese luxury car looks like. Click date below for link to the original.

More than once I translated in this column the economist Han Zhiguo, known for speaking out on Weibo and elsewhere about how the political system in China hinders the economy. He recently hinted that he had been pressured and threatened. This week he announced his departure from Weibo and bid goodbye to nearly 4 million fans:

  • 韩志国/Han Zhiguo/(Economist)/: 【 My last Weibo post: Without political reform, there can be no market economy 】 The essence of economic reform is to open up individual rights, whereas the essence of political reform is to check and balance government power. In China, the key is that there is no mechanism for protecting individual rights, and the government power has suppressed and violated individual rights too much, too deep and for too long. Absent of political reform, power will not be curbed effectively, the process of releasing individual rights will not be able to continue, and true market economy will not be possible.

Feb.21 12:08  From Sina Weibo 标签:

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韩志国

  • 冉云飞@ranyunfei/Ran Yunfei/(independent intellectual, renowned blogger)/: Every so often you are criticized for being “radical.” So triumphant is the critic that it is as though once the word “radical” is laid on you, nothing you have said is of any worth, the foundation of your argument collapses on contact, and you are defeated and dispatched.  On the other hand, your critics never say a thing about the atrocities of the government perpetrated over decades, they hold no principles against it and have unlimited tolerance for it. They suffer from severe Stockholm syndrome without knowing it; they even feel complacent about this mental deformation.

11:40 PM – 18 Feb 12 via web 23 Retweets 8 Favorites

Someone on Twitter said it’s long been a custom of the Chinese government to take and sell organs of executed men (via @shmueloy). In response to it, someone else tweeted:

  • Frankie@zxd123/My own experience: This was in about 1992. On the days when executions were carried out, all the operation rooms were open at the affiliated Xinqiao Hospital of the 3rd Military Medical University, waiting for donors’ kidneys to arrive for transplant. At the Air Force General Hospital, it was about the same.

7:15 PM – 19 Feb 12 via web · 7 Retweets 1 Favorite

Responding to a Xinhua report , the following post went viral on Weibo, so much so that I couldn’t locate the original post and had to be content with a repost:

  • 是非心明/The heart knows right and wrong/Shi Fei Xin Ming/(netizen)/: 【How do I keep watch on you?】Lu Xinshe (鹿心社), the newly-elected  [by the non-elected “people’s representatives”] governor of Jiangxi Province, said, “I ask the people of the entire province to keep close watch on me.” But how do the people keep watch on you? You are in charge of the newspapers, the TV stations, the internet, and the radio. You are even in charge of this post of mine. You can delete it at will and you never ask how I feel. (Repost)

Feb. 13 05:15 From Sina Weibo |Repost(5992)| Comment(1645)

In last week’s Heard on Weibo, we offered two video clips of the Iowa welcome/protest scene. The young man, who is interviewed in the second clip and is seen in the second clip standing in front of the Tibetans to try to block them with a Chinese flag, later posted comments on QQ (a Chinese messaging platform) about the event. It existed for less than a day, went viral and then disappeared, apparently not taken down by himself but by the authorities, along with any direct quote of him on Weibo. The only explanation is that the party doesn’t want to draw any more attention to that episode:   

  • 刚健兔子@cuixueqin/ “No matter how difficult it is, even the most vicious lies cannot cover the glory of the red flag, not a bit! No matter how brazenly the overseas media vilifies [China], the triumphant bugle of the Chinese people will blow forever, loud and clear!”  –From  Min Ruihao (闵芮豪)

5:00 AM – 20 Feb 12 via 5 Retweets 3 Favorites

February 20th is the first anniversary of China’s aborted “Jasmine” gathering outside a McDonald’s in Wangfujing, Beijing (北京王府井). A lot of people reminisced on Twitter about the event and its aftermath:  

  • 邓二晃晃@dc_b/: Tomorrow of last year, employees of the company where a friend of mine works were interrogated one by one by the state security police of Shenzhen (深圳), and it was because I used the company’s Wifi to go online the day before. My friend was so terrified that he broke ties with me.

7:58 PM – 20 Feb 12 via 友推  1 Retweet

  • 邝飚的灰色幽默v /Kuang Biao’s gray humor/(Cartoonist with the Nanfang Daily)/: It’s been over 30 years since China opened up. Cars here are getting better except for the wheels, or the political system…

Feb. 24 23:09 From Sina Weibo  Repost(57) | Comment(18)

Chinese-style luxury car