Doing business in China: May 2010 Archives
By Radio Free Asia
May 21, 2010
Authorities in Tibet ban popular ringtones characterized as 'separatist.'
Students and teachers at a high school near the Tibetan city of Shigatse have been told to delete certain popular Tibetan-language songs from their cell phones after they were designated "unhealthy" by local education officials, according to its Web site.
The school announced recently that owing to the "increasing complexity of separatism," a list of 27 popular Tibetan-language tracks had been banned, whether in audio or video disk format, or as digital media files on people's cell phones.
"Staff and students must not have any of the above songs as their mobile phone ringtone," an April 21 statement posted on the school's Web site, but since removed, said.
"If you have any of these songs as your ringtone, please will you delete them; if you own any of the above discs, please will you destroy them by melting or burning them," it added.
It said the school's Communist Party committee, the education and politics department and the Youth League branch would be carrying out clean-up campaigns targeting the banned songs.
"Anyone possessing the illegal music or videos will be severely dealt with," it warned.
It listed the 27 songs, which appeared mostly to be in the Tibetan language, and included titles like "Happy Shambala," "The Hope of the Son of the Snow-City," "The Five-Colored Prayer Flags (Tibetan-language version)," "Snow-Mountain Folk (Tibetan)" and "The Awaited Hope."
The order was posted by Beijing-based Tibetan writer and blogger Woeser, who also detailed further restrictions on the cultural lives of Tibetans in their capital Lhasa, which was rocked by widespread protests and rioting in March 2008.
Copy shops affected
An employee who answered the phone at a photocopy shop in Lhasa said the new rules applied to materials written in Tibetan.
"Basically it's to do with the Dalai Lama. You can't copy stuff about him in Tibetan," she said.
"Most of us can't read Tibetan. The Dalai Lama has to do with separatists, that's the main thing...a lot of our customers think it's a real pain, having to register."
Sources in Lhasa said that most copy shops in the city were run by Han Chinese, who have poured into the Himalayan region in recent years on a new railroad line.
"They say it's very hard to get a license [to run a copy shop] nowadays," the employee said. "We got ours a while back, but I heard it's much more difficult now."
The proprietor of a second print services shop in Lhasa confirmed that customers wanting to make photocopies had to produce their identity cards.
"It's [effective] from this month," he said. "It's better this way. It's a bit safer. It is good for everyone."
Woeser said that regulations of a similar sort had been in existence for a while, but had never been strictly enforced.
"It's a way of cowing people," she said. "But it'll probably rebound on them, making people very uncomfortable, micromanaging them to this extent."
Cultural contributors targeted
China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights in the two years since widespread protests swept the region, according to the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).
The report said some 31 writers, bloggers and intellectuals had been jailed for expressing unwelcome views since the March 2008 violence and demonstrations, which spread across Tibetan regions of China in the months that followed.
ICT released "A 'Raging Storm:' The Crackdown on Tibetan Writers & Artists after Tibet's Spring 2008 Protests" on May 18, saying that Tibetans had continued to write down and publish their own accounts of what had happened during the protests.
While initial writing efforts were published unofficially and quickly suppressed, they have been followed by a boom in Tibetan fiction and essay writing, with younger, tech-savvy Tibetans playing a key role, the group said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
By Radio Free Asia
May 17, 2010
A recently disbarred rights lawyer says he has been banned by Chinese border police from leaving the country.
Attorney Tang Jitian said in an interview Monday that he had been stopped by security officers in the southern China city of Shenzhen as he prepared to cross the border into neighboring Hong Kong on Sunday before continuing his trip overseas.
"When approaching booth No. 20 at customs, I was suddenly stopped by the police officer at the window, who called his bosses as well as two guards to keep me from leaving. Then two border control officers came and checked my documents," Tang said.
"They led me to another place. After about half an hour, the border officers said they had received instructions from upper-level management that I was not allowed to exit. I asked for the reason but they refused to explain," he said.
"I said, 'Your actions have neither legal basis nor justified reason. You deprived the rights of a citizen to travel abroad.' But they answered that they were simply carrying out the order," Tang added.
Tang Jitian and another rights lawyer, Liu Wei, were disbarred by legal authorities in Beijing last month for "procedural infractions."
The decisions resulted from a complaint by a court in Luzhou, in southwestern Sichuan province, where Tang and Liu defended Falun Gong practitioner Yang Ming in his appeal of a trial in April of last year. The action was widely criticized as China's latest move against human rights lawyers.
The court rejected Yang's appeal of his conviction for "using an evil cult to destroy implementation of the law," and Yang is currently serving his five-year sentence, according to Human Rights in China. The Chinese government officially considers the Falun Gong spiritual movement an illegal, "evil cult."
On Monday, Tang said he believes that the ban against travel overseas is related to his defense of the Falun Gong practitioner.
"I feel that the two things are connected. They fear my foreign trip could result in the exposure of illegal activities in China's judiciary system. They have done bad things but still attempted to conceal them."
Meanwhile, he insisted that all his defense practices were legal.
Lawyer Liu Wei said Monday that she had also received harsh scrutiny when crossing into Hong Kong two months ago.
"The border police asked me many questions, such as where I work, why I was traveling to Hong Kong, and even the whole itinerary of my trip. I believe my name might be on a blacklist," Liu said.
She said she would likely meet the same fate as Tang and face a ban on traveling abroad because she had defended a Falun Gong practitioner.
"It is only because we defended a Falun Gong practitioner that our names will be on the blacklist."
However, Liu pointed out that "As a part of the government, border control authorities should only act based on the law. Prohibiting a citizen from traveling abroad without providing a reason--this action equals negligence."
In Hong Kong, the news of Tang Jitian being barred from leaving China caused concern among rights activists.
Poon Kawai, a spokesman for the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG), said Monday that Beijing should stop pressuring rights lawyers.
"The authorities revoked Tang's license and then banned him from coming to Hong Kong or travelling overseas. This is an audacious violation of his rights. We urge Chinese authorities to cease persecution of Chinese rights lawyers such as Tang," he said.
CHRLCG is a nonprofit organization based in Hong Kong. It calls for the protection of the legal rights of rights lawyers and other rights defenders in China.
Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers
The revocation of the lawyers' licenses may have come as part of a wider crackdown on human rights lawyers.
In early 2009, Tang and Liu were among a group of lawyers who filed a complaint against Beijing government offices over newly instituted fees for lawyers' annual license registration, complaining that the new fees were "blackmailing and extortion."
In May 2009, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice refused to renew the licenses of over 50 lawyers, including Tang and Liu. But until May 7, Tang and Liu had avoided having their licenses permanently revoked.
Teng Biao, a legal scholar who represented Tang and Liu at the hearing, called the revocation of the licenses "an act of revenge taken by the judicial bureau."
Original reporting by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
By John Pomfret | The Washington Post
May 12, 2010
The State Department has decided to fund a group run mainly by practitioners of Falun Gong, a Buddhist-like sect long considered Enemy No. 1 by the Chinese government, to provide software to skirt Internet censorship across the globe.
State Department officials recently called the group, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, offering it $1.5 million, according to Shiyu Zhou, one of the group's founders. A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the offer.
The decision, which came as the United States and China have recently moved to improve ties after months of tension, appears likely to irritate Beijing just as the two are set to resume a dialogue on human rights Wednesday for the first time in two years.
"GIFC is an organization run by elements of the Falun Gong cult, which is bent on vilifying the Chinese government with fabricated lies, undermining Chinese social stability and sabotaging China-U.S. relations," said Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington. "We're strongly opposed to the U.S. government providing whatever assistance to such an anti-China organization."
The decision to fund GIFC followed a three-year lobbying campaign by Washington insiders, congressional pressure and opposition from some human rights advocates and Internet experts. It was also controversial within the Obama administration, sources said, despite the commitment of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Internet freedom.
Some officials worried that Beijing would view as a hostile act U.S. financial support for a group that China says has agitated for the overthrow of its government. Others were concerned the funds would get in the way of the Obama administration's broader engagement with China on issues as varied as climate change, the global financial crisis and efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation in North Korea and Iran.
GIFC was started in 2001 mostly by Chinese-born scientists living in the United States in response to a withering crackdown in China on the Falun Gong sect. China launched the repression in 1999, and scores of practitioners are believed to have died at the hands of China's police and judicial authorities. China considered the Falun Gong movement, which on one day in April 1999 mobilized 20,000 practitioners to surround Communist Party headquarters in Beijing, as the most serious threat to its one-party rule since the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Members of the group were found throughout the upper ranks of the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army.
The initial goal of GIFC was to allow practitioners of Falun Gong access to the teachings of Li Hongzhi, the sect's leader, who is believed to live in Queens, N.Y. But by last year Internet users in other countries where governments censor the Internet had begun using its software -- Freegate and Ultrasurf. Falun Gong also put ads encouraging people to join the sect on its software download page.
Freegate figured prominently in the demonstrations that rocked Tehran last year as Iranian dissidents used it to access Twitter and You Tube, which were blocked in Iran, to organize protests and post videos of the marches.
By Gillian Wong - The Associated Press - via abcNEWS
May 10, 2010
China AIDS activist leaves for U.S. with family after government harassment intensified
A prominent Chinese AIDS activist has fled China for the United States with his wife and 4-year-old daughter to escape increasing government harassment of him and his organization, he said Monday.
Wan Yanhai's departure highlights the pressure that nongovernmental groups and activists face when operating in China, where the Communist Party leadership remains suspicious of independent groups or individuals as possible threats to their authority.
In March, the government decided to regulate overseas donations to aid groups for the first time, a move that has hurt the funding of organizations like Wan's Beijing-based Aizhixing Institute.
The restrictions on foreign donations and other intimidation tactics drove Wan and his family to leave China on Thursday on a flight out of Hong Kong, Wan said in a telephone interview, adding that they were now staying with a friend in Philadelphia.
"The attacks from the government had become very serious for my organization and for me personally," Wan said. "I had concerns about my personal safety and was under a lot of stress."
"When I am in China, the authorities look at me like I am a bird in a cage. They say: 'If you don't listen to me, then I will eat you'," he said. "But after I leave the country, they will see me in a new light because I am no longer in their cage."
In recent years, China's government has made huge strides in openly addressing the spread of HIV, but the communist leadership is deeply suspicious of independent activists, and Wan has one of the highest profiles among those working on AIDS in China.
Wan, a former Health Ministry official, founded the Aizhixing Institute in 1994 to raise awareness and fight discrimination. Among its most significant and politically sensitive work was the publicizing of the spread of AIDS in the 1990s among villagers in central China's Henan province, where people who sold blood were re-injected with pooled blood after buyers had removed important components.
Wan has been detained or questioned by police several times in the past dozen years for his work, and in recent months he said he has felt increasing pressure from various government departments. The pressure started piling up this year with problems arising from the tax bureau, the state administration for industry and commerce, the central propaganda department and the education bureau.
In March, the government ruled that China-based aid groups -- but not those connected with the government -- must show proof that overseas nonprofit donor groups are registered in their home countries. The groups must strictly follow detailed agreements with foreign donors and not use the money in other ways.
"Funding became a major problem for us after that," Wan said.
Later that month, he was invited to speak at the Southern China Science and Industry University on sexual orientation and mental health, but the event was interrupted by police from Guangzhou, he said. He later heard that a notice had been sent to universities nationwide to prevent them from inviting him to speak.
Wan said the final straw came when he was even getting harassed by the municipal fire department, which visited his office in Beijing on April 20 for a safety inspection and then sent a team from the local fire station the next day.
"To be honest, I was becoming very worried. I felt like if we had acted slower, it would not have been good," he said, adding that he and his wife used a trip to Hong Kong for business to make the decision to leave.
"Before we left, we didn't tell a lot of people," he said. "We waited until Thursday evening after we got to Hong Kong, bought the flight tickets and passed through the security checks at the airport before we called a few friends."
Aizhixing Institute, meanwhile, will continue operating despite his absence from China, Wan said. In the coming days, he hopes to meet with international organizations to discuss ways to cooperate on projects and for funding.
Wan's move was met with support by Chinese activists, many of whom posted messages on Twitter, although some also expressed regret at his departure and worries about the future of his organization.
After hearing the news, human rights activist Zeng Jingyan wrote on her Twitter: "Shocked. Immediately, I tried to call him and his wife, but the call did not go through. I was crying, the tears covering my face. On the one hand, I wish him and his family peace and freedom. On the other hand, I feel unbearable."
When contacted via Skype, Zeng would only say "I empathize with Wan's feelings. Although I feel a little regret toward his decision. Still, I fully understand and wish them a happy life."
Zeng is married to the activist Hu Jia, who has championed AIDS victims in the past and is serving a 3 1/2-year jail term for sedition that is set to end in June 2011.
By BBC World News
May 06, 2010
North Korea's Kim Jong-il is reported by South Korean media to have met China's president ahead of expected talks with China's premier.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Mr Kim met President Hu Jintao before having dinner in the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday night.
Mr Kim was expected to meet Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday, the report said.
Mr Kim's visit, thought to be about economics and security issues, has been shrouded in secrecy.
Neither country has confirmed the visit but Mr Kim has been seen several times since arriving in China by special train.
The Associated Press reported that a fleet of North Korean-flagged limousines escorted by police was seen outside the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday evening.
This is where Korean news agencies said Mr Kim met Mr Hu and would meet Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday.
Another meeting with Mr Hu was possible, the agencies said.
The elderly leader is not believed to have been abroad since a 2006 visit to China.
Reports say he has already visited factories, industrial zones and ports in the northern cities of Dalian and Tianjian before travelling by train to Beijing.
China is North Korea's main trading partner and the country perceived to have the most influence on the state.