Surprise military shake-up, historic floods, and economic slowdown
+ 2023 Women's World Cup: China failed to advance and cyberspace regulator looks to limit children to two hours a day on their phones
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
China is pressuring Uyghurs living abroad to spy on human rights campaigners by threatening families back home, researchers say. Refugees and activists tell the BBC intimidating tactics are tearing communities apart.
An elderly Uyghur serving a nearly 14-year prison sentence in Xinjiang following his arrest in 2017 for studying religion as a child and for committing other religious “offenses” died of hypertension while in jail, a local police officer said.
Abdurusul Memet, 71, from a village in Kashgar county was sentenced for learning the Quran from his father when he was 12 years old, praying and having a beard, he said.
China's Biggest Mosque Destroyed in Minority Culture Crackdown – Foreign Policy
On July 8, three coaches full of Hui Muslims, China’s largest Islamic minority, returned from the pilgrimage to Mecca to their hometown of Shadian, in the southwestern province of Yunnan. The return from the Hajj, Islam’s holiest journey, is usually a joyous time—but when they returned, they found Shadian’s grand mosque closed, lights off and doors shut. Relatives waiting to greet them confirmed their worst fears: Local officials had closed the mosque in order to demolish the dome and minarets.
The partial destruction of the mosque is part of a wider campaign that mixes Islamophobia and xenophobia, and which has led to the demolition or partial demolition of Islamic sites throughout China. While the western province of Xinjiang remains ground zero for the crackdown, the government’s measures are increasingly targeting the larger Muslim community. Domes and minarets, dubbed as a sign of foreign influence, have been particularly targeted—in part to appease an increasingly Islamophobic public.
A Poet Captures the Terror of Life in an Authoritarian State – The New York Times
Tahir Hamut Izgil watched as parks emptied of people, naan bakeries boarded up their windows and, one after another, his friends were taken away.
The Chinese government’s repression of Uyghurs, the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority to which he belonged, had gone on for years in Xinjiang, the group’s ancestral homeland in China’s northwest. But in 2017, it morphed into something more terrifying: a mass internment system into which hundreds of thousands of people were disappearing. Millions lived under intense and growing surveillance.
Izgil, a prominent poet and film director, feared that one day soon, the authorities would come for him. So he did what few have managed — in the summer of 2017, he escaped with his family, and once settled in a Virginia suburb, he wrote about the experience.
In his memoir, “Waiting to Be Arrested at Night,” published this week by Penguin Press, Izgil brings his discerning eye for detail to describe the impact of China’s policies on the people who live under them.
Book Review: ‘Waiting to Be Arrested at Night,’ by Tahir Hamut Izgil – The New York Times
[…] getting out of China is so complicated that only by pretending that their elder daughter needs to be treated for epilepsy — and bribing health care workers to vouch for the diagnosis — do they eventually escape to Washington, D.C.
But their departure is no triumph. When Izgil calls his mother after arriving in the United States, the police in China confiscate her cellphone and ID card, returning them only after Izgil’s father and brother sign an affidavit promising never to speak to Izgil again. His friends delete his contact info on WeChat.
Despite these precautions, some of his relatives are swept up in the mass detentions that have ensnared more than one million Uyghurs. Izgil cannot enjoy the uneasy freedom of life in the United States. With little English, he supports himself as a driver. As his translator, Joshua L. Freeman, writes in an introduction to the book, “If you took an Uber in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, there was a chance your driver was one of the greatest living Uyghur poets.” Izgil struggles with writer’s block and guilt. “We live with the coward’s shame hidden in that word ‘escape,’” he writes.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
Two of China’s top generals overseeing its nuclear missiles have been replaced with scant explanation in the biggest shake-up of the country’s military leadership in a decade, underlining Xi Jinping’s commitment to tightening control over the armed forces.
Two men from outside the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) were appointed to head the unit, state media have reported. Wang Houbin, from the navy, was appointed as commander and Xu Xisheng, from the air force, its political commissar – a Chinese Communist party role of equal grade to military commander.
The whereabouts of Wang’s predecessor, Li Yuchao, are unknown, although the South China Morning Post reported last week that Li had been taken away for investigation by China’s corruption watchdog, along with his deputy commander and a previous deputy commander.
China should encourage its citizens to join counter-espionage work, including creating channels for individuals to report suspicious activity as well as commending and rewarding them, the state security ministry said on Tuesday.
A system that makes it "normal" for the masses to participate in counter-espionage must be established, wrote the Ministry of State Security, the main agency overlooking foreign intelligence and anti-spying, in its first post on its WeChat account, which went live on Monday.
Political security is the top priority of national security, and the "core" of political security is the security of China's political system, Minister of State Security Chen Yixin wrote in an article in a Chinese legal magazine in July.
"The most fundamental is to safeguard the leadership and ruling position of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics," Chen said.
China to relax internal migration rules to kickstart economy – The Guardian
China is to relax its rules on internal migration, making it easier for people to settle in small cities in an attempt to boost its ailing economy and spur growth, the government has announced.
The ministry of public security (MPS) announced plans to lower the bar for obtaining an urban hukou, or household registration. Beijing wants local governments to cancel hukou restrictions in cities with fewer than 3 million people, and relax the restrictions for cities with 3-5 million people, the MPS said.
Larger cities with populations of more than 5 million will also be encouraged to relax their hukou quotas, allowing more people to obtain the highly prized urban registration documents.
The ideology chief of China’s Communist Party met the country’s leading academics at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, signalling the start of the summer break for Chinese leaders.
The Art of Telling Forbidden Stories in China – The New York Times
Many writers are looking for ways to capture the everyday realities that the government keeps hidden — sometimes at their own peril.
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As temperatures in China soar, pet owners are looking for novel ways to protect their four-legged friends from the heat, buying up cooling mats, clothes and miniature sun hats for dogs and cats.
Such concern for pet well-being has become common among many Chinese households, where many people have opted to adopt pets rather than have children and consider their furry friends as family members accordingly.
Last year, a report by Euromonitor and Asia Pet Alliance Institute forecast China's population of dogs and cats would reach 190 million in 2023, up from about 170 million in 2018.
In the past year, MBTI has been appearing in more and more areas of Chinese society, from recruitment to consumption. It remains unclear what is driving the popularity of this test, published by American mother and daughter Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in 1962.
Some have speculated that it appeals to Chinese people’s predilection for categorization. What is more clear is that among some young Chinese, the test is no longer just a fun personality questionnaire: Their MBTI is a key part of their identity.
In China’s elite dance schools, students are facing ever greater pressure to lose weight, with coaches urging them to become “as thin as lightning.” The result: a troubling rise in cases of anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues.
A zoo in eastern China is denying suggestions some of its bears might be people in costumes after photos of the animals standing like humans circulated online.
The sun bears from Malaysia are smaller than other bears and look different but are the real thing, the Hangzhou Zoo said Monday on its social media account.
HONG KONG & MACAO
After silencing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, authorities in the territory have found a new target: the family members of dissidents who fled overseas.
As pro-democracy Hong Kongers continue their activism in self-imposed exile, police are turning their attention to their families, friends, and associates still living in the city.
‘This is my farewell letter to Hong Kong,” says Wong Chung-Wai, when I ask about the title of his astonishing photobook, Hong Kong After Hong Kong. “I wanted to use photography to preserve what’s left in the ocean of my brain, to create evidence of having lived in the city, as I don’t know if I could ever return.”
Hong Kong customs has arrested the 50-year-old director of private tutoring company Brilliant Education, which collapsed over the weekend and allegedly owed HK$2.51 million (US$320,710) to 310 customers in prepaid fees.
The department on Wednesday said the woman had been arrested the day before over wrongly accepting payments when selling prepaid tutorial programmes, a breach of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) will stop over in New York and San Francisco on his way to and from Paraguay as part of his seven-day trip, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yui (俞大㵢) said in Taipei on Wednesday.
Lai, who is also the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's 2024 presidential candidate, will leave Taiwan on Aug. 12 and arrive the same day in New York, where he will stay overnight and then head to Paraguay on the morning of Aug. 13 (NY time), Yui said.
According to Yui, the vice president will touch down in San Francisco on the night of Aug. 15 (SF time) on his return leg from South America and stay overnight before leaving the next morning.
Taiwan's military vowed on Wednesday to step up counter-espionage efforts as authorities investigated several serving and former military officers suspected of spying for China.
China, which is pressing the island to accept its sovereignty, has in recent years mounted a sustained espionage campaign to undermine democratically governed Taiwan's military and civilian leadership, a Reuters investigation has found.
A lieutenant colonel surnamed Hsiao, based in the army's Aviation and Special Forces Command, had been detained on suspicion of leaking defence secrets to "foreign forces including China" and "developing organisations" in Taiwan, the official Central News Agency (CNA) reported.
Taiwan-Germany chips plan risks China’s rage – Politico
Taiwan's TSMC is poised to decide as soon as Tuesday whether to confirm a multibillion-euro chips factory in Germany, boosting the country's automotive sector and giving Europe an advantage in its ongoing trade war with China.
The EU aims to increase its share of the global semiconductor market to 20 percent by 2030, from 9 percent now. Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has been pushing world-leading manufacturers — such as TSMC, America's Intel and South Korea's Samsung — to invest, using the lure of state aid. So far, only Intel has done so, with a €30 billion investment in the German city of Magdeburg — increased from €17 billion after the government threw in more money.
An investment by TSMC would give momentum to the European chips industry, which is playing catch-up with the U.S. and Japan in the bid to lure investments from the Taiwanese giant, as China continues to exert its claim to the democratic island.
Apple's (AAPL.O) main supplier, Foxconn Technology Group (2317.TW), is planning to invest close to $500 million to build two component factories in India, Bloomberg News reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
As part of its investment drive in India in its bid to diversify beyond China, the Taiwanese company has also signed a deal with Tamil Nadu to invest 16 billion rupees in a new electronic components manufacturing facility that will create 6,000 jobs, the state government said on Monday.
Beijing is trying to send strong signals about its preparation for an attack on Taiwan, with People’s Liberation Army soldiers pledging to sacrifice themselves.
The pledges are part of the eight-episode documentary series Zhu Meng, or “chasing dreams”, aired on state broadcaster CCTV from Tuesday to mark the PLA’s 96th anniversary and show the readiness of military personnel to fight “at any second”.
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