Macron and von der Leyen in China, US House speaker meets Taiwanese president, and COVID-19 origins
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
2023 IJ4EU Impact Award Winner: The Xinjiang Police Files – European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
The Xinjiang Police Files is an investigation by a team of independent outlets that sheds light on the Chinese State’s alleged detention of over a million Uyghurs in internment camps. The investigation, involving journalists from ten European media houses, revealed previously unknown details, including confidential instructions from the authorities and speeches by Chinese officials. The leak contained never-before-seen photos of the inside of the camps and evidence of mass internment and arbitrary detention. The investigation triggered a worldwide response, with several foreign ministers calling for transparent investigations into China’s human rights violations.
Ahead of the 2023 IJ4EU Impact Award Ceremony, we spoke to Christoph Giesen, Der Spiegel Correspondent in Beijing, about The Xinjiang Police Files.
Don’t Look Away from China’s Atrocities Against the Uyghurs – United States Institute of Peace
It has been nearly a decade since China began its systematic campaign of human rights abuses against the Uyghur population — a minority ethnic group that has been targeted by Beijing for practicing Islam — and other vulnerable minority groups in its northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Over one million Uyghurs have been imprisoned in “re-education centers” and subjected to forced labor, torture, rape and sterilization. The United States and several like-minded states have determined based on the scope and scale of these crimes that they constitute genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs.
Ongoing demolition and construction of Uyghur structures in northwest China’s Xinjiang region have deprived some families of their residential homes, businesses and arable lands. Some communities have lost their mosques and ancient bazaars to authorities’ modernization efforts.
Claims by Chinese authorities that they are now demolishing the Khan Bazaar to renovate the old buildings “do not fit with reality,” Abdurehim said when he heard about the recent demolition.
He said authorities had renovated the bazaar several times since the 1980s, including another “optimization” campaign that occurred sometime between 2000 and 2010 to improve building quality and safety.
But each renovation project deprived some Uyghurs of their homes and shops because they could not afford the renovation fees, he added.
Chinese businesspeople with ample financial means and political backing intervened and bought the property at below-market prices, thereby gaining stakes in the Khan Bazaar, he said.
The World Health Organization chief pressed China on Thursday to share its information about the origins of COVID-19, saying that until that happened all hypotheses remained on the table, more than three years after the virus first emerged.
"Without full access to the information that China has, you cannot say this or that," said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in response to a question about the origin of the virus.
"All hypotheses are on the table. That's WHO's position and that's why we have been asking China to be cooperative on this."
POLITICS & SOCIETY
People in China will live to over 80 on average by 2035, contributing to one of the world’s fastest and largest ageing populations, according to a study by a group of Chinese researchers published in a leading medical journal.
Life expectancy at birth is projected to increase to 81.3 by 2035, with females in some affluent areas set to reach 90, according to the paper published in The Lancet Public Health last week.
Women in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang will have at least a 50 per cent chance to surpass a life expectancy of 90 by 2035, said the study, led by professor Zhou Maigeng, deputy director of the National Centre for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention under the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Chinese man on Friday was sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing and unlawfully detaining a woman who was shown chained in a viral video that sparked an outcry in China last year.
The abuse of the woman, “Xiaohuamei,” or Little Plum Blossom, raised widespread concerns in China in February last year and at times overshadowed Beijing’s Winter Olympics online. Her story appeared in Chinese social media despite digital and human censors and prompted commentators to exhort national media to highlight the scandal.
After the announcement of the sentencing on Friday, the case became one of the most searched topics on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, with many people complaining that nine years imprisonment for the man was too lenient of a punishment for what he did to her.
Study drive to boost leadership skills – China Daily
The CPC Central Committee has decided to launch the thematic education campaign this month to help Party members strive in unity to build a modern socialist country in all respects and advance the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts. It urged Party members and leading officials to apply the Party's new theories in implementing the major strategies and decisions set out at the 20th CPC National Congress last year.
Xi underlined the need for all Party members and leading officials to always maintain a high degree of consistency with the CPC Central Committee ideologically and politically, and in action.
Efforts should be made to educate and guide all Party members and officials to enhance their sense of responsibility and mission, and increase their capabilities to promote high-quality development, serve the people and forestall and defuse risks, he said.
China recalled millions of copies of the mass circulation People’s Daily because Xi Jinping’s name was omitted from a commentary about the need for national unity, sources told Radio Free Asia.
The page 5 commentary, titled “Unity and struggle are the only way for the Chinese people to forge a historical undertaking,” recounted China’s achievements under Xi.
But in one sentence, after the word “comrade” – typical in communist countries – it didn’t include Xi’s name, according to photos of the article viewed by RFA.
So the text read: “The central government with comrade at the core assesses the situation.” The online edition reads correctly: “The central government with comrade Xi Jinping at the core assesses the situation.”
For over a decade, an anonymous blogger named Program Think pushed back against the rule of the Chinese Communist Party one post at a time, hoping to hasten a political revolution he believed would come one day. Most remarkably, unlike most critics, he wrote from within China, where he took care to hide his digital footprint and taunted the internet police for being unable to catch him.
To evade the government’s extensive surveillance, he kept his identity secret, so much so that when he abruptly dropped off the grid in May 2021, no one knew where or how to find him. He stopped updating his blog, Twitter and Github accounts, leaving many of his followers fearing the worst.
Little was known about his identity and whereabouts, until February, when a Chinese blogger was sentenced to seven years in jail for “inciting subversion of state power.”
As it turned out, Program Think hid his online identity and activities even from those closest to him.
During the pandemic, women across China became infatuated with the dashing male characters in a series of viral video games. Now, many are hiring cosplayers to bring their digital beaus to life.
HONG KONG & MACAO
Jobless and ailing, Franki Wong, 59, has thought many times that being in prison would be better than life in his tiny “coffin home”, struggling to make ends meet as Hong Kong’s cost of living keeps rising.
“At least a prisoner is guaranteed three meals a day, has a TV to watch and a bigger, nicer space to live in,” he said, recalling the times he spent behind bars for burglary.
The former technician was diagnosed with cancer last May and had to quit his job, which paid more than HK$30,000 (US$3,820) a month.
Not poor enough to qualify for social welfare, he has been relying on his meagre savings and bank loans for his monthly expenses of HK$8,000 including rent of HK$2,100 for a bunk bed in a Yau Ma Tei flat shared by 18 people.
Faced with ever-widening censorship at home, Hong Kong filmmakers are increasingly taking their creativity to an international audience, showing an uncut version of their city beyond the reach of a security law criminalizing criticism of the authorities.
"Toeing red lines has never been easy, and less so as they become increasingly vague, bordering on nonexistence," according to the organizers of Hong Kong Film Festival U.K., which screened films by a number of directors who have run afoul of the authorities amid a citywide crackdown on dissent in the wake of the 2019 protest movement.
The festival program included a series of five short films "reimagining the city in a dark and dangerous light ... cast in the shadows of the anti-extradition protests and of the pandemic," as well as work by director Kiwi Chow, one of the few directors who still calls Hong Kong home, despite having his film "Revolution of Our Times" banned from public screenings.
Tightening government regulations on unauthorised neon signs mean that scores of signs, that for decades hung outside bakeries, clothing shops and restaurants, have now been removed – stripping the streets of their once-familiar glow.
There is no authoritative figure of how many neon signboards remain. The Buildings Department, which oversees building codes and safety, said that in 2011 there were about 120,000 signboards, but added that it did not keep statistics on the number of neon signs in Hong Kong. Chan said a count by her team put the number at 400 last year, but their survey was ultimately unfinished.
Republican speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy welcomed President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, near Los Angeles, on Wednesday.
The Taiwanese leader's visit is officially a stopover following a tour of Latin America.
At the start of the meeting with Tsai, McCarthy called the Taiwanese president "a great friend to America."
"I am optimistic we will continue to find ways for the people of America and Taiwan to work together to promote economic freedom, democracy, peace and stability."
China has imposed further sanctions on Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the United States, prohibiting her and family members from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, state media reported on Friday.
The sanctions announced by China's Taiwan Affairs Office also ban investors and firms related to Hsiao from cooperating with mainland organisations and individuals.
They come after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a stopover in the United States this week.
"Wow, the PRC (People's Republic of China) just sanctioned me again, for the second time," Hsiao tweeted in response to the announcement.
China's Foreign Ministry also announced steps against the United States' Hudson Institute and Reagan Library and their heads, saying both institutions provided a platform and facilities for what it called Tsai's separatist activities.
China’s military has sent dozens of planes across the Taiwan Strait median line, just hours after announcing three days of drills around Taiwan in response to the island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, visiting the US and meeting the House speaker.
Tsai met the speaker, Kevin McCarthy, while in Los Angeles in Wednesday, angering Beijing, which claims Taiwan as a Chinese province it intends to annex.
On Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after Tsai’s return home, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it would hold “combat readiness patrols” and exercises in the Taiwan Strait and to the north, south and east of Taiwan “as planned”.
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Coming up next:
Macron and von der Leyen's visit to China
Florida state universities’ ban on TikTok, WeChat
The Iran, Saudi Arabia diplomatic breakthrough in China
India and China’s dispute over visas for their journalists
And so much more…
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