Ursula Gauthier, erstwhile Beijing correspondent for the French newsweekly L’Obs, left China for good in the early hours of January 1. It was not, as they say, of her own volition.
When the clock struck midnight on 2015, Gauthier’s press visa expired and was not up for renewal. According to official organs, she had offended the Chinese people with her November 18 article written in the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks on Paris. Gauthier’s refusal to publicly apologize for remarks concerning China’s attempts to link Paris with its own problems in Xinjiang was taken as the final straw.
Last year was the 25th anniversary of the “June 4 Incident,” as it is officially known. State security went full bore over the ultra-sensitive date, harassing journalists and activists, detaining anyone who sneezed on the subject.
If you’ve read a story about China in the last couple of years that sounded just too good to be true – that smelled, in fact, more like sweet, sweet horse manure – chances are it came from CEN, a European-based “news agency” whose bluff just got called in exhaustive length by BuzzFeed investigative reporters.
Although their offices and staff are in Vienna, CEN’s scope is worldwide – Russia, Argentina, India, Macedonia and the PRC, where it regularly elbows Xinhua aside to publish the least likely version of events.
Until this week, the social critic Sima Nan was best known for getting his head stuck in an escalator at Dulles Airport. That moment was particularly precious because Nan, a devoted neo-Maoist, had just posted another of his anti-America screeds on Sina Weibo before flying to DC.
But China’s most famous wumao is now back in the news for a more impressive reason: as an impassioned defender of free speech.
Because it's politically expedient to do so -- proven by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc., to work -- Beijing conducted a drug investigation that recently culminated in a bust of street-level slingers in Sanlitun. This news doesn't affect the vast majority of Beijingers, foreign or local, which is to say, there's little reason any of us should cheer. If anything, we should cringe, knowing these "crackdowns" almost always disproportionately affect those on society's fringes who are most powerless to defend themselves.
People's Daily deserves not our scorn but our patience and understanding. I make the comparison with autism with absolutely no intention of being insulting to autistic people or their family and friends, and please accept my apologies if this still sounds offensive. But maybe the proper response to People's Daily -- which has underdeveloped communication skills (despite being the official mouthpiece of the government), difficulty grasping abstract concepts, and fantasies that are simply untenable in the real world -- should be with tolerance, composure, and encouragement?
People's Daily has had an eventful week. Last Monday it called the New York Times "circling vultures" for an article on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370; on Friday it sought "immediate rectification" from a parody Twitter account, @relevantorgans; then, somehow, it got a guest editorial out of Bill Gates. But PD truly tops itself with this next thing, because these are words that someone actually wrote. Via Reuters:
The fourth Beijing International Film Festival opened on Wednesday, and it looks like it's already less boring than last year's. For that we have the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to thank, who on Thursday in a panel discussion spoke provocatively on Mao Zedong and urged the Chinese to confront their history. As The Hollywood Reporter reports:
Forget human rights, which will not, I promise you, get the man on the 5F dancefloor to lose his groove. Forget censorship, because who cares about cultural emasculation? Forget Zhou Yongkang, school stabbings, Diaoyu Islands, corruption, Sichuan earthquakes, shoddy construction. Take a lesson from the New York Times when it wants to link-bait: head over to the US embassy's Beijing air Twitter account and report the latest AQI, because nothing -- absolutely nothing -- unites the English-reading populace of China quite like bad air.
An episode of The Colbert Report last Wednesday used the words "ching-chong ding-dong" in an attempt to satirize / skewer Washington dunderhead Dan Synder. When the show's Twitter account tweeted the joke the next day without context -- “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” -- a bit of hell broke loose on social media, resulting in Korean-American Twitter activist Suey Park starting the hashtag #CancelColbert. It reeked of so much faux outrage and willful ignorance