The latest column from New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan is about China: an article that first summarizes why it's becoming increasingly difficult for foreign correspondents to work here, then reminds its readers that the Times remains -- unlike Bloomberg, I think is clearly one implication -- a news company first and foremost.
As reported last month, former security chief Zhou Yongkang, now retired, has been the target of high-level corruption probes since at least late August. "How far and high is [Xi Jinping] willing to go to clean up China’s political elite?" the New York Times's Chris Buckley asked in a September 25 article.
Now we kind of know. The South China Morning Post reported today, citing unnamed sources, that Xi Jinping is overseeing a "special unit" to investigate Zhou, "bypassing the Communist Party's internal disciplinary apparatus."
True objectivity in journalism may be an unachieveable ideal -- the craft is as much about storytelling as reporting, with the requisite narrative structures that confirm or deny bias -- but that doesn't mean a journalist should actively neglect his or her duty to truthful storytelling.
Unless you work in Chinese media.
A book called Those Who Don't Read It Upside-down Are Pigs, among others, has been seized for "spreading pornography," according to Xinhua, as edited by Global Times. And two publishers, China Pictorial Publishing House and Shaanxi Normal University Publishing House, have been suspended for three months.
The relationship between China's central and local governments has never been linear or completely top-down. There are times of harmony, but more often, there's tension. In the recent past, thanks to social media, conflicts and disagreements usually kept behind closed doors have begun leaking into the public domain.
Several recent posts on Sina Weibo by legal organs revealed that tensions are as manifest today as they were during historical times. Many netizens have gone as far to call these posts an act of “rebellion.”
After a handful of English-language publications declared that authorities had "shut down" the Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF), many people likely dusted their hands of the matter, thinking censorship had once again triumphed over artistic expression. But as James Hsu discovered more than a week after the festival’s supposed cancellation, BIFF held a successful, albeit quiet, closing ceremony following a full program of screenings and panels.
So what happened? A few days after the closing, I met with artistic director Dong Bingfeng to ask him about that and other issues on censorship, film in China, and independent festivals in the future.
In an interesting turn of events, the Beijing Independent Film Festival concluded on Saturday without further interference from local authorities. Despite opening-day warnings that suggested cancellation was a distinct possibility, the festival continued to screen films every day at the Li Xianting Film Fund's office courtyard in Songzhuang Art District.
Whatever happens in the privacy of one's home is apparently not always private, especially if you're a notorious rabblerouser with 12 million followers on Sina Weibo.
Chinese American Charles Xue, aka Xue Biqun (and Xue Manzi on Weibo, an anti-trafficking and environmental adovcate), was captured in Beijing last Friday for soliciting a 22-year-old prostitute. That's hardly the end of the story though. In the past week, authorities have gleefully smeared him in public, including on, it seems, every CCTV news broadcast, emphasizing Xue's confession and his love for sex parties. LOCK HIM WITH THE PEDOPHILES!
Chinese American angel investor and Sina Weibo celebrity Charles Xue (a.k.a. Xue Manzi, with more than 12 million followers) has been detained in Beijing for "suspected involvement in prostitution," China News reported on Sunday.
On August 23, off the tip from a local resident, Chaoyang District police captured Xue along with a 22-year-old woman from Henan province in a residential compound, according to the official weibo of Beijing Public Security Office:
On Friday, the opening night of Cirque du Soleil's three-night performance of Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour in Beijing, a highly sensitive image was displayed on the giant big-screens above the stage in Wukesong MasterCard Arena: the Tiananmen Tank Man. As first reported by a local magazine, then excerpted by Shanghaiist:
Jimmy Wales, who was in Hong Kong over the weekend for the annual Wikimania conference, said some impolite things about Chinese Internet censorship. As reported by WSJ's Digits:
“We don’t approve of filtering, but there is nothing we can do to stop it,” he said.
On August 3 at 2:50 pm, the influential political blogger and journalist Michael Anti tweeted that Wall Street Journal's Chinese website, cn.wsj.com, had been blocked within China. That afternoon, after testing on multiple browsers, we emailed WSJ for a comment, then posted a story announcing WSJ Chinese had been harmonized, i.e. could only be accessible in China with a VPN.
Two hours ago, Kathy from Dow Jones's Hong Kong office emailed back:
Today, barbarians of the unruly and unruled Internet are less dangerous. Today, your sleep will be sounder, your dreams more colorful, your future freer. For today, Britain, you are one step closer to achieving China's harmony-promoting, children-protecting Net filtration system, which we lovingly refer to as the Great Firewall. And how great it is: no porn, because it can be eradicated like rats; no discussion of historical events, so as not to offend the sensibilities of certain mothers who would prefer to forget those things ever happened; no YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, New York Times, or Bloomberg, because screw 'em; and no dissent (and why would there be dissent?). Hadrian's Firewall, we'll call it. You'll love it, as we do.
Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, which has sources within Zhongnanhai, has apparently flown too close to the sun. It got scorched on Wednesday, with Sina, Tencent, NetEase, and Sohu all deleting the paper's microblog accounts. Reasons remain basically unknown.
Astrill wants its users to know it was the target of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack yesterday, and that they "are experiencing technical issues with our API servers," and are investigating, and "apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
Unfortunately, if you are in China and only use Astrill, it's unlikely you've gotten this message (unless you happened to see it on Reddit). Astrill's been tweeting, beginning with this 13 hours ago:
The above was posted to Sina Weibo recently and was, of course, deleted. If it doesn't seem like a picture that compares China's president to a chubby bear with a sweet tooth would be allowed to stand, it's because a picture that compares China's president to a chubby bear with a sweet tooth isn't allowed to stand, even if it's done in good fun (as the above obviously is). But as we've said before: censors don't like fun. (They prefer their jobs.)
Those wonderful viral marketers at Durex -- who were responsible for this ad that implied Barack Obama has a bigger penis than Mitt Romney -- sprinkled some photoshop magic to one particular photo of Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan that's been making the rounds.
In the original -- somewhat lampooned because China's First Lady is using an iPhone -- Xi Jinping definitely does not have a condom in his breast pocket.