Economic Observer Defends its Reporters

EDIT: Whoops! Wang Keqin works the China Economic Times, not the Economic Observer. And the EO has a better version of this in English here.

They sure know how to stir up trouble over at the Economic Observer. Home to Wang Keqin, the investigative reporter who has uncovered a wide variety of scandals (most recently, the tainted vaccines in Shaanxi), police in Zhejiang recently announced they’re seeking another Economic Observer reporter (Qiu Ziming) who is accused of defaming a company there.

Ever want to know how a Chinese newspaper takes it when the police start coming after one of their own? Wang Keqin posted a recent announcement to his blog that indicates the Economic Observer is, to put it lightly, not going to take this sitting down..

We will use legal measures to protect the right to investigate and report

  1. We are shocked at the online demand for the arrest of our reporter Qiu Ziming as his report on the Kan Specialty Material Co., Ltd. was quite normal. We are greatly concerned for Qiu and his family. Being a responsible part of the media, we adhere to standards of rationality and constructivism. We believe in objective and just reporting principles that should be followed by Qiu Ziming and all reporters.
  2. As a public company, Kan has a duty to publish accurate and complete data. The people have a right to know this information, just as the media has the legal right to supervise public opinion. In the process of reporting [on Kan], the relevant people and the reporter [i.e., Qiu] repeatedly received both bribe offers and threats. We vehemently condemn the attempts [of Kan] to try to use the government to stifle [the media’s legal right to report on and] supervise public opinion, and their threatening the safety of news workers.
  3. The local police organs are the controllers of government power, they should cautiously and legally enforce this power, and safeguard the rights of citizens.
  4. Our paper is in the process of appealing with the National News Publication Office and the Chinese Journalist’s association, and we call on those organs to protect the rights of reporters and news workers to investigate and to report, and to protect their personal safety.
  5. We thank the public and our media colleagues for their support of us and of our reporters. We will use every legal method available to defend our legal rights to investigate and report, while at the same time safeguarding a positive environment for public opinion.

The paper is also running a number of pieces about the situation in their commentary section.

New on ChinaGeeks

  1. There’s a new post on ChinaGeeks Chinese: 中国游说团的终结? Check it out, and please pass the link on to your Chinese friends. Also keep an eye out for @ChinaGeeksCN on Twitter.
  2. If you’re looking to study Chinese and are good enough already that you want to take a stab at reading the original text of what we translate, a clever poster who goes by phyrex over at Chinese Forums has created a pretty cool tool. Going here will take you to a mirrored version of the site where the original text appears in the post and the English translation follows it in a light color that’s difficult to see unless you highlight it. There are lots of options, and he has also made a version for chinaSMACK, so check out his thread for the full scoop, including RSS feeds and some customization ability. Thanks phyrex!

A Review of Han Han’s 《独唱团》

Han Han’s new literary magazine, 《独唱团》, has been out for nearly a month now. There’s been plenty of buzz, especially given the official media instructions not to publish stories about it. The Global Times, for example, ran only one piece, which focused mostly on criticism of the magazine, despite the fact that the critics they were quoting hadn’t actually read the magazine.

Criticizing something you haven’t actually read is, of course, quite stupid. But are they right? Is 《独唱团》really just a collection of hoodlums writing pseudo-literature? The answer is complicated.

Of course, I need to preface anything I write here with a big disclaimer: I am not at all qualified to make any real literary criticism of Chinese work. I don’t have the sense of tone that a native reader would, and besides, there were plenty of words in 《独唱团》I’d never seen before. And I don’t know much about art or photography, either Given that, I approached the magazine like a casual reader rather than someone setting out to review it. If I wasn’t enjoying a piece, I stopped reading it. So take everything that follows with a bucket of salt. Or two.

The best pieces in 《独唱团》shine. The first piece, “Green Trains,” by Zhou Yunpeng, is a compelling and vivid collection of moments on trains from the blind author’s life. And “A Male Qiu Ju Story” — the title is a reference to Zhang Yimou’s film The Story of Qiu Ju — is an enthralling exposition of how much red tape one must plunge through to get what they are owed sometimes. There’s not much there one couldn’t get from the film, but it’s well written and the author insists that it’s a true story. There’s something to be said for that.

Not that all the true stories were good. “Motorcycle Diary”, for example, appears to be mostly a vehicle for the author to brag to the masses about his immense wealth. Congratulations, buddy. You own some cars. Get over yourself.

The essays of the magazine fared less well than the stories, though I did enjoy “Where is the dirt in dirty words,” a rather tongue-in-cheek analysis of the unique ways that curses are constructed in colloquial Chinese speech. But several others bored me to the extent that I stopped reading halfway through.

The magazine’s most interesting conceit is a long piece called “Everyone asking everyone” that is exactly what it sounds like, random people asking questions of other random people. Questions vary wildly from the political and the literary to the intimately personal — the magazine features one annoyed girlfriend asking her beau when he’s finally going to marry her. “When we have money,” he said. “And next time, we can just talk about this between the two of us, there’s no need to have some magazine representing and asking the question for you.” The political questions tend to go nowhere, as the “answers” are usually prefab rejection letters from whichever political institution is being questioned. As far as politics go, the magazine is pretty tame when compared to Han Han’s blog. (Compared to some of the things Ai Weiwei says, it might as well be the People’s Daily).

If anybody “won” 《独唱团》 it’s the photographers, whose work is almost all excellent. Ai Weiwei’s x-ray of his brain is in there — a piece we posted way back when it was medical documentation and not art — but better work comes from others. Yan Ming’s photo essay “My Wharf” starts with a striking shot of a man wading out into the misty gray of open water, his gaze and his swim trunks both fixed higher than one would expect (see photograph above).

The other art is mostly interesting too, although one of the comics (“Milk Rivulet”) is pretty juvenile. The magazine is closed out by a graphic short called “The Darkness Outside Night” that paints a simple but tragic story with evocative watercolor textures that recall more traditional Chinese painting styles without aping them. The first frame of the story is beautiful enough that I would buy a large poster of it and have it framed if I could (see image at left).

I have, until now, ignored the reason anyone read this magazine in the first place. It is, after all, Han Han behind the wheel. How does his piece, “I want to chat with society”, hold up?

Badly. We have mentioned the sexism that occasionally plagues Han Han’s writing before, but it comes into sharp focus in his full length piece for 《独唱团》. In it, Han Han describes an encounter with a prostitute named Shan Shan. Her appearance is “very average”, but he lets her into his hotel room because the door doesn’t have a peephole and he’s feeling adventurous (generally, he says, he always checks first because what if he opens the door and there is “a pig” standing there?). Of course, he fucks her, but one gets the impression he’s doing the whole thing ironically — using her on multiple levels at the same time. Later, he asks her to stand in front of the light coming in from a window so that he can sleep, and when she springs into action, he thinks to himself, “this whore will do anything for money.” Later, she tells him she’s only willing to do anything because she is pregnant, doesn’t know who the father is, and needs to save money to raise the child. Immediately Han Han tells her to stop standing and get some rest. What a hero! No, wait, I meant the other thing. Jackass.

Granted, it’s fiction (one hopes), and the story goes on from there, but there are similar strains in his introduction to the magazine, where he writes “…so that’s what the world is like; men change the world, and women change men’s viewpoints.” The poor guy just can’t help himself. We’ve seen hints of it before, but as they begin to pile up, will his female fan base begin to erode?

Probably not. The man is young, rich, attractive, and he drives race cars.

Still, his piece was enough to put me off of the whole magazine a bit. I’ll buy the next issue when it comes out — if it’s anything like this one, we can expect it sometime in the fall of 2011 — and I’m sure it will be good. Just like this issue. Good, but not great. Here’s hoping that Han Han finds the right woman between now and then, and that she smacks some sense into him.

After all, isn’t that what Shanghai women do best?

Li Yinhe on Nudity in Art and Society

The following post is a translation of this blog post written by China’s foremost sexologist, Li Yinhe.

An important note. In the piece, Li Yinhe uses the term 性 repeatedly. I’ve translated it as “sex”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean “sexual intercourse” so much as it means the more general nature of physical sexes, the differences between men and women, it. Of course, it can also just mean sexual intercourse, but in some places here Li Yinhe is talking about more than that.

Yang Linchuan


I really admire Yang Linchuan’s activities; he’s a courageous and knowledgeable artist who has truly become a model for the modern Chinese man.

From Liu Haisu‘s nude sketches at the Shanghai school of Fine Arts starting in 1914 and up through the collected nude works of Tang Jiali a few years ago, the issue of nude models in art has been rattling around China for 96 years–now it’s a new century and we still haven’t figured it out! This issue even bothered Chairman Mao enough to write memos on it twice (1965 and 1967). In 1983 a group od art students were arrested for spreading [works with nudity] around, and in 1986 a nude model who went home to the countryside to visit relatives was driven mad by the townspeople there. Even the beautiful and pure Yang Jiali, living in the twenty-first century, is often driven to tears.

What is so terrible about the human body? Is it really that ugly, dirty, and obscene? Why can’t bodies be beautiful? The old saying goes: when looking at the same thing, the benevolent see benevolence, the wise see wisdom. We ought to add a like: the perverted see perversion. Looking at an aesthetically pleasing piece of body art taken by an expert photographer, most people see beauty. But people with darkness in their hearts can’t see the beauty, all they see is obscenity. This makes them shy, which makes them suspicious, which makes them angry. This doesn’t mean the work itself is flawed, it shows that the viewer is flawed, and even that their mentality is gloomy, vulgar, distorted, and perverted.

Chinese culture over the past thousand years, and especially over the past few hundred, is truly distorted, perverted, and stupid when it comes to anything involving sex. After 1840, ancient China’s strengths began to weaken in all areas when compared to the West, and a poor, weak, and suffering country came into the light of the world stage. In what was once a country with a glorious five thousand years of history, people were suddenly suffering, poor, and upset. Life is short; living life in a country like that was painful. In such a society, the beauty of the human body and sex were luxuries. Beauty was not something people demanded, and they didn’t pay attention to whether or not they had the happiness that beauty and sex can bring.

I was once touched greatly by an event, something that happened at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. An ordinary Chinese scholar got a pass to visit the US. His trip was set to cover only the eastern US, but as it was widely known within China that Las Vegas was widely known as a city of gambling and sex shows, he took out a sum of money entirely disproportionate to his meager salary and took the long trip just to see a performance. This just shows how the beauty of the body and of sex suppressed to such a degree in China, so much so that people would think doing something as absurd as this was worth it. From this, I could feel just how pathetic and suppressed Chinese people were, going to the other side of the earth and paying huge sums of money just to satisfy the natural desires of our sensory organs. Yang Linchuan was just an accidental model who naturally fell into the position of using his body in the place of a model’s. But his showing this much respect for his artists’ work didn’t attract praise, instead it caused a great uproar. Does China actually want art or not? Does it want to enjoy sensory pleasures? Why is it that something that’s enjoy by cultured people all over the world encounter such abnormal restraint in China? Must Chinese people always live this pitifully?

Chinese people have always believed that food and drink and the desires of men and women are fundamental. Chinese people who’ve resolved the issue of food and drink and satisfied their sexual desires will be happy. Satisfying the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, body and other sense organs will go a step further towards spiritual happiness. Chinese people can abandon the sickness that’s plagued us the past hundred-odd years, and use health and happiness as the basis for a new emergence into the world. The Yang Linchuan incident makes me feel pessimistic about this, but I still have a basically optimistic view about the Chinese people’s chances to be happy in the future. I think that most people in China see this stuff the same way that I do, but that’s just my optimistic outlook.


One wonders what Li Yinhe thinks of the fact that some pornographic websites are now unblocked in China. Given that Yang Linchuan posed nude only last week, perhaps this is another case of one step forward, one step back when it comes to opening up Chinese culture. My own views on pornography are public, of course, but even if you don’t agree, China’s odd occasional aversion to nude models in art is a bit more difficult to explain.

At least, most of the time. Sometimes, it’s pretty understandable.

Is “Character Amnesia” a Problem?

Via ESWN, I came across Victor Mair’s most recent Language Log post earlier this afternoon. It deals with what Mair calls “character amnesia”, the phenomenon of Chinese people forgetting how to write the characters for commonly spoken words by hand. This, Dr. Mair asserts, is “a big problem”.

Before going further, I should make it clear that I have nothing but respect for Dr. Mair’s scholarship. His translation of the Zhuangzi is one of my favorites, and as a star-struck undergraduate, I even met him he came and gave a guest lecture to a small seminar class I was taking on Daoism. I feel quite certain that he doesn’t remember me — why would he — but I was impressed by the incredible breadth and depth of his knowledge.

That said, I completely disagree with Mair’s take on “character amnesia”. Let’s go to the videotape:

Pessimists and alarmists have long been lamenting the negative impact of computers upon the ability of Chinese to write characters by hand. See, for example, Jennifer 8. Lee‘s article entitled “In China, Computer Use Erodes Traditional Handwriting, Stirring a Cultural Debate” in the Technology section of the New York Times for February 1, 2001.

If the situation was bad already a decade ago, it is far more grave now that short text messaging is so wildly popular. In “China worries about losing its character(s),” Los Angeles Times (July 12, 2010), Barbara Demick provides graphic evidence of the starkly diminishing powers of supposedly literate Chinese to produce many characters that are essential for daily usage.

Certainly, most students of Chinese have witnessed occasions when Chinese friends (or even teachers) had to pull out their phones to check a character or two before writing them down. But is this a huge problem? Skipping ahead a bit in Mair’s piece:

Demick’s article ends thus:

“It will take a lot of effort to preserve our Chinese characters. It is the same way they try to preserve these old hutongs,” said Zhu Linfei, 24, a Beijing graduate student, referring to the traditional Beijing alleys, now rapidly succumbing to the wrecking ball.

Zhu, who was touring the old bookstores of Liulichang with her classmates to buy calligraphy books, estimated that she had already forgotten about 20% of the characters she knew in high school.

“But it’s not such a big problem,” she said. “If I don’t know a character, I take out my cellphone to check.”

Zhu Linfei is mistaken. It is a big problem that she cannot write 20% of the characters she knew just 5 or 6 years earlier. By relying on her cellphone to check those characters she can’t recall, that percentage will increase with each passing year. Furthermore, every time Zhu Linfei has to stop to take out her cellphone crutch to remind her how to write a character, she is wasting time, and that in itself is a problem.

While Mair may be right that if she keeps using her phone, she’s likely to keep losing characters, it strikes me as a bit presumptuous of him to suggest that something she doesn’t think is a problem in her own life actually is one. His point seems to be twofold. First, her reliance on her phone will cause her to lose more characters as time passes; second, her reliance on her phone wastes time.

In response to the first point, he’s probably right, but only up to a point. Some characters are used frequently enough that it’s nearly impossible to forget them. No matter how often she uses her phone, Ms. Zhu is never going to forget “我” or “是” or “晚上”. Why? These, and a lot of other characters, are things she probably has cause to write by hand at least once or twice a week. “噴嚏” (sneeze, an example Mair borrows from an article by David Moser), on the other hand, is probably not something she has to write often by hand. When was the last time, after all, that you wrote “sneeze” by hand in English? Can you remember a time when you needed to do that?

I would suggest that all the characters a person need to be able to hand-write for frequent, practical use are not going to be lost to this process. While Ms. Zhu may continue to forget how to handwrite characters she learned in high school, the decline will not be constant. At some point, she will have forgotten how to hand-write everything save what she frequently uses when writing things by hand. When she has occasion to write a less common word by hand, she will look it up on her phone. Where is the problem here?

Mair’s second point is that using the phone to look up characters is a waste of time, and it certainly does take time. For each character Ms. Zhu forgets, it will probably take her between 2 and 15 seconds to check on her phone, depending on the model of phone she has and whether or not it’s in her pocket or purse when she realizes she needs it. How often does this happen? I have no scientific data, but given how infreuently one is even required by circumstances to write by hand these days, I suspect it happens at most once or twice a day, and more likely significantly less often than that.

But, coming back to an earlier part of Mair’s piece,

Because of their complexity and multiplicity, writing Chinese characters correctly is a highly neuromuscular task. One simply has to practice them hundreds and hundreds of times to master them. And, as with playing a musical instrument like a violin or a piano, one must practice writing them regularly or one’s control over them will simply evaporate.

That, it strikes me, requires an awful lot more of a time commitment than occasionally pulling out a phone to check a character you’ve forgotten. So why is that not a waste of time when checking on a phone, which takes way less time, apparently is?

Computers, cellphones, smartphones, and all other such electronic gadgets are wonderful tools for communication, but they all exacerbate the predicament of declining ability to write characters among the Chinese population, and they are hastening reliance on alphabetical access to literacy, instead of a direct approach through the 11 or so basic strokes, the 200 or so radicals, and the 850 or so phonetic components. Are these worrisome trends? Can anything be done to stanch the hemorrhaging of active character proficiency at the hands of cellphones and computers? Finally, is romanization inevitable? That is a question to which I shall return in a future post.

While I look forward to Mair’s future post, it seems pretty clear what his take on the subject is, even if he doesn’t want to come out and say it. “Hemorrhaging” is rarely a good thing. And Mair has already told us he thinks that forgetting characters and relying on computers is “a big problem”. He also compares the “character amnesia” to aphasia, a linguistic disability that is caused by brain damage. And one of his comments in the lengthy and worthwhile discussion on the site sheds even more light on his position:

One of my very best friends in China, Xu Wenkan, a senior editor of the Hanyu Da Cidian (China’s equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary) knows how to write Chinese texts on a computer or a cell phone, but he almost never does so. Instead, he writes everything out by hand. If he needs to submit a manuscript somewhere, he can always hire a WUBI drone who will do the typing cheaply and thoughtlessly. When he sends me messages, he always writes them out longhand (and a very beautiful, exacting hand it is) on a piece of paper. In the past he would fax the messages to me, but now he scans them as a pdf and attaches them to an e-mail that has just these words:


Please to read the attachment.


It was a conscious decision on Mr. Xu’s part NOT to type things with a computer so that he would retain his wonderful ability to write by hand. It is sort of like the samurai Giving up the Gun [: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879 — Noel Perrin’s great book] or Middle Easterners rejecting the wheel in favor of their tried and true ship of the desert, the camel (see Richard Bulliet’s seminal social history on that topic).

That Mr. Xu has opted to maintain his handwriting by forgoing modern technology (or hiring “drones” to do his typing) is perfectly fine. And I can imagine how nice it must be, especially for a linguist, to receive emails written by hand. But it seems rather romantic, and frankly also pretty absurd, to expect most Chinese people to “give up the wheel” like Middle Easterners did ((I also don’t think that’s a very apt analogy, but admittedly I haven’t read Bulliet’s book so I won’t argue the point.)). Surely Dr. Mair is aware that most Chinese people do not have the time or the money to “hire drones” whenever they are required to type something. And even if they did, it’s would be a colossal waste of time.

The idea that China is a country full of people who write beautiful, fluid literature in characters without a second thought is a romantic fantasy, and it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect Chinese people to dedicate massive amounts of time to maintaining an “educated”-level vocabulary of characters so well that they can be written by hand. Those like Mr. Xu who feel that approach serves them are certainly welcome to practice writing by hand often, and I applaud them, but given the social and financial pressures that exist for most people in China, not being able to write “sneeze” isn’t “a big problem.” In fact, given that nearly everyone has a cellphone, it really isn’t a problem at all.

New on ChinaGeeks

Of course, if you can’t follow those links because of the GFW, it might be time to arm yourself with some kind of VPN.

Guest Post: How Chinese Intellectuals Perceive the Tibet Issue

The following is a guest post and translation by Mindy Zhang. Obviously, as the original email was just private correspondence, the professor was just making some basic points, not writing something he expected to be published. Accordingly, we will not publish his name, the name of his university, and the original Chinese text will not be available for this article.

However, readers should be aware that the author of the email is a major figure in the study of International Relations in China.

Two years ago, when I was in D.C and saw some Tibet activists in person, I found myself utterly ignorant of the issue, and I wrote an email to a professor in my college. He replied in length. The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend from Britain, who was very curious about China’s Three-T issues and his question reminded me of this email. So, I decided to pluck it from my personal mailbox and translate it into English.


  1. Here is my opinion: what makes Tibet an issue is mainly that some Tibetans, backed by strong international factors, are seeking independence. There have been two major independence-seeking/Anti-Han movements, one happened during the Revolution of 1911, when the British attempted to negotiate with central government (ROC) as a representative of Tibet. The other occurred in 1949, also supported by the British, along with some Indian intervention. It failed and the DL, as a local delegate, signed the Seventeen Point Agreement with the central government (PRC). The 1959 riot was backed up by the CIA and India. Most of westerners’
    essential knowledge of Tibet is mainly from propaganda by Britain and U.S. One particular case in point is that the 1959 suppression was often distorted as an invasion (at least, some westerners I knew consider it as an act of invasion). The Seventeen Point Agreement, which had a clear regulation of Tibet’s autonomous status and its relations with central government, is barely mentioned in books published in western world.
  2. The management of Tibet since 1949 was based on autonomous system and the Seventeen Point Agreement until 1959. Some major changes then were made and the traditional theocracy was completely abolished. The cause of the 1959 uprising can be partially explained by land reforms and ownership reforms implemented in some Tibetan-inhabited areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. However, those reformed areas has nothing to do with the Tibet Autonomous Region, where the DL was in charge. That being said, the central government did not necessarily break the Seventeen Point Agreement. Some Tibetan separatists and Americans took advantage of this situation, but it doesn’t make any sense that some [regular] Tibetans did the same thing. (The ultra-Leftist trend during cultural revolution was also a contributing factor to their resentment)
  3. Personally speaking, the current situation is not fully an outcome of central
    government’s religious and ethnic Policy. There is indeed a substantial force in Tibet wishing for secession from China. There is no problem with central government’s policies after the reforms and opening up period; in fact, I personally feel like Tibetans have been quite favored, making some lamas feel they can act above the law. Insurgences like this happened before, in 1987 and 1989. The pattern is quite similar——demonstration, still unhappy, violence in use, suppression.
  4. The whole thing is for sure deliberately plotted and prepared. First, peaceful demonstration (March.10th), violence next (13rd), then there comes the Olympic torch relay. The perfect timing and media’s one-sided response are not a coincidence. I am not suggesting here that it was plotted by a specific government; the international community is increasingly complicated as
    globalization evolves. All the above is just my personal judgment, it would take time to verify.
  5. In regard to western media, they interpret theTibet issue based on their own perceptions, which is a problem that will take time to solve and might be insolvable. Don’t take their comments seriously and let them make noise. The more attention you pay, the more swelled their heads will be. Some Chinese care too much about their comments/evaluation, thus giving them a sense of superiority. Also, media itself is amplifier capable of making a simple word into big news. Those trouble-makers are not a big deal. The Beijing Olympics will work out regardless of all kinds of resistance. Hard-working Chinese athletes will get more golden medals if some western ones are absent [because their nations choose to boycott], and some reception fees, i.e. taxpayers’ money, will be saved if some of them choose not to attend the opening ceremony. The world is a big place; each of us is just utterly insignificant.
  6. Check out Prof. Zhang Zhirong’s International Relations and the Tibet issue (《国际关系与西藏问题》). Tibet is not my specialization and the latest research is not something I am aware of. I have been studying in the international sphere for years and my personal experience is westerners are unaware of many issues. Explain to them if you were in a good position, if not, just forget it. Young people will change as you grow up. The way of displaying patriotism varies from person to person, some are impulsive and some restrained. In all, try to make yourself high-minded. Your upbringing/character also matters, because sometimes you are being judged not just as an individual but as a Chinese.

Tainted Vaccine “Protesters” Beaten, Bones Fractured

Yet another depressing moment in the saga of the families who came to Beijing looking for compensation from the Ministry of Health after their children where harmed by tainted vaccines. Shortly after their first protest, Wang reported via his blog, they were arrested, but were subsequently released and apparently went to protest again yesterday. The results were more dire this time:

When the nine parents of tainted vaccine victims were outside the Ministry of Health appealing for an audience with higher-ups on the morning of the 19th, they were beaten quite severely by a group of people wearing the uniforms of the Public Security Bureau. Of the nine, four suffered serious injury, and Yang Yukui of Liaoning province suffered six fractured ribs on his right side and a fractured little finger on his right hand.

The parents were chained together to prevent being dragged off separately, which made it impossible for them to flee their attackers. After being beaten, the group was locked away and at present has not been allowed to seek medical treatment:

At present, […] the parents are locked in a guarded room in a police substation on Zhanlan Rd. The police there have continually refused to allow them to go to the hospital to receive medical treatment. They have already been locked up for more than 15 hours. Please, everyone, pay attention and lend your support!

The volunteer lawyer I found is already on his way to help.

The Ministry of Health falls under the jurisdiction of the Zhanlan Road police substation. The substation number is 010-68351158, the cell phone number of one of the parents (Yi Wenlong) is 13903572625.

I have posted this news via my microblog five times, but each time it has been harmonized.

In case you’re wondering what their banners say, the first photo reads “Pay attention to the victims of [tainted] vaccines.” The second reads “Pay attention to the interests of all children ((the first line is partially obscured, so I’m guessing a bit here)), [we’re] seeking an explanation from the Ministry of Health on behalf of the children who were victims of vaccines.” On the bottom of the piece of cardboard is a list of the places the various parents are from.

We reported previously on the arrest of Gao Zhanghong, China’s “unluckiest father”, whose two sons fell victim to tainted vaccines and the Sanlu milk powder contamination scandal, respectively. However, it was not clear from the circumstances to exactly how Gao’s arrest related to the vaccine and melamine issues.

Han Han’s Literary Magazine

If you’re wondering why Han Han’s blog hasn’t updated in nearly a month, here’s the probable reason. His literary magazine, 《独唱团》was recently released. You may not be aware of this because, according to this report quoted in the China Digital Times ((CDT is reason enough alone to hit up Freedur for a proxy.)), the media is not allowed to report on it or interview people about it.

Nevertheless, people were buzzing around Beijing when it was released earlier this month, and if bookstores are any indication, it’s selling quite well, as many have it displayed front and center in their literature sections or laid out in stacks with other featured new releases. I picked up a copy from such a stack yesterday and have begun to work my way through it. At my current rate of speed, you can expect my full review of the magazine to be hitting the internet sometime this October.

The magazine appears to be titled “Party” in English; perhaps a tongue-in-cheek shot at the authorities for having caused him so much trouble, forcing him to re-title the magazine and then later redo the cover as well.

The magazine — whose title might be loosely translated as “Solo Chorus” in English — now features an elegant brown cover with the title in the top left and the contents written across the bottom, ending with the price, 16 RMB.

I’ll leave any commentary on its contents for later, as I haven’t finished reading it yet. But if what I’ve read so far is any indication, it’s worth your 16元 if you’re the sort of person who enjoys short stories, occasional irreverence, and some very beautiful photographs.

The More Things Change on the Chinese Internet…

…the more they stay the same. This has been an interesting week for the internet in China. First came the news — not surprising to anyone, probably — that China’s internet user base continues to grow, and reached 420 million in June. Then came the Beijing Daily report sounding the death-knell for Green Dam censorship and monitoring software that was going to be required on all computers sold in China before netizen complaints forced Beijing to back down. The news that the company behind Green Dam is belly-up (and that the government is no longer supporting it) might seem like cause for a little celebratory grave-dancing, if some less terrible things hadn’t also happened this week.

Microblogs nationwide went down, and when they came back up, they had all slapped “Beta” on to their logos. Slowly, netizens are discovering what that means. We reported yesterday that Sina’s weibo service no longer allows links to any foreign websites (blocked or not). Danwei reported ((Can’t load Danwei because of the effin’ GFW? Try Freedur.)) today that at least one person has discovered his name is now a “sensitive word” on Sina. What’s worse, the stepped-up censorship doesn’t seem limited to blogs.

Renowned lawyer and blogger Liu Xiaoyuan posted his own story of Sohu’s censorship to his Sohu and Sina blogs today:

In March of 2007, Sohu started to block and hide some of my blog posts. I got fed up with it and on August 16, 2007, filed a lawsuit with the Haidian district People’s Court. After nearly a year and two trials, both of my suits ((The second, presumably, was an appeal of the decision on the first suit; Liu does not go into any detail about this though.)) were rejected. If even the People’s Court sees but does not care about the violation of a citizen’s right to free speech, what could I do?

My blog posts continued to be blocked and hidden. Especially during the period of Yang Jia‘s case, a large number of posts were “purged”, but I had already become numb to it.

On July 28, 2009, I had been writing on my Sohu blog for more than three years. That day was the first time my blog was forcibly closed. They didn’t tell me anything [about why the blog was suddenly closed]. So fine, if you won’t tell me anything, then I will tell you something! I immediately registered another Sohu blog and gave Sohu a piece of my mind.

I never thought that this blog would be killed on July 12, 2010, before it had even reached one year of age. On the 13th, I opened another Sohu blog, but it only lived for a single day and was “assassinated” on the 14th.

I’ve said before, the best wat to protest when they close your blog is to open another. [I’ve opened another blog,] I really don’t know how long this one will survive.

Open your own blogs, let other people worry about closing them!

Within a few minutes, that post had been deleted from his Sohu blog, although it remains on his Sina blog, at least for the time being ((Although Sina also deletes specific posts of Liu’s on a fairly regular basis, as Liu often posts lists of the titles of recent posts of his that have been deleted.)). His Sohu blog now consists of a single brief post, entitled “Sohu moves so fast”:

Today, I opened a new Sohu blog and my first post [the post translated above] was deleted within five minutes. Sohu, Sohu, when did you become such cowards?

Green Dam may be dead, but censorship is clearly alive and well on the Chinese internet. Stepped up censorship from domestic portals (both microblogging and real blogging portals) is definitely a grave sign. On the other hand, there’s a chance the push could trigger a push back from netizens, just as the Green Dam software initiative did. Only time will tell, but feel free to speculate with me in the comments in the meantime.

You can also follow Liu Xiaoyuan via his Twitter.

Domestic Microblogs Cut Off from the Outside World

First there was what seemed to be a surprising amount of freedom on the Chinese microblogging sites that leapt up in the absence of Twitter and Fanfou. Then, this week ((Can’t see this story? Break through the GFW with a VPN from Freedur)), the four biggest microblogging services suddenly added “beta” tags to their logos, prompting Chinese users to collectively groan and brace for impact.

That impact has come, at least on Sina’s Weibo service. Links to any website outside China are now blocked. Reports of this new policy spread this afternoon via Twitter, and having tested it ourselves, we can confirm that it is true. As you can see from our Sina Weibo, we attempted to post five links. The first four were to innocuous and unblocked websites outside China, including a New York Times article and the Geico Insurance Company website. All four were converted into shortened links automatically, and when clicked, they returned only an error message. However, when we tested a fifth time using a domestic link (, the shortened URL worked fine and we were directed to the Youku.

So anything — anything — that isn’t on a Chinese website can no longer be linked via Sina Weibo. I’m not even going to comment on this one. Will it push more Chinese internet users outside the GFW in search of a microblogging experience that doesn’t pretend half of the internet doesn’t exist? Who knows.

Of course, as it means we can no longer post links to our blog (which is hosted outside China), we will no longer be using the service.

The Educated Elite and the Communist Party’s Future

“I have no faith in the Party,” Ms. Liu ((This name, and all the other names in this piece, have been changed. Although some of the people I spoke with were willing to speak on the record, I saw no reason to put their names on the internet for a piece that’s ultimately just anecdotal anyway.)) told me. “I don’t believe in anything in the history textbooks. It’s all lies.”

This would hardly be remarkable, except that Ms. Liu is herself a Party member, and has been for several years. She is, in point of fact, the Party’s future: young, extremely bright, well-educated (Ms. Liu attended one of China’s top three universities and is now pursuing graduate study there), and politically-inclined (she has studied international relations extensively). But while she had good things to say about Marx and Engels — “good ideas,” she put it — she expressed little love for the Party, at least as it currently exists. Nor does she have any nostalgia for the CCP’s past. When our discussion moved to history, the first thing she mentioned was that she was disgusted by how Mao and other CCP leaders had allowed themselves extra rations in Yan’an because they were leaders.

Why even bother joining the Party, then? “Most people [today] join the Party because it will give you an edge in your future career,” Liu told me. “Few” believe in the Party ideals; Liu said that among young people in elite circles, the few who spouted dogma were often mocked and ostracized. Liu herself was forced to join by her mother, who felt it would be good for her career. “My mother wrote the whole application for me,” she said.

When I spoke with other young Party members at top ten universities, I heard similar stories. Ms. Zhang ((again, not her real name)), also a graduate student at an elite Chinese university and a Party member for two years, was nonplussed when I asked her if she believed in the Party ideology. “Actually, I’ve never thought about that before,” she said.

Ms. Zhang has more faith in the Party than Ms. Liu, but perhaps only because she is more optimistic. She does have faith, she said, “because the Party will be full of younger members like us, well-educated and more open-minded…if they join the Party, I believe the Party will get better, and more democratic.”

Ms. Zhang said that her social circle was very similar to Ms. Liu’s. “Almost everyone in my classes [is a Party member],” she said, but “actually we don’t have any kind of special feeling towards the Party. We’re not like the old generation who had passion about it. For us, [joining the Party] is more like a tradition. It doesn’t really change who we are.”

Why are young people joining the Party? To build connections and help get jobs: everyone I spoke with agreed on this. “Or to flow with the tide,” Ms. Zhang added. What is the future of a political party whose members aren’t interested in its politics? What is the future of a country controlled by such a party?

Ms. Zhang, for one, was optimistic about the future. In forty years when her generation is controlling the Party, she said, “It will be much better. More democratic, for sure.” And while she doesn’t see national elections or anything that drastic happening too soon, she did tell me that “more and more people I know are joining other parties. [The people I know joining other parties are] around 30 to 40 years old […] I think this happens because [some] people are more concerned with their political rights,” she said, “or because their own choice matters a lot.”

Of course, if you want to work within the government in any real capacity, you still need to be a Party member. Liu and Zhang both expressed the hopes that their membership would help them find positions in government if they chose that route (neither has decided on a career as of yet).

“Why we joined the Party is not important,” Zhang told me. “What matters is what we do after this. And that “what” is not something we learned from the Party, it comes from the whole educational system and our social influences.”

Note: In addition to changing the names of the people I quoted, I have also in some instances altered their words slightly to correct for grammar mistakes (as parts of both interviews were conducted in English).

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