Sunday, December 2, 2012

Relevant Reading from November 2012 - GFW, Chongqing Speech Prosecutions, Andrea Yu

On November 7, 2012, the Wall Street Journal wrote in "Why Using the Internet in China is So Frustrating These Days":
Data from CloudFlare Inc., a company that provides web performance and security services for hundreds of thousands of websites, confirms that Internet users inside China are not just imagining things. CloudFlare Chief Executive Matthew Prince said the company’s engineers and consumers have reported increased difficulties with traffic out of China beginning at the end of August. 
Mr. Prince added that the blocks didn’t appear to fit any specific pattern, saying that both foreign sites and domestic Chinese sites experienced blockage problems. 
Foreigners and a savvy minority of Chinese Internet users have typically gotten around blocks of Western sites like Facebook and Youtube with VPNs, which form an encrypted link to a server outside of the country, thereby directing traffic around China’s Internet filters. But in recent weeks VPNs as well have been targeted, with two separate VPN companies telling China Real Time that they have noticed an uptick in blockages and interferences. 
A spokesman for Witopia said the recent disruption is “one of the most severe” the company had ever seen. 
“We’ve been in this business for almost eight years and have had customers in China since the beginning. The Chinese government definitely reminds us now and again that they ultimately control their part of the Internet, and disruptions definitely increase surrounding political events,” he added.
In November several state-sponsored media outlets questioned the use of re-education through labor in certain cases implicating the right to free speech. In "Speech Crime Cases in Chongqing" the Economic Observer noted the following cases:
The case of Fang Hong (方洪) is a classic example of the recent spate of “speech crime” sentences that have been overturned.
. . . .
At 9.30am on Apr 22, 2011, Fang posted a comment to Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging website that is similar to Twitter, from his Fang Zhusun (方竹笋) account. The comment was in relation to the case of Li Zhuang (李庄), a lawyer that had become entangled in Chongqing’s crackdown on organized crime, which was the focus of much attention at that time.
. . . .
[T]wo days later Fang was visited by two police officers who took him to the local police station for questioning.
After questioning, the Fuling (涪陵) District public security sub-bureau decided to hold him for 10 days of “administrative detention”. This decision was later revoked. However, on the same day, Fang was told that he was to be sentenced to re-education through labor.
. . . .
In October 2009, Peng Hong (彭洪) was handed a two-year re-education through labor sentence for libel after he forwarded a cartoon that presented Wen Qiang (文强), the former director of the Chongqing Municipal Judicial Bureau, as an “umbrella” for criminal gangs on the Tianya website. Peng also included a short innocuous comment – “what a strange umbrella!”  (这把伞好怪哦).
. . . .
Ren Jianyu (任建宇) was sentenced to two years re-education through labor on Aug 18, 2011 for spreading a large number of negative comments about the party and the government and the people who were in charge of Chongqing at the time.
Regarding the Ren Jianyu case, Fan Zhengwei (范正伟) wrote in an editorial entitled "The System Should Keep Pace With the Times" (制度供给应跟上时代脚步) in the People's Daily:
Clarity can be achieved only through understanding, justice can be achieved only through accountability. Ren Jianyu's freedom may be restored now, but there has yet to be any clear explanationas to why he lost his freedom. If one is to say that Ren Jianyu was suspected of committing the crime of "critical speech,"then was it reasonable for relevant agencies to use the re-education through labor system to restrict his personal freedom for a year when the procurotorate did not believe he had committed any crime? Given the background of the nation having repeatedly reaffirmed citizens' right to know, right to participate, right to express, and right to oversee, how do we avoid having citizens' basic rights be threatened with criminalization? Even if citizens' abuse their right to expression in violation of the law, do administrative agencies have the right to unilaterally reexamine a case and pass judgment?
For more on the Peng Hong case, see -

On November 15, 2012, Han Lei published an opinion piece in the China Daily entitled "Reporter's Log: Thoughts on Welcome Questions From Abroad." Some excerpts:
My initial disappointment at not being given the chance to ask a question at a news conference on the sidelines of the 18th Party Congress on Sunday was soon forgotten.
It was good to see five of the eight opportunities to do so going to overseas journalists, which, as I see it, is a sign that Chinese officials are becoming more confident and comfortable in dealing with them.
Among the five was Andrea Yu from Australia, who has become something of a celebrity among her peers at the congress and in cyberspace, earning herself the nickname "sister of questions".
Yu had the chance to ask questions at two out of four news conferences planned for the congress. . . .
Her case is just one example of the growing confidence among Party officials in facing up to the outside world, or to be more specific, in answering sharp questions.
Stephen McDonell of the Australian ABC had a chance to interview Andrea Yu about her good luck. Some excerpts:
Apart from Taiwan, the only question that Zhang Ping took from a foreign 'reporter' was from Andrea Yu of CAMG.
Did she ask if China was happy with the price it was paying for Australian iron ore? Did she ask if Chinese companies were satisfied with the restrictions placed on them investing in Australia?
No - this was her question.
ANDREA YU: Mr Zhang, please tell us what policies and plans the Chinese government will be implementing in cooperation with Australia.
. . . .
STEPHEN MCDONELL: Is it a little disingenuous for you to be up here I suppose with the appearance of being an independent international journalist when really you're working for a Chinese company?
ANDREA YU: Yes, that's a good question. It is interesting, and a lot of people have asked me about that. The fact is, I chose to be employed by them, and I'm representing their company.
So when I ask questions in press conferences and anything like that, I'm representing the company as well as representing Australia.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: The company though, it's controlled from Beijing, right?
ANDREA YU: Ah, well we do have a head office in Melbourne, so…
STEPHEN MCDONELL: The majority shareholding is from Beijing - that's right, isn't it?
ANDREA YU: Ah, yes, yes that's true.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: And is that from the Chinese government, Chinese government companies?
ANDREA YU: We have a partnership with CRI, Chinese Radio International, which does have a fairly large connection to the government, yes.
. . . .
STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well maybe I could ask you this way - it's not a coincidence that they keep choosing you to ask questions at the press conferences, is it.
ANDREA YU: I don't think I would say that it's not a coincidence because they had already asked me the previous day.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: Because they know they're going to get an easy question from you, though, don't they?
ANDREA YU: I think that's part of it, yes.