Saturday, June 18, 2022

Another Civil Rights Law Firm Shuttered - Daoheng

If one looks at the first two decades of the 21st century, the three PRC law firms that had the strongest track records for defending civil rights were (in no particular order): Fengrui, Daoheng, and Mo Shaoping.

Fengrui was the primary target of the 7.09 crackdown, and many of its lawyers/employees were imprisoned by the PRC government on subversion/inciting charges, based mainly on their writings/meetings/organizing connected to high profile civil rights cases. I have an entire section of my casebook - "State Prosecutions of Speech in the People's Republic of China" - devoted to those prosecutions. Its available as a free PDF download on my website here - https://www.feichangdao.com/publications/state-prosecutions-vol-1

Yesterday, Liang Xiaojun, formerly lawyer at the Daoheng Law Firm, tweeted that the Daoheng Law Firm has also been shuttered - https://twitter.com/liangxiaojun/status/1537069973713084416

Here is a translation of @liangxiaojun's post about the PRC government's revoking the Daoheng Law Firm's operating license.
Today, a former colleague sent the decision of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice to cancel the Daoheng Firm.

After my license was suspended, my colleagues tried to keep the law firm going. But whether they tried to add a partner or transform it into a private firm, the Bureau of Justice would not agree. Now with the cancellation, the remaining lawyers can only transfer or set up a new law firm.

We have always known that this small law firm is like a boat in the ocean. Although it carries our life and dreams, it was almost inevitable that it would capsize.

This world will never see another Daoheng Firm, and I will spend my remaining years unanchored and unmoored.
Daoheng and Liang Xiaojun appear in several places in "State Prosecutions":

  • Liang was one of the lawyers who defended Chen Wei in 2011. A PRC court imprisoned Chen Wei for nine years for subversion for publishing statements on the Internet such as "The people have been deprived of their ideology and belief," and "The entire Communist Party of China utilizes violent mechanisms to control the people." Daoheng argued this was free speech, but the court dismissed that saying those statements were "rumors" and "defamation" that "severely harmed the interests and security of the State." The full Chinese and English texts of Chen's court judgment are available in "State Prosecutions."
  • A PRC court also imprisoned a Daoheng lawyer, Yu Wensheng, in 2020 for inciting subversion for "publishing open letters on the Internet through 'Twitter' and 'Facebook' to attack the State regime and the socialist system." Yu's court judgment and a translation of his post are available in "State Prosecutions."

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Censorship Associated with the UN Visit to Xinjiang

In late May, 2022, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made an official visit to China. Here is an excerpt from her statement issued on May 28:

I should state from the outset what this visit was – and what it wasn’t. This visit was not an investigation – official visits by a High Commissioner are by their nature high-profile and simply not conducive to the kind of detailed, methodical, discreet work of an investigative nature. The visit was an opportunity to hold direct discussions – with China’s most senior leaders – on human rights. . . 


This screenshot was taken on June 15, and shows Baidu claiming it has indexed over 80k web pages of the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (http://ohchr.org).


But Baidu can't (apparently) locate any web pages from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' website containing the word "Xinjiang" (新疆). These screenshots were taken on  June 15, 2022, and show that searches for "Xinjiang site:ohchr.org" and  "新疆 site:ohchr.org" returned no results.


Yahoo was able to 84 results (including Bachelet's statement).


According to her statement, Bachelet visited "the Kashgar Experimental School, a former Vocational Education and Training Centre" (前身是职业教育培训中心的喀什市特区实验学校). PRC Internet companies regularly censor topics relating to Xinjiang generally, and these "Vocational Education and Training Centers" in particular. This screenshot was taken on May 21, 2022 and shows what happens when a user used Sogou's English language search engine to search for "Xinjiang" – no results.


Prior to June 2022, Tencent-owned Sogou worked with Microsoft's Bing to provide English language results at https://english.sogou.com. If a user searched for a censored term, Sogou returned no results. This screenshot was taken the same day and shows the Bing search results that Sogou was censoring.


These screenshots show that Sogou's Bing-powered English language search engine could find results for "reeducation," (left) but none for "reeducation camp" (right - despite the fact that the first result for "reeducation" was titled "America's 'Re-Education' Camps").


This screenshot shows that a search for "reeducation camp" in English on Sogou's own Chinese-language search engine only returns results from PRC-based websites.


The left screenshot shows that a Baidu search for "Xinjiang reeducation camps" in May 2018 returned results from foreign websites with .org and .gov domains. The right screenshot was taken on May 21, 2022 and shows the same search only returns results from media under the direct control of the PRC govt.: Xinhua, CCTV, China Daily, China Radio International, China Military Net, http://china.com.cn, or http://china.org.cn.



And lest someone should speculate that there might be .org results (like those from wikipedia or the United Nations) buried in a later Baidu SERP, this screenshot taken the same day show that Baidu searches for "Xinjiang reeducation camps" limited to .org domains returned zero results.



The same thing happens in Chinese - these screenshots show that a Baidu search for "Xinjiang Reeducation" (新疆 再教育) limiting results to the United Nations returns no results, while the same search on Bing returns four results.



These screenshots show that Baidu has indexed the first 2 Bing search results, so the most likely explanation for why they don't appear in a search for "Xinjiang Reeducation" (新疆 再教育) is Baidu is restricting results for those keywords to government-approved sources.


Finally, its worth noting that censorship used to be much more transparent, and what gets censored varies over time. For example, this screenshot taken in 2009 shows that at that time Sogou blacklisted searches for "Xinjiang Government Flaws" (新疆 政府 缺陷), and only returned a censorship notice.


Today, Sogou conceals their censorship of "Xinjiang Government Flaws" (新疆 政府 缺陷) by not showing a censorship notice, while appearing to show a variety of results, when in fact the results are all from websites under the direct control of the PRC government.


 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Censorship on the 33rd Anniversary of June 4, 1989



After 33 years PRC websites continue to censor information about what happened in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Let's start with some obvious examples – censorship of the date. In English Baidu web search returns 2 results, in Chinese 6 results, all from PRC state-sponsored media.

Baidu's main social media product - "PostBar" (贴吧) has forums dedicated to "1988" and "1990," but searching for "1989" just yields a censorship notice "In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, relevant results have not been displayed."
Baidu's Q&A product (知道) finds tens of thousands of results for "Tiananmen 1988" and "Tiananmen 1990," but zero results for "Tiananmen 1989."
Tencent-owned Sogou web search also censors information relating to what happened in Beijing in June, 1989. A search for "Tiananmen 1989" returns no results, but the same search for "Tiananmen 1988" and "Tiananmen 1990" returns thousands of results.
The same thing happens with Sogou's image search - Sogou has no trouble finding images for "Tiananmen 1988" and "Tiananmen 1990," but is unable to locate a single image for "Tiananmen 1989."
And again, the same thing happens with Sogou's WeChat search engine - plenty of results for "Tiananmen 1988" and "Tiananmen 1990," but a search for "Tiananmen 1989" yields no results.

The same kind of censorship occurs on PRC social media sites. For example, these screenshots show that Sina Weibo has no problem finding results for "32nd Anniversary" and "34th Anniversary," but finds none for "33rd Anniversary."

Now for a look at PRC censorship of the iconic "Tank Man" images. This screenshot shows a Baidu search for "Tank Man" in English returns no results.

While a search for "Tiananmen 1989 Block Tanks" in Chinese returns no results, Baidu says its has found 22,070 "relevant images"! Not surprisingly, however, clicking that Baidu Image link lands users on a page telling them that, in fact, Baidu cannot find any relevant images.
Other PRC-based image search engines, such those of Qihoo and Tencent-owned Sogou, are unable to find any image results for searches for "Block Tanks."


Even terms with no obvious connection to what occurred in Beijing in June 1989-like "Tiananmen Mothers"-are censored. In addition to a screenshot showing Baidu finds no results for that query, I've included a screenshot of a Yahoo SERP for the same query to show what Baidu is censoring.



The Wikis operated by PRC Internet companies take different approaches to censoring the history of what happened in Beijing in June 1989. Today, the "This Day In History" sections show:
  • Baidu: Khamenei elected supreme leader
  • Qihoo: Nothing for 1989
  • Sogou: Nothing for 1989


The top search results for "1988 year" and "1990 year" on Tencent-owned Sogou are Sogou's own Wiki articles about those years. The top result for "1989 year" is an article on Taylor Swift's album by that name. It appears Sogou simply has no article about the year 1989.


Sogou does have a Wiki article about "Tiananmen Square," but according to their article, nothing worth mentioning happened in Tiananmen Square between 1976 and 1997.


Qihoo does have a Wiki article about 1989, but unlike its Wiki articles about 1988 and 1990, Qihoo's article on 1989 has no section on "Major Events." So there's nothing to indicate anything noteworthy happened in/around Tiananmen Square (or anywhere else) that year.


Baidu has articles on 1989 and Tiananmen Square. But according to Baidu nothing happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the only noteworthy events on June 4 were:
  • Walesa elected prime minister of Poland
  • Khamenei elected supreme leader of Iran


Here's another stark example of how PRC Internet companies treat modern Chinese history - this screenshot shows a search for "64 Remembrance" (六四 纪念) on Baidu returns ZERO results. Someone in the PRC would be better off using a Korean search engine like Naver. . .


Finally, it should be noted that people in the PRC haven't forgotten, and still get punished for peaceful attempts to commemorate, what happened in Beijing in June 1989. For example,  Jie Ruixue was jailed for wearing a t-shirt  in Tiananmen Square in 2019. According to the court judgment, the t-shirt Jie was jailed for wearing in Tiananmen Square in 2019 read "Freedom of Speech, Vindicate June Fourth, Oppose Repeating the Tragedy." The court judgment claimed this "caused severe chaos," but cited no evidence to support that claim.



There's an entire section of my casebook "State Prosecutions of Speech in the PRC" devoted to PRC government documents showing people getting punished for commemorating and discussing what happened in Beijing on June 4, 1989.


You can download the casebook free at my website: https://feichangdao.com/publications/.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

COVID-19 Series: "This is Our Last Generation"

A video began circulating on May 12, 2022 showing police threatening a couple that failure to cooperate with COVID policies will "follow you for three generations." A man is heard replying "This is our last generation, thank you." More here: "Shanghai couple says 'we're the last generation' when rejecting quarantine camp":

The video on Twitter reportedly shows a police officer notifying a couple that they must enter a quarantine camp or face demerits on their record that will last for "three generations." The man rejects his threats and replies "we are the last generation."

These screenshots were taken on May 15, and show that a search for "This is our last generation" on Bing video returned several results with copies of the video, while the same search on Baidu video returned no results for that video.



The video is sensitive, not only because it shows PRC citizens standing up to authority, but also because the idea that people could choose not to produce a next generation runs counter to government policy that views increasing child production as an economic imperative.

 

Not only was the video itself censored, but also social media discussion of the phrase. On the Q&A service Zhihu a user asked "How should one evaluate young people saying 'This is our last generation, thank you.'"? It was deleted after getting over 2 million views.


The top answer seems innocuous: "This is the best solution to be found for the case of 'Your grandfather makes a mistake, and my grandfather ends up begging for food.'" But it could be interpreted as throwing serious shade at the Communist Party, because it is likely a reference to a 1990's PRC sitcom "I Love My Family," where a young boy praises a  classmate's grandfather, and puts down his own father  as a "beggar." The classmate's grandfather (a retired Party cadre) tries to justify someone begging for food in the 1960's saying:

"That was the result of some of the mistakes we made in our work." The young boy turns to his classmate and delivers the punchline: "You see?  Your grandfather makes a mistake, and my grandfather ends up begging for food."


The second most upvoted answer to the censored Zhihu question "How should one evaluate young people saying 'This is our last generation, thank you.'"? was more direct in making its point – here is my translation.


These screenshots show the censorship of another Zhihu post asking "What does 'This is our last generation' embody?"


Here's my translation of the censored Zhihu post asking "What does 'This is our last generation' embody?"


And here's my translation of some of the top responses to that censored Zhihu post asking "What does 'This is our last generation' embody?"


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Hu Xijin: Censored Speech in China is Better than Free Speech in the West

Hu Xijin (胡锡进), former editor of the state-sponsored media outlet "Global Times," is no stranger to censorship. Here are some examples of his own editorials and articles being censored:

Hu also has experience with self-censorship, as evidenced by the time he acknowledged he had to delete a series of Weibo posts he made contending that without those such as Liu, Ai, & Pu, China would be North Korea ("没有刘、艾、浦等,中国就是朝鲜。"). 

And Hu has been clear that he thinks there is such a thing as "Western" free speech, and that its not right for China:

Some people argue that it is acceptable in the Western world that people can launch verbal attacks on their government and even their presidents, so why is this not allowed in China? The argument seems ostensibly reasonable, but the same activities are usually regarded differently in two divergent political and legal systems. 

See: State Media: "Western Speech Freedom Not Fit for China"

On April 23, 2022, Hu posted a Weibo with his perspective on Internet censorship following the censorship of a video entitled "Voices of April" that had been posted the day before. See: Covid-19 Series - Censorship of the "Voices of April."

Below is full translation of Hu's Weibo post.

After being locked down for a long time, Shanghai people have some grievances, and need  channels to release them. People in other parts of the country are somewhat anxious, and have the same need for release. People express themselves on the Internet, and there's nothing odd about that.

The fact that network administrators delete posts does not mean that local governments do not take opinions seriously. On the contrary, expressing opinions on China's Internet is far more effective than complaining in Western countries. The reality in China is often like this: As the post is deleted, the government pays attention to the content and sentiment of the post, and efforts to improve will follow. The situation in the West is that when you express dissatisfaction, you can often say whatever you want, but basically no one listens to you, so speaking is pointless.

The Internet was invented by the West, and it was tailored to their system. When it entered China, it needed to be "sinicized" to a certain extent to address the realities here. China must have network management, otherwise the Internet will politically "transform" China. It is necessary that some posts be deleted. At the same time, various measures should be proportionate, and the deletion of posts should not be polarized. Network management should not only maintain social order, but also leave due space for people to express their opinions.

To tell the truth, this is a very difficult process of exploration. It is necessary and desirable, the intent is good, and the implementation can lead to all kinds of encounters. I believe shortcomings are normal, and the goal should be to do the best one can.

There will be some friction, and even conflict, in such a process, which I don't think is really worth making a fuss about. Our society needs to be resilient to these frictions and situations. Friction in governance needs to be desensitized. Is it possible for such a big country to be too calm and too regulated? We need to adapt politically to "there is no problem here, but there is a problem there," and constantly maintain dynamic stability and balance.

In my opinion, the enormous scale of Chinese society is what gives it a particular stability. No matter how raucous something may be at a given time, it is likely to be quickly consigned and replaced by something new. Don't be afraid that there are many problems, some we can solve, and some we can't, but as the tide rises, they sink and their harm recedes. Whether its the government or the public, the whole of society should have confidence in China's resilience.


封控久了,上海人有一些怨气,需要有释放的渠道。全国其他地方的人们也有焦虑,同样需要释放出来。大家在互联网上做表达,这真的不奇怪。
网络管理者删帖,不意味着各地政府不重视意见。恰恰相反,在中国互联网上表达意见,比在西方国家抱怨管用得多。中国的实情经常是这样的:一边删帖,政府一边关注帖子的内容和传递的情绪,改进的努力会随之而来。西方的情况则是,表达不满往往可以随便说,但基本没人听,说了也白说。

互联网是西方发明的,与他们的制度是量体裁衣关系,进入中国,它需要在一定程度上“中国化”,与我们这里的现实对接。中国的网络管理必须有,否则互联网就会在政治上“改造”中国。一些删帖也是必要的。同时,各种措施都应有度,删帖不能极化,网络管理既要维护社会秩序,也要给民众表达意见留下应有空间。

讲真这是个挺不容易的摸索过程,既要又要,愿望好,实现起来什么情况都可能遇到。有不足我相信是常态,尽量做好应是目标。

在这样的过程中出现一些摩擦,甚至冲突,我觉得真不值得大惊小怪。我们的社会需要有对这些摩擦以及各种情况的承受力。治理中的摩擦需要脱敏,这么大的国家,太平静太规则怎么可能?我们需要从政治上适应“这儿不出问题那出问题”,不断维护动态的稳定与平衡。

我认为,中国社会的超大规模就是特殊的稳定器。什么事不管当时多么轰轰烈烈,但很可能很快翻篇,被新的热点替代。不怕问题多,有些我们能解决,还有些解决不了,但因水涨船高它们下沉而减少危害。不分官员民众,全社会都应当对中国的韧性有信心。
Original URL: https://weibo.com/1989660417/LpHknfsfj
Archived: https://archive.ph/d9umJ

Below are translations of the top five comments on Hu's post.

Let the people speak, the sky won't fall [38,000 likes]

Let the people of Shanghai speak! Don't block their messages pleading for help! [12,000 likes]

This is a purely rational statement, but in this world, people still have emotions, psychological construction and support, and even in some extreme moments, the power of sensibility will be greater than that of reason. The inner support has collapsed, and it is useless to say anything rational. [9,309 likes]

[Thumbs Up][Thumbs Up][Thumbs Up]"The reality in China is often like this: As the post is deleted, the government pays attention to the content and sentiment of the post, and efforts to improve will follow. The situation in the West is that when you express dissatisfaction, you can often say whatever you want, but basically no one listens to you, so speaking is pointless." [3,401 likes]

I really feel more and more that this society is too divided. Two extremes are colliding and fighting every day, the extreme left and the extreme right. Where is the future? [2,411 likes]


让人说话,天塌不下来

让上海人说话!不要封闭他们的求助信息!

这是纯理性的说法,可是人活在这个世界上,还有情感、心理建构和依托,甚至在一些极端时刻,感性的力量会大于理性。内心的依托塌了,说什么理性的话都没用

[赞][赞][赞]“中国的实情经常是这样的:一边删帖,政府一边关注帖子的内容和传递的情绪,改进的努力会随之而来。西方的情况则是,表达不满往往可以随便说,但基本没人听,说了也白说。”

真的越来越觉得这个社会太分裂了,两种极端天天在碰撞打架,极左和极右,未来在哪?