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/.

Translation: Huang Xuqin and Wang Jianbing Inciting Subversion Indictment

On June 14, 2024, the Twitter account "Free Huang Xueqin & Wang Jianbing 释放雪饼" (@FreeXueBing)  posted a copy of the last two p...