Category Archives: International News Coverage

Now Beijing is going after puns

Seems the language purity police in Beijing are going after anyone having fun with words. (Nowhere to Pun Amid Crackdown on Wordplay)

The official target seems to be advertising copy that plays on famous Chinese idioms. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television calls these puns and twisted words an affront to Chinese culture.

The problem is that wordplay is a classic form of Chinese humor.

For example, a standard greeting in Mandarin for the New Year is Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wishing you wealth.) But by making a small change to Gong Xi Bai Cai (Wishing you white cabbage), you can bring down the house. (And it works in Cantonese as well.)

Of course, the real target might be the millions of Netizens who use puns to attack government officials and policies.

One of the classic plays is using May 35 (5/35) to denote June 4, the day in 1989 of the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. (Of course, eventually the censors began blocking “May”, “35”, and “35th”.

The Grass-Mud Horse is a great example of how the Netizens in China started wordplay to express their feelings toward the government.

One of my favorites is bird anus. This one is dedicated to government spokesman Qín Gāng.

Because the names of government leaders and officials often become sensitive words, netizens frequently invent creative (and pejorative) homonyms to sidestep scrutiny and censorship. A career diplomat, Qin Gang (秦刚) has held a number of official posts at China’s Foreign Ministry since 1992. He is currently a ministry spokesperson and head of the ministry’s information department. The characters in his name are homophonic with those meaning “bird anus.” A netizen explains why this nickname fits Qin:

The anus is from where one farts and shits. In other words, if the bird wants to fart, the anus must let the fart pass—the anus cannot decide what kind of fart to fart. That is why he is called “Bird Anus.” [In Chinese “to fart” can also mean “to speak nonsense.”]

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

China blocks BBC

No surprise here. Once again the Chinese authorities show their utter disregard for press freedom and an absolute fear of information they don’t control getting out to the public.

China blocks BBC website as Hong Kong tensions rise

The best part in this story is when the a Chinese official first accuses the West of interfering in the internal affairs of China by supporting the student demonstrations for more democracy in Hong Kong. And then, after making unsubstantiated charges, demands that the international media report events “objectively”.

Generally, what that means to Beijing, is don’t report anything they object to.

Besides the BBC, the New York Times and Bloomberg are blocked by Chinese censors.

The ability of Chinese to get information from the Internet is driving Beijing crazy.

The rubber-stamp courts have been ruling lately that “netizens” in China are severely limited in what they can say and read on the Internet.

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Filed under Censorship, China, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

25 years since Tiananmen Square demonstrations

The Chinese government is pulling out all the stops to make sure the official party line on the Tiananmen Square killings is the only one heard in China.

Besides the usual heavy-handed directives from Beijing to all media outlets on what to say and what not to say, the government has also moved against the Internet community in China, known as Netizens.

So, of course, anyone making any comments that challenge the official line gets in trouble: Professor’s Microblog Axed After Tiananmen Comment

For many, it is difficult remembering how things were 25 years ago. China Digital Times is running a series of articles and observations from that turbulent period in modern Chinese history

And while the rest of the world will be looking back at what happened then, the government leaders will just keep on doing “business as usual” rather than deal with the wound created 25 years ago.

And I should add that the ONLY place under Beijing rule that is allowed to openly discuss what happened at Tiananmen Square and is able to have demonstrations calling for a full investigation into what happened is Hong Kong.

And here is the famous “Tank Man” who stood up to the Chinese tanks heading to the square.

 

 

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China channels Casablanca: “Round up the usual suspects.”

It’s that time again and Beijing has repeated the order Louie gave to his underlings at the Casablanca airport: “Round up the usual suspects.”

Activist arrested for planning Tiananmen hunger strike

Two prominent activists in the eastern city of Hangzhou have been taken into police custody since Friday for attempting to draw attention to the military crackdown on June 4, 1989 during which more than 200 protesters are believed to have died.

Each year the security police round up anyone who has called for an accounting of the government’s action in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

I watched it in action during my time in Shanghai (1992-1994). Our phone lines suddenly had more static and some lines, like those for Western reporters, temporarily “had difficulties.” Extra “security” put in front of the Western consulates and housing enclaves of Western diplomats and businessmen.

Editors and reporters regularly get transferred to other positions to make sure they do not have the opportunity to print or air anything that might call into question the government’s official line that is basically: “Nothing of interest happened in the Tiananmen Square area June 4.”

Things have not changed since then.

And thanks to China Digital Times for pointing the latest outrage.

 

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Filed under China, Harassment, International News Coverage

Indian polling schedule

Just a quick follow up for those who have yet to grasp that the Indian election — with its 850 million voters — is a big thing, visit the website of the Election Commission of India to see the when, how and where of the voting.

Just FYI: This is offered because so few US media outlets have thought it worthwhile to report on this election. To use Vice President Biden’s phrase: “This really is a big fucking deal!”

India schedule

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Filed under Connections, India, International News Coverage

Did John Oliver hit the mark on US coverage of the Indian election?

The online New York Times has a series of blog and news postings about news from around the world. Nida Najar from India posted a blistering (and well-deserved) attack on the US media’s lack of coverage of India’s election. And the attack was based on a bit done by former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver: John Oliver on the American Media’s India Blind Spot

And sure enough, a quick Google Search of “Indian Election 2014″ does not yield one U.S. media outlet reporting on the election.

In a way this is not surprising. Oliver points to the McLaughlin Group as the only news show that discussed the election, only to have it being dismissed by the host as irrelevant because “it’s not even in our hemisphere.” (For once I found myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan: “It’s 800 million voters! More than 1 billion people!”)

For the political and economic well being of the United States, India matters. (I can be snarky: The importance if India is well beyond tech support. Where do you think you are calling when your computer crashes?)

India is the 11th most important trading partner with the United States, accounting for 1.7 percent of all US trade. That puts it in the same neighborhood as France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

Most of what the US sell to India are not raw materials or agricultural products but finished goods that require good jobs:

  • Misc. manufactured commodities
  • Transportation equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Computer and electronic products

So, yes, the US needs to be informed and aware of what is going on in India, if for no other reason, because our economic well being depends on it.

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Filed under India, International News Coverage, Story Ideas, Trade

Proof censorship is bad for business

The ProPublica headline and story says it all:

Weibo IPO Reveals a Company Struggling With Censorship

Weibo, “China’s Twitter,” started offering shares on NASDAQ yesterday. Its regulatory disclosures reveal a company’s balancing act between censoring too much and too little.

As required under SEC regulations, the company must list for investors potential risks that might affect its share price. Weibo is up front about the risk the Chinese government’s regulation of content poses to its ability so succeed. “Failure to [censor] may subject us to liabilities and penalties and may even result in the temporary blockage or complete shutdown of our online operations.”

Under a section titled “Risks Relating to Doing Business in China,” the company cites as a material risk not being able to censor user content quickly enough for the Chinese government, and describes a three-day period in March 2012 when Weibo disabled commenting completely so censors could “clean up” all content regarding a topic. The company did not disclose the topic but the Wall Street Journal reported in March 2012 that China put temporary restrictions on Sina, Weibo’s parent company, as well as Tencent, a rival microblogging service, and that it was “detaining individuals that it accused of spreading rumors of a coup attempt in Beijing.” That week, according to the Journal story, Sina and Tencent placed identical notices on their web sites, warning users that the ability to comment on posts was being shut down for three days.

Rest of article.

And that does not even take into account the amount of money wasted dealing with rumors because no one trusts the state-run media to fairly report news.

Social media sites offer a chance for people to swap stories, but like the game of “Telephone,” what starts out at the beginning is not  necessarily what comes out at the end. If the Chinese government were really serious about preventing social unrest, it would drop its censorship and let reporters freely and accurately report what is going on. It would also stop blocking open discussions among the people in China.

But then again, that might destabilize the iron grip the Communist party has on everything. They would have to give up power. And that — to them — is too destabilizing and dangerous.

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