Monthly Archives: February 2016

All News Must Serve The Party

Originally published at Journalism and the World

Despite all the public relations efforts aimed at the rest of the world to show how tolerant the Chinese government is, the current leadership is absolutely dedicated to preventing any views not in line with official policy from reaching the Chinese people.

One of the latest items is a new rule that only allows Chinese-owned media companies to operate behind the Great Firewall.

The latest came as President Xi Jinping visited People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV.

The Xinhua report on the visit was very clear:

All news media run by the Party must work to speak for the Party’s will and its propositions and protect the Party’s authority and unity, Xi said.

They should enhance their awareness to align their ideology, political thinking and deeds to those of the CPC Central Committee and help fashion the Party’s theories and policies into conscious action by the general public while providing spiritual enrichment to the people, he said.

Marxist journalistic education must be promoted among journalists, Xi added, to make them “disseminators of the Party’s policies and propositions, recorders of the time, promoters of social advancement and watchers of equality and justice.”

While most Westerners understand that the Chinese government tries to maintain a firm control of society and especially the media, few really grasp how severe the control is. Likewise, too many in the West are seduced by phrases designed to hide the true meaning of the words. (See The Real Meaning of “Hurt Feelings of The Chinese People” for one example.)

It is important to remember that people in the West make decisions based on the selected information allowed to be released by the Chinese government. There are no independent agencies or organizations that are allowed to monitor and confirm the data. There is no Freedom of Information Act. And the media (as made clear just this week) are not allowed to report anything that would make life difficult for the party leadership.

For a fuller discussion of Xi’s visit and the role the party sees for news media outlets, read the report at China Digital Times.

Xi’s State Media Tour: “News Must Speak for the Party”

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Filed under Censorship, China, Connections, International News Coverage

The Real Meaning of “Hurt Feelings of The Chinese People”

One of the oddest phrases I have ever heard is: [Person/Organization/Country] hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

I never thought the Chinese people were so sensitive, so I knew it was the Chinese government trying to speak for the Chinese people. However, as David Bandurski at China Media Project in Hong Kong points out, if you substitute “Zhao Family”, the stand-in for the power elite for “the people”, you will understand the phrase.


The bottom line is that anything that challenges the leadership of the Communist Party in China “hurts the feelings of the Chinese people.” How else could the little island state of Saint Lucia (population: 184,000) hurt the feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese? (And that does not even count all the Chinese-Americans, Chinese-Canadians, etc.

Many thanks to Bandruski for a lesson on the history and context of this oddest of phrases.


Hurting the feelings of the “Zhao family”


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Filed under China, Human Rights, International News Coverage

Wow! Leading Hong Kong Tycoon Slams HK and China Leadership

One of the great things that still exist in Hong Kong is freedom of speech and press. After all, it is part of the treaty that handed over Hong Kong to China.

In the middle of the whole freedom issue is the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The FCC regularly hosts speakers of all political stripe. (Try that in China.)

February 18 David tang, founder of the high-end clothing store Shanghai Tang took the podium at the FCC and basically bitch-slapped the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

Right up front, Tang takes on CY Leung, the chief executive of Hong Kong, and his policy address, similar to the US president’s State of the Union address. (This is a position similar to a mayor/governor. The chief executive is elected by a select committee of pro-Beijing Hong Kong residents.)

Indeed, in the entire two hours spent in delivering his address, the chief executive did not give the slightest hint of an amoeba of political or social dissatisfaction, yet a great deal of dissatisfaction is prevalent. It was no surprise therefore, that even before the chief executive began his address, four members of LegCo were removed for protesting against his favourite past-time of sweeping what he regards as rotten political dust under the carpet.

The supreme paradox for me is the opening line of his address.

“Since taking office, the current term government has focused its efforts on promoting democracy,” so CY Leung smugly said.

This was his first sentence.

Whoever wrote that for the first sentence for the chief executive, if he himself did not write it, must be a comedian; or perhaps a monkey who accidentally typed up those words on a typewriter. What it all means to me is the disingenuousness of our chief executive and government, and the contempt with which they hold us, the citizens of Hong Kong.

Below is the video provided by the FCC. It is well worth the time to listen to not only the speech but also the Q&A session.

Coconuts Hong Kong provided a transcript of the speech.

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Filed under China, Hong Kong, International News Coverage

Human Rights Has A Price

The economic powerhouse Hong Kong Shanghai Bank — HSBC to the world — has decided to stay in London instead of moving back to Hong Kong.

Seems the recent crackdown on human rights, including freedom of press, in China plus the growing influence of China over Hong Kong affairs has spooked the bank to not only decide to stay in London but to abandon its practice of reviewing every three years where to place its headquarters.

Following the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989, HSBC moved out of Hong Kong to London. At that time it started a process whereby it would review every three years where its headquarters would be located.

According to Quartz and other media reports, the move was clearly motivated by the political situation in Hong Kong and China. One study estimated HSBC could save US$14 billion by moving to Hong Kong. And yet it didn’t.

One always looks for links. The HSBC action does not need any hard digging to see that the path Hong Kong leaders are taking is not good for the economy of the territory.

Besides the economic impact the HSBC action has on the Hong Kong economy, it could also have an impact on the US. The bank has branches across the USA. The move by the HSBC board may not have a direct impact on how banking is done in the US, but it could influence the value of HSBC USA stock, and therefore all the Americans who are investors.

(Okay, so it is a weak link back to the US. But it is an important economic and psychological link for Hong Kong.)

When China took control of Hong Kong in 1997, by treaty it guaranteed the protection of Hong Kong’s civil rights including freedom of speech and press. Since the take over, economic pressure has been applied to the newspapers to go soft on China. Reporters and editors at RTHK, the Hong Kong-owned broadcast outlets, have repeatedly come under pressure to be a mouthpiece for the Hong Kong government and to avoid stories critical of China.

Recently five Hong Kong publishers of books critical of China have gone missing. One showed up in China, supposedly helping police with a case.

The general consensus is that all five were kidnapped by Chinese security forces. Such direct interference in Hong Kong’s legal system by Beijing is a direct violation of the treaty that allowed for the hand over in 1997. The move prompted the British government to make a public declaration denouncing the Chinese government’s action. For its part, Beijing said the UK was interfering in China’s internal affairs. (This is the basic response to any criticism of the Chinese government.)

So clearly Beijing thinks cracking down on dissidents, where ever they may be, is more important than providing for a stable and profitable economic Hong Kong.

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Filed under China, Freedom of Information, Hong Kong, International News Coverage, Trade

Gotta Love Chinese Play On Words

One of the things I learned in China way too many years ago is how much they love word play and play on words. (With just a quick switch of like-sounding words you can go from wishing someone a prosperous new year to wishing someone white cabbage. Trust me, it had my Shanghai friends rolling on the floor.)

The Chinese language depends on tones and pronunciation. At the same time different characters have similar sounds. So it makes sense that some of the more creative people would come up with ways to use homonyms to poke fun at official pronouncements.

Besides making the joke, the change in words (and characters) makes it more difficult for the Chinese censors.

The latest in the lexicon is “monkey-snake“. I’ll let China Digital Times explain:

hóu shé 猴蛇

Creature of Chinese Internet mythology representing state media and propaganda; homophone of “mouthpiece” (hóushé 喉舌).

The role of the media, according the Chinese Communist Party, is to serve as the Party’s mouthpiece. China Media Project traces the origin of this duty to the founding of the CCP itself. A test for journalists to obtain press cards, released in 2013, explains, “Unlike Western countries, the most important function of news media in our country is to be the ears, eyes, throat and tongue for the party and the people.” The Mandarin word “mouthpiece” breaks down to the characters hóu喉 (throat) and shé 舌 (tongue).

Netizens evoke the “monkey-snake” to satirize state media and the propaganda apparatus.

You will note that just a few years ago China tightened its rules as to who can be a journalist. And thanks to The New York Times, you can find out if you qualify as a journalist under the rules of China. (I like the answer to question 10. Kinda sums up the whole difference.)

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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

Overdose of Politics in China New Year Programming

China Digital Times has a great wrap up of the heavy handed propaganda New Year Gala on CCTV. As a result, the censors had a whole new list of words to block behind the Great Firewall of China.

New Year Sensitive Words: Did CCTV Party Too Hard?

To dampen criticism, a number of related search terms have been blocked on Sina Weibo, including CCTV Gala + politics (春晚+政治), CCTV Gala + brainwash (春晚+洗脑), and CCTV Gala + suck up (春晚+献媚). As Wong noted, some complained that the gala felt like an episode of network’s propaganda-heavy nightly newscast: CCTV Gala + News Simulcast (春晚+新闻联播) is also blocked. Another censored search term is CCTV Gala + steamed bun (春晚+包子), referring to [President] Xi’s appearance at a Beijing steamed bun shop in 2013 which became a symbol of his personal image-crafting.

Maybe the government stepped up the propaganda because of the predictions based on the Chinese zodiac for the 2016 Fire Monkey.

The Monkey is very intelligent, hyperactive and strong-minded. He represents the unfettered mind freed from inhibitions and guilt. Relieving himself from the heavy burdens of a touchy conscience, the Monkey type will not hesitate to test his theories, experiment and think the unthinkable. In his domain, everything is possible. What is difficult, he could do right away; what is impossible may take a little longer.

All the animals have a shadow side, and the Monkey is no exception. The problem solving tendencies can turn the Monkey to being a tricky tactician, opportunistic and not all that trustworthy. The youthfulness hides an unscrupulous adolescent, and the independence can turn to unfaithfulness.

While the leadership in Beijing denounce belief in powers of the zodiac, they have to know that most Chinese still hold a bit of the old ways in the back of their minds. And nothing can be worse for a dictatorship than a whole year dedicated to people with unfettered minds who think anything is possible and who can be tricky tacticians and not trustworthy.

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Mexican Journalist Kidnapped; War Against Journalists Continues

The latest victim in attacks against journalists in Mexico is Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter in Veracruz.

Mexican authorities say they are searching for her after reports she was dragged from her home by armed men and hasn’t been seen since.

Salazar was taken Monday morning from her home near the city of Orizaba, where she worked for several newspapers.

Unfortunately, kidnapping and killing journalists is not uncommon in Mexico. Since 2010 15 journalists have been killed in Veracruz alone.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico because of their jobs since 2010. A vast majority — 77 percent — of the reporters killed covered the crime beat, just like Salazar.

Threats against journalists come not only from the gangs but also corrupt public officials. The BBC reports there are strained relations between the Veracruz governor and the media. The governor has gone as far as warning journalists to “behave” or bad things might happen to them.

Understandably journalists in the area saw the comment as a veiled threat.

Veracruz prosecutors say they will investigate everything about Salazar to see why she was kidnapped.

The office said a few years ago she was seen with a leader of the local branch of the Zetas drug cartel.

And here in lies the problem.

For reporters to do their job, they have to develop sources across the board. If a cartel leader doesn’t like a story, threats are made and carried out against journalists. Likewise, if a local political figure is identified as being in the hip pocket of a cartel, the journalist receives threats from or is intimidated by the local government.

And then, there are a few bad apples in the journalism profession. Some have used their position as reporter or commentator to extort money from people in exchange for their silence on the air or in print. And because of the few unethical journalists, it becomes easier for governments and gangs to frame honest journalists, because the public is already to accept corruption within the media exists, just as it exists in the rest of society.

And to be clear, the situation described above is not unique to Mexico. Journalists throughout the Western Hemisphere face similar threats from gangs and rogue government officials.

This item was originally posted at Journalism and the World, the site of the International Journalism Community of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Filed under Corruption, International News Coverage, Killings, Mexico