Blame for Wuhan virus lies squarely with CCP


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

Coronavirus crisis is Chinese Communist Party’s fault and it must pay for consequences

KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — The hashtag “China lied, people died” has been trending around the world over the past few days as people come to terms with the colossal impact the Wuhan coronavirus is having on everyone’s lives.

It has sparked a hugely emotional response. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) left-leaning supporters have immediately played the race card and accused anyone who dares to criticize China of being racist. The CCP has leaped on this too, as its propaganda machine has gone into overdrive to try and deflect blame over the pandemic.

From ludicrous conspiracies about the virus being released in Wuhan by the U.S. military to videos of people dressed in doctor’s uniforms pulling off their masks, there is no level the CCP won’t stoop to in order to convince the world this is not their fault. At the same time, the CCP has begun promoting the fallacy of China’s efforts to tackle the virus as being a great sacrifice on behalf of the world and suggesting we should be grateful.

It has also pulled in the leaders of those countries and organizations that pay homage to Beijing. Various world leaders have stood up to proclaim the virus “no-one’s fault,” saying we should focus on finding a solution rather than a cause.

The World Health Organization (WHO) seems more bothered about Wuhan coronavirus “stigmatizing” China than the fact it is killing thousands of people around the world. This is the same WHO that, at the behest of Beijing, insisted travel bans and restrictions were not necessary as coronavirus ripped through China.

This advice played a big role in the virus being allowed to spread internationally. Yet the discredited WHO Secretary-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, mysteriously remains in office and, for some reason, the world continues to listen to his flawed advice.

While WHO has undoubtedly helped coronavirus spread through its kowtowing to Beijing, responsibility for it lies elsewhere. Wuhan coronavirus began in China and it spread because of the culture of corruption that the CCP has engrained into Chinese society. Responsibility for the coronavirus crisis lies with one organization, the CCP.

It was the CCP that silenced doctors and other whistleblowers that first spoke out about Wuhan coronavirus as far back as September 2019 according to some internal CCP documents. It was the CCP that destroyed samples and in doing so stopped medical professionals getting an early understanding of how contagious the virus was, information that could have stopped it in its tracks.

It was the CCP that refused international help in the early stages of the outbreak and refused to let WHO or other international observers into Wuhan and other infected areas. It was the CCP that covered up the outbreak by faking death and infection numbers.

It was the CCP that chose to censor the internet to remove all truthful accounts of life inside coronavirus-ravaged China and continues to do so to prevent the truth from getting out. It is the CCP that continues to spread fake news and propaganda about the coronavirus outbreak making it harder to tackle its spread.

It is the CCP and no-one else, that is responsible for Wuhan coronavirus sweeping the world.

Let’s summarize briefly what they are responsible for. At the time of writing, there are 284,013 cases globally and 11,848 deaths. We know the data coming out of China is fake and other countries are only recording a fraction of the actual number of cases because of testing limitations, so the true numbers are likely to be significantly higher.

Certainly, when the virus begins to take hold in under-developed parts of the world like Africa and Central America, the number of cases and deaths is likely to grow substantially. The CCP is to blame for these deaths.

Wuhan coronavirus is affecting everyone. Workplaces and schools are closed across the globe, economies are in free-fall, and travel is all but impossible. Life as we know it has ground to a halt, the world is on its knees, and no-one can say for sure when it will start up again.

The CCP is to blame for this. Yet still, the propaganda goes on.

China has got the disease under control, we are told in obedient media outlets. China is showing us how to beat back the epidemic.

Last week, international media reported as fact CCP claims to have zero new cases in a day for the first time. At a time when Wuhan coronavirus is rampaging around the globe, for the country of origin, with a population of 1.3 billion people, to make such an outlandish claim is utterly absurd, yet Western media lapped it up.

CCP propaganda is working and in many media outlets, far from being the villain, China is being portrayed as the knight in shining armor that will show the rest of the world how to beat Wuhan coronavirus. We must not accept these lies and we must not fall for this deceit.

This is a CCP virus that ultimately will be defeated by Western medicine.

When this happens, the CCP must face the consequences for the death and disruption it has caused. It should pay the price both financially and politically for the mess it has caused.

This situation must never be allowed to happen again and there is only one sure-fire way to ensure that is the case. The CCP must be dismantled and freedom and transparency finally delivered to the world’s most populous nation.



PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang was first disciplined for “spreading rumors” about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, then used as a deterrent example by state media along with seven others. He was then rehabilitated and lionized as a heroic “whistleblower” after his status as a front-line medic came to light. His death from the virus last week sparked public fury and widespread calls for free speech, but the official campaign against supposed “rumormongers” has continued throughout, and even escalated since Li’s death with the detentions of two prominent citizen journalists.

At Caixin on Tuesday, Qin Jianxing, Wang Yanyu and Matthew Walsh reported on two other Wuhan doctors who reported police encounters similar to Li’s:

On Dec. 30, after reading an online post from a trusted fellow doctor, Liu posted a message in a work WeChat group mentioning the diagnosis of a patient with a mysterious viral pneumonia and speculated whether the area around the seafood market thought to be the center of the outbreak would be quarantined.

“To our nursing colleagues: Don’t go wandering around down there,” he warned.

The following day, Liu was called in for a talk with his employer, who grilled him on the source of the information. Around Jan. 2, he says he was summoned (link in Chinese) to a local police station, where police questioned him further and had him sign a statement.

[…] Xie, meanwhile, told Caixin (link in Chinese) she sent a message into a WeChat group out of a desire to “raise everyone’s vigilance a little” over the outbreak. She told Caixin that after screenshots of her message were posted elsewhere, she received a phone call from the Wuhan police, who subjected her to “verbal education” — a euphemism for an official tongue-lashing. Although the police gave Xie no specific punishment, they warned her against spreading “false information.” [Source]

Despite the backlash against the treatment of Li and the others, detentions continue. On Wednesday, Quartz’s Jane Li reported the arrest of citizen journalist Fang Bin:

Fang Bin, a Wuhan businessman who had been posting videos filmed from city hospitals, was allegedly arrested on Sunday (Feb. 9, link in Chinese), according to Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK, the same day he posted a 12-second video of a piece of paper with the words “resist all citizens, hand the power of the government back to the people” written on it, which he read aloud. RTHK, which didn’t name its source, said that plain-clothes police officers accompanied by fire fighters broke down Fang’s door to enter his flat. Hua Yong, a Chinese artist and rights activist, told Quartz yesterday that Fang’s friends had separately told him of the arrest.

In China, citizen journalists are rare because they can’t obtain the official certificate required for reporting news as they don’t work for a registered outlet—but amid increased public anger against the authorities, some have taken on the risk of offering the outside world a first-hand glimpse of the situation in Wuhan. But as China’s government struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 1,110 and infected close to 45,000 people, it has also stepped up efforts to contain the narrative around the epidemic and keep public anger centered on local authorities. In addition to dispatching journalists to produce more “positive” coverage from Wuhan, Beijing has censored the more critical coverage from Chinese media, and is silencing specific voices.

Yaqui Wang, China researcher for the nonprofit Human Rights Watch, noted that it appears that “authorities are as equally, if not more, concerned with silencing criticism as with containing the spread of the coronavirus,” repeating a pattern seen in past public emergencies as well. [Source]

See more on Fang’s work from China Change. Fang had previously been briefly detained by police claiming to be carrying out virus inspections. A list of recommendations to authorities from automated public sentiment analysis firm Warming High-Tech, translated last week by CDT, noted in the context of popular anger over Li’s death that disease control measures gave authorities “a legitimate reason to decisively handle any crowd.”

Suspicions of such a pretext surround the forced quarantine of lawyer and fellow citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, reported by CNN’s Nectar Gan and Natalie Thomas on Monday. Chen had previously had his social media accounts closed and been barred from leaving the country after posting heterodox video reports on mass protests in Hong Kong:

Chen arrived in Wuhan on January 24, a day after the city was placed under a state-imposed lockdown, designed to stop citizens from leaving to stem the spread of the virus. He visited overflowing hospitals, funeral parlors and makeshift isolation wards and uploaded videos of what he saw online, offering the world a glimpse into the often grim reality at the heart of the crisis.

[… I]n a live broadcast on YouTube, Xu Xiaodong, an outspoken mixed martial artist [background] and friend of Chen, played a message from the journalist’s mother saying he had been forcibly quarantined.

“In the last few hours the Qingdao public security officers and state security officers … notified Qiushi’s parents that Qiushi has already been detained in the name of quarantine. Qiushi’s mother immediately asked them where and when he was taken away, they declined to say,” said Xu.

Xu stressed that, based on his interactions with Chen and the testimony of those on the ground, Chen had been in good health prior to his disappearance.

[…] “I’m scared, I have the virus in front of me and behind me China’s law enforcement,” Chen said in an emotional video recorded in his hotel room on January 30. [Source]

In an interview last week with Jane Li at Quartz last week, Chen discussed his exile to Western social media, his emphasis on accuracy, and the “political risks” of his actions:

[…] There were lots of rumors circulating on WeChat, which I could not verify. I only report the real situation that I saw myself. […]

[…] I am very nervous because if I get anything wrong, or post even just one piece of fake information, it will be widely shared on the internet… I do feel embarrassed, because I don’t work for any proper media. And I post videos on YouTube, a thing most Chinese people have not heard of. Some people who use VPN know about me and offer me lots of help, even asking me to stay at theirs. So that was why I did a joint live stream with “Face Mask Brother,” who was one of the few vloggers in Wuhan recording their daily lives…

[…] The police security bureau in my hometown also visited my parents’ house because they could not find me. They didn’t dare to come to Wuhan. They ‘educated’ my parents to tell me not to spread negative comments about the government… If I reveal my real location, there could be a risk of me getting arrested. I cannot think about it too much, or I will be afraid of doing anything. As one of the remaining reporters on the front line, I could help spread some information. For the political risks of doing so, I have no time to worry about that for now. [Source]

Chen’s work was one focus of a recent New Yorker piece by Han Zhang on the information controls surrounding the outbreak:

“In the past few years, since Xi started to regulate the Internet and control information and crack down on civil society—including many verified users with large followings—there have been fewer and fewer voices that question or criticize the government, and less and less discussion of public affairs,” [CDT founder] Xiao Qiang, the director of the Counter-Power Lab, at the University of California, Berkeley, which studies digital freedom and censorship, told me. “This is the first large-scale eruption of opinions since then.”

[…] State media employ language that “maintains a clear and bright cyberspace,” Guobin Yang, a professor of sociology and contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania, told me. “It is Internet censorship in the name of civility.” He pointed out that, although the Chinese supreme court cleared the Wuhan “rumor-mongers,” their decision did not necessarily endorse a free flow of information. In its statement, the court stressed the importance of general vigilance against rumors, especially those that could lead to “social disorders”; these include rumors that “slander the state for inability to control the epidemic” and “fabricate information about hospitals losing control of the epidemic.”

In short, the court’s decision “says that you can’t punish these eight people. It also reaffirms the rule that you can’t spread rumors,” Yang said. “But what is a rumor, and what is not? That’s still up to the public-security people to decide. Often, in this kind of situation, even the authorities don’t know what kind of signal to send out. So a safer approach is to send a positive signal and then a negative signal.” [Source]

At Foreign Affairs in 2015, “Blocked on Weibo” author Jason Q. Ng wrote:

Throughout modern Chinese history, rumor has been a flexible category that has included not only speculation and falsehoods but also unsanctioned opinions about contemporary events. During the Mao era, the historian Steve Smith has written, rumors were considered to be “any information or opinion at variance with the official construction of reality”—even when that information or opinion was mostly factual. […][Source]

In a roundup of outbreak-related censorship translated by CDT English this week, CDT Chinese editors noted:

Author Hu Yong’s old essay, “Rumors, a Kind of Social Protest” once again returned to public view [linked post continuously updated collection of censored “rumors” on the topic. CDT has translated one such “rumor.”]. The essay quotes Kapferer: “Rumors are both social and political. ‘Official’ sources are political in nature. They emerge from a kind of consensus. This consensus determines who has the right to speak, even if they lack the right to do so from a moral or ethical standpoint. Rumors are a kind of relationship with the authorities: they reveal secrets, propose hypotheticals; they force the authorities to speak. They are an objection to the fact that the authorities are the only source of information. Without invitation, rumors spontaneously fight for the right to speak. They are often statements from the opposing party. Official refutations are unable to squelch them, because they make official positions seem unreliable. Rumors cause us to question the authorities, to question the notion that ‘only those with the right to speak with speak on a matter.’ Rumors and official accounts are sometimes at odds with one another, so rumors constitute a kind of anti-power, while at the same time acting as a kind of balance against power.” Because of this, the people have no other recourse but to look for the truth in rumors. [Source]

Hu Yong also explained his views on rumors in a 2011 interview with Time Weekly, translated at China Media Project.

In an op-ed at The Guardian highlighting rights violations in the handling of the epidemic last week, Chinese Human Rights Defenders’ Frances Eve cited concrete examples of “rumors” in the current context: “reports of potential cases, including people turned away from hospitals or dying without ever being tested and quickly cremated, criticism of the government, the distribution of masks, or the criticism of the discrimination of people from Wuhan or others who may be infected.” CHRD has catalogued 351 cases of punishment for rumor-spreading, demonstrating that cases like Chen Qiushi’s, Li Wenliang’s, and the other Wuhan medics’ are far from unique. The group notes that “Shandong Provincial authorities announced on January 27 that they had investigated and punished 123 individuals for sending ‘malicious rumours,’ in an indication of the scale of police operations outside Hubei.” If comprehensive and proportionally representative, this figure would indicate around 1,700 cases nationally as of January 27.

Six examples not included in CHRD’s list appeared in a document posted to Jinri Toutiao, ostensibly originating from authorities in Shuozhou, a city of 1.7 million in northern Shanxi, some 600 miles from Wuhan.

Report from Shuozhou on recent handling of harmful online information.

According to the spirit of the Municipal Party Committee’s Cyberspace Administration Office and municipal Public Security Bureau’s “Public Notice on Cracking Down on Harmful Online Information During the Epidemic Control Period in Accordance With the Law,” we report the following six examples of people spreading such information:

1) At around 9 a.m. on January 26, 2020, user Wang XX of Shuocheng district posted in the WeChat group “Let’s Drink”: “Damned Shanxi hasn’t reported any suspected cases, they’re not telling the whole story.”

On January 26, the local Beiwang village police substation summoned Wang and carried out education and admonition.

2) On the morning of January 27, 2020, user Lü XX of Shuocheng district posted in a WeChat group: “The last few days I’ve been scaling the wall to look at Twitter, a lot of videos from Wuhan say the government’s not doing anything.”

On January 27, the local Beiwang village police substation summoned Lü and carried out education and admonition.

3) On January 25, 2020, user Li XX (female) of Ying county posted in a WeChat group: “This epidemic must be worse than we imagine when there’s only one confirmed case in the whole of Shaanxi province, but there are two cases in our county. I feel the officials must be lying.”

On January 28, the Ying country [Public Security Bureau] internet security division summoned Li and carried out education and admonition.

4) On January 27, 2020, user Yang XX of Ying county posted in a WeChat group: “Today’s paper said there have been nine cases altogether in Shanxi province. There have been that many just in Ying county—I feel the state is underreporting the situation.”

On January 28, the Ying county [Public Security Bureau] internet security division summoned Yang and carried out education and admonition.

5) On January 27, 2020, user Yan XX (female) of Shuocheng district posted a voice message in a WeChat group: “The village head died after coming back from Wuhan.”

On January 28, the Shuocheng district online safety group summoned Yan and carried out education and admonition.

6) On January 26, 2020, Qi XX (male, 32, from Datong city’s Kuang district) posted on Baidu Tieba’s “Huairen [county] Forum”: “A group of people are sick, so what if several thousands or 100 million die …”

On January 29, the Huairen municipal Public Security Bureau summoned Qi to court, after which he made a full confession of his improper conduct. The PSB imposed a punishment of 7 days administrative detention.

Shuozhou Municipal Party Committee Cyberspace Administration Office

January 29, 2020 [Chinese]

CDT Chinese has also archived a now-deleted WeChat post by Li Yuchen, describing his eight-hour detention over postings on the Li Wenliang case on the “Rights Wall” WeChat public account. He concluded: “Dr. Li Wenliang, who was reprimanded and has now passed away, said that a healthy society should not have only one voice. […] I believe the best memorial I can give him is to keep acting as a citizen, and to keep operating Rights Wall.”

Law professor Xu Zhangrun, who was suspended by Tsinghua University last year over his fierce written criticisms of Xi Jinping, commented on the public awareness “that the online terror can all too readily escape the virtual realm” in a February 4 essay. From Geremie Barmé’s translation at ChinaFile:

As the technologies being deployed to create China’s big data totalitarianism have been developed with the largesse possible because of unlimited government budgets, we are now experiencing a 1984-style of total surveillance and control. In practice this allows for what could be called “WeChat terrorism,” something directly targets China’s vast online population. The masses are, through their taxes, in fact funding a vast Internet police force that is empowered by the party-state to oversee, supervise and track every statement and action made by everyone in the country. This new canker on the body politic is a direct product of the system itself. People now live in constant anxiety, for they know that the imposition of this kind of Internet terrorism is not limited merely to the suspension or shutting down of personal WeChat accounts, or the larger enterprise of banning whole chat groups [which are a vital way for individuals to debate issues of interest]. Everyone is mindful that the online terror can all too readily escape the virtual realm and become overtly physical; that is the cases when the authorities use what they have learned online send the police to deal with online users in real-time. The resulting widespread social disquiet fosters an atmosphere of constant self-censorship and people are beset by nagging worries about what inexplicable punishment may befall them at any given moment. [Source]

In a blog post this week, legal scholar Jerome Cohen discussed such cases of “low level, low visibility police oppression”:

The summoning, humiliation and intimidation of Dr. Li Wenliang and presumably seven colleagues by the Wuhan Public Security’s neighborhood police station turned attention to the frequent but usually low visibility means by which police enforce the minor offenses law, the Security Administration Punishment Law (SAPL, zhian guanli chufa-fa). It authorizes the police alone to suppress a broad range of vaguely defined offenses that are not deemed to be “crimes” and therefore not subject to the formal protections of the Criminal Procedure Law that involve the procuracy (prosecutors) and the courts. The SAPL, which accounts for many more punishments each year than the criminal process, is a major vehicle for low level, low visibility police oppression. Its maximum penalty, 15 days of detention (juliu) for each offense, is usually very unpleasant since shared with many others in uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions.

Nevertheless, as Dr. Li’s case demonstrates, actual formal detention is often unnecessary since an informal “chat”, a stern warning and insistence upon the summoned suspect’s signing a statement of apology and vow to reform is the condition for release. As Dr. Li told the NY Times: ”I felt I was wronged, but I had to accept it.” [Source]

A Cyberspace Administration of China notice translated last week by China Media Project’s David Bandurski showed that company representatives may also be “called in for discussions in accord with the law”:

In recent days, the Cyberspace Administration of China has, on the basis of reports from the masses, directed local CACs to seriously deal with such information and content as the “Pipi Gaoxiao” (皮皮搞笑) online social platform which has distributed harmful short videos about the coronavirus outbreak, and has spread panic, [ordering them to] remove the app from the app store immediately. Concerning certain products on the Baidu web platform posting information in violation of regulations to users and conducting lax management, and Huxiu and other online platforms illegally engaging in internet news information services in epidemic-related reports and other problems, [the companies] have been called in for discussions in accord with the law. They have been ordered to immediately stop all illegal conduct and to carry out comprehensive and deep rectification, and these relevant online platforms [have been ordered to] close down problem sections (问题栏目). Concerning Sina Weibo, Tencent, ByteDance and other internet companies, special supervision (专项督导) will now be in effect. Concerning [the WeChat public accounts] “Netease Finance” (网易财经), “Sina Weitianxia” (新浪微天下), “Guyu Laboratory” (谷雨实验室), “Jianmeow” (史上最贱喵) and other online accounts that have illegally carried out reporting activities (自采), broadcast untrue information and other problems, they will be handed in a timely manner. [Source]

China Law Translate has posted a set of judicial opinions on the strict punishment of rumor-spreading, along with other “Violations and Crimes that Obstruct the Prevention and Control of the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic” such as breaking quarantine or refusing treatment; threatening or attacking medical personnel; making or selling fake or substandard protective gear or medication; price hikes, fraud, or looting; and dereliction of duty or corruption in combating the outbreak.

[…] Cases of fabricating information on the epidemic should be handled precisely and appropriately in accordance with law. Malicious fabrication of epidemic information, causing social panic, stirring up public sentiment, or disrupting social order, especially maliciously attacking the Party and government, taking the opportunity to incite subversion of state power or overthrow of the socialist system, should be strictly punished in accordance with law. Where disseminating false information due to credulity and the harm is not large, it is not to handled as a crime. [Source]

As a post at Chublic Opinion noted, “anti-rumor” enforcement is not solely enacted by the authorities themselves:

[…] If things have changed in the 17 years since 2003, one clear difference is the emergence of grassroots online defenders of the state against what they see as “subversive forces”. Experts, media, and individuals may all become targets of intimidation in the name of “rumor busting” (piyao). The unifying value of such online actors (some showing signs of state coordination, others spontaneous) appears to be the upholding of social order and stability in the face of extreme uncertainty and chaos. Any utterance that is considered to incendiary or misleading is treated with harsh, and in many cases personal, criticism. Media questioning of official statistics and amplification of non-officially condoned voices run the double risk of both government censorship and punishment by public opinion. What’s tragic is that right in the middle of the Wuhan emergency, this advanced online “immune system against dissent” were activated to attack individuals with real needs and grievances.

[…] All over Weibo, desperate help seekers from the epicenter of the contagious disaster were being chased and attacked by “truth guards” for spreading rumors and misinformation. The bullying was so widespread that a user came up with a satirical guideline advising Wuhaners asking for help on Weibo to self-humiliate and apologize preemptively to the truth guards for their forgiveness. [Source]

Many commentators acknowledge the “legitimate concern that false information from any source could result in panic,” but authorities have repeatedly conflated this with political criticism or simply bad PR. Further fueling anger at official “anti-rumor” measures is their prominent role in a broader climate of opacity which is taking much of the blame for the failure to contain the epidemic in its early stages. As CDT founder Xiao Qiang wrote in an op-ed at the South China Morning Post, “overbearing censorship and bureaucratic obfuscation had squandered any opportunity to get the virus under control before it had spread across Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.” A statement from the China Human Rights Lawyers Group, translated at China Change, argued similarly:

It is precisely this suppression of information that has caused the virus to spread, forced countless families to be separated, and turned this into nationwide disaster and global tragedy.

Even more disturbing, the crackdown is still ongoing. […]

We do not deny that there are people who deliberately spread rumors, but a distinction must be made between rumors and incomplete information. A citizen is not an office of power; a citizen can hardly have access to completely accurate information, never mind that the data from a developing situation is always in flux. These citizens are sharing timely information based on the facts they have at hand. They are the most ardent of patriots. Theirs is the most valuable of speech. These people should be protected, not suppressed. [Source]

In a petition calling for free speech following Li Wenliang’s death, also translated at China Change, a group of intellectuals including Xu Zhangrun wrote that the epidemic’s current status is “a result of the authorities suppressing speech and the truth […] bent more on shutting off people’s mouths than preventing an epidemic. […] They have used disease control as a pretext to illegally deprive citizens of their constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, right to freedom of movement, and the right to private property. […] Where there is no free speech, there is no safety.” (SCMP reports that “the petition is gaining momentum online, but some of the signatories have already come under pressure.”)

In a recent interview with Vox, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Yanzhong Huang described a lack of transparency both within officialdom and toward the public and outside world. Noting the “decline and degradation of China’s non-state media industry,” Chublic Opinion argued that although “the China of 2020 is economically and technologically much more advanced than the China of 2003, […] 17 years after SARS, the country had proactively dismantled a key part of its immune system against such danger.” CDT Chinese editors, introducing their January censorship roundup, quoted Camus’ “The Plague”: “’There’s no heroism in any of this. This is merely a matter of honesty. The only possible way to fight the plague is honesty.’ If you want to know why Wuhan pneumonia went from controllable to uncontrolled, why it’s now an international public health emergency, there is only one reason, I’m afraid: dishonesty.”

At China Media Project, Qian Gang contrasted the efforts of Li and others to speak out with the silence of the 2,369 delegates at the Wuhan and Hubei “Two Sessions” meetings in early January, whose shadow is widely blamed for giving the outbreak time to spread.

[…] Did any delegates, including those from the medical profession, exercise their right to democratic supervision (民主监督) or political participation (参政议政), offering suggestions to the government on prevention and control of the epidemic?

[…] The 2020 “two meetings” in Hubei were the first time that “delegate channels” were set up with the idea of allowing delegates to answer questions and speak up in public. Were these interactive channels actually used to respond to the most pressing concerns of the public? Why did the media not use these channels to address questions about the epidemic to delegates?

[…] The “two sessions” are not meant to be celebrations or carnivals. The people’s congress system and the political consultation system are meant, at least in principle, to be watchtowers and protective walls safeguarding society and the people. When such an immense threat faces the well-being of the people, it is impossible not to ask serious questions about what ails this system, about what kind of virus has infected it.

[…] The coronavirus epidemic has worked like a CT scan of China’s system, exposing the deep contrast between lofty rhetoric and real conduct, and displaying the “voiding out” (虚化) of the people’s congress and political consultative systems. Millions of people are now bearing the burden of a calamity brought out by this chronic disease of the system. [Source]

From his rehabilitation after Li’s identity as a frontline doctor was revealed to the dispatch of national disciplinary inspectors after his death, central authorities have sought to deflect blame for these early whistleblowers’ treatment, while encouraging similar action elsewhere. In a ChinaFile Conversation on public anger over the outbreak, Rui Zhong noted that such deflection is “an old tactic, allowing for a small, localized stream of criticism to siphon off discontent before it overflows.” Many argue, however, that local authorities’ failures are symptomatic of the broader climate aggressively cultivated by Xi Jinping himself. Andrew J. Nathan argued that “Xi has pulled a previously lax administrative system together in such a way that it is now dysfunctionally hyper-responsive to central directives but paralyzed in their absence. Xi’s version of the Chinese party-state stands revealed as a Frankenstein’s monster that flails about in response to its master’s commands, wrecking everything that it hits.” Jude Blanchette commented that “this is a system-wide failure, and a thunderous repudiation of Xi’s system of governance.” Still more forceful expression of this argument came from Xu Zhangrun. From ChinaFile:

Ours is a system in which The Ultimate Arbiter [an imperial-era term used by state media to describe Xi Jinping] monopolizes power. It results in what I call “organizational discombobulation” that, in turn, has served to enable a dangerous “systemic impotence” at every level. A political culture has thereby been nurtured that, in terms of the real public good, is ethically bankrupt, for it is one that strains to vouchsafe its privatized Party-State, or what they call their “Mountains and Rivers” while abandoning the people over which it holds sway to suffer the vicissitudes of a cruel fate. It is a system that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made catastrophe. The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance; the fragile and vacuous heart of the jittering edifice of state has thereby shown up as never before.

[…] The last seven decades [of the People’s Republic] have taught the people many lessons about the hazards of totalitarian government. This time around, it is the virus that is proving the point once more and in the most undeniable fashion. [Source]



PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

















香港示威再起 要求政府回应五大诉求


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin


(德国之声中文网) 游行队伍周六上午(8月17日)从遮打花园出发,前往礼宾府。据组织方的统计,大约有2.2万人参加了游行。而德新社现场记者则估算大约有数千人参加。大多数游行教师都着黑衣、系白丝带,手执”守护良知”等标语。


















Hong Kong protesters seize government headquarters, clash with police


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

Hong Kong — Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong swarmed into the legislature’s main building Monday night, tearing down portraits of legislative leaders and spray-painting pro-democracy slogans on the walls of the main chamber. Frustration was mounting over a lack of response from the administration to opposition demands.

Police carrying riot shields and firing tear gas moved in shortly after midnight to clear surrounding streets but appeared to have paused outside the legislative building. A spokesman had earlier broadcast a warning that “appropriate force” would be used in the clearance operation, but there was no immediate word on any arrests or injuries.

Video and images showed police advancing toward the legislature and firing tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters. The crackdown began around midnight.  

Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 2, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China.

The flashing blue and red lights of dozens of police vans and buses lit up the abandoned streets leading to the legislature.

The sharp escalation in tactics came on the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China, a city holiday, and reflected mounting frustration with Hong Kong’s leader for not responding to protesters’ demands after several weeks of demonstrations.

The protesters whacked away at thick glass windows until they shattered and broke and pried open steel security gates and propped them open with barricades to get inside. Police in riot gear retreated as the protesters entered about 9 p.m., avoiding a confrontation and giving them the run of the building.

A shot inside the Legislature Building in Hong Kong during the protest on July 1, 2019. 

CBS News producer Chris Laible said the demonstrators, mostly young people, earlier erected barricades at building exits where they thought police would come out. They propped doors and gates to the building open with any metal objects they could find, and used umbrellas to try to block the view of police inside the building.  Police shot pepper spray through a hole in the door of the building made by the protesters, which drove them back for a while. But hours later angry demonstrators swarmed into the legislature after prying open metal security curtains. Police appeared to back off as the protesters came in, apparently to avoid a confrontation.

WATCH: @CBSNews was inside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. See what we saw here. We followed angry protestors who stormed the building. We were told police were coming to take it back. HK’s pan-Democrat’s have called on the city’s leader Carrie Lam to resign. #HongKongProtests— Ramy Inocencio 英若明 (@RamyInocencio) July 1, 2019

The demonstrators stood on lawmakers’ desks in the main legislative chamber, painted over the territory’s emblem high up on a wooden wall and wrote slogans calling for a democratic election of the city’s leader and denouncing now-suspended extradition legislation that sparked the protests. Many wore yellow and white helmets, face masks and the black T-shirts that have become their uniform. Police announced about 10:30 p.m. that they would clear the area, asking protesters to leave.

The actions prompted organizers of a separate peaceful march against the extradition bill to change the endpoint of their protest from the legislature to a nearby park, after police asked them to either call it off or change the route. Police wanted the march to end earlier in the Wan Chai district, but organizers said that would leave out many people who planned to join the march along the way.

Police estimated 190,000 people joined the peaceful march, the third major one in as many weeks. Organizers estimated the number at 550,000.

Anti-Extradition Protesters Rally In Hong Kong
Anti-extradition protesters use makeshift shields to defend themselves during a clash with police outside the Legislative Council Complex ahead of the annual flag raising ceremony of 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.GETTY

Hong Kong has been wracked by weeks of protests over a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial. The proposed legislation, on which debate has been suspended indefinitely, increased fears of eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July 1, 1997.

CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reported from the melee that both the combative protesters and the much larger group marching through Hong Kong’s streets — said by organizers to be about 550,000-strong — were venting anger at the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, and by extension her superiors in Beijing. Lam backed controversial changes to Hong Kong’s extradition law that would let China transfer anyone accused of a crime in Hong Kong into the mainland’s opaque court system. 

A shot inside the Legislature Building in Hong Kong during the protest on July 1, 2019. RAMY INOCENCIO CBS NEWS

Mounting frustration

The annual march was larger this year because of the simmering anger over the proposed extradition bill. Two marches in June against the legislation drew more than a million people, according to organizer estimates.

The government has suspended debate on the bill indefinitely, but protest leaders want it formally withdrawn and for Lam to resign. They also are demanding an independent inquiry into police actions during a June 12 protest, when officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who blocked the legislature on the day debate on the bill had been scheduled to resume.

The police say the use of force was justified, but have since adopted softer tactics, even as protesters besieged police headquarters in recent days, pelting it with eggs and spray-painting slogans on its outer walls.

Earlier, protesters demanding Hong Kong’s embattled leader step down clashed with police outside a flag-raising ceremony marking the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China. Lam pledged to be more responsive to public sentiment.suspended debate on the bill

Police used riot shields and pepper spray to push back hundreds of helmeted protesters who tried to advance down closed streets toward the harborfront ceremony venue, where the Chinese and Hong Kong flags were raised together and two helicopters and a small flotilla passed by.

At the ceremony, Lam said a series of protests and marches that have attracted hundreds of thousands of students and other participants in recent weeks had taught her that she needs to listen better to the youth, and Hong Kong’s people in general. Lam has come under withering criticism for trying to push through the legislation.

“This has made me fully realize that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately,” she said in a five-minute speech to the gathering in the city’s cavernous convention center.

She insisted her government has good intentions but said she “will learn the lesson and ensure that the government’s future work will be closer and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community.”

Security guards pushed pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong out of the room as she walked backward shouting at Lam to resign and withdraw the “evil” legislation. She later told reporters she was voicing the grievances and opinions of the protesters, who could not get into the event.

New this morning in Hong Kong. Police cordoned off this entrance protestors used to swarm into LegCo last night. The city takes stock of the damage today – physically, psychologically, economically. CE Carrie Lam says she hopes the city will return to normal. #HongKongProtests— Ramy Inocencio 英若明 (@RamyInocencio) July 1, 2019

The following morning, Lam said she was hoping Hong Kong would return to normal.

Additional list of re-education camps in Xinjiang


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

The facilities I identified in this list are very likely re-education camps. But I cannot find supporting evidence such as procurement notices, government records, news, or local sources to confirm that these facilities are indeed re-education camps. This is becoming more and more common after 2018 because Xinjiang government has been more cautious to public information regarding re-education camps. The formal list of re-education camps only includes camps with supporting evidence. This list only includes camps with no supporting evidence other than satellite imagery.

  1. Gulja/ Yining County, Ili

43.980717, 81.535563

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2. Gulja/ Yining City, Ili

43.870143, 81.383824

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3. Zhaosu, Ili

43.182521, 81.135026

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4. Baijiantan, Karamay

45.698504, 85.156210

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5. Kuqa/ Kuche, Aksu

41.753920, 83.019399

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6. Xayar/ Shaya, Aksu

41.233676, 82.835233

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7. Artux/ Atushi, Kizilsu

39.669080, 76.091044

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8. Hotan County, Hotan

37.235631, 79.836379

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9. Hotan County, Hotan

37.239629, 79.850156

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Xinjiang re-education camps list by cities


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

  1. Urumqi City

Tianshan District 天山区

Saybag District 沙依巴克区

Xinshi District 新市区

Shuimogou District 水磨沟区

Toutunhe District 头屯河区

Dabancheng District 达坂城区 43.383833, 88.288389

Midong District 米东区

Ürümqi County 乌鲁木齐县

2. Karamay City

Dushanzi District 独山子区 44.331648, 84.821874

Karamay District 克拉玛依区 45.533700, 84.796670

Baijiantan District 白碱滩区 45.698504, 85.156210

Orku District 乌尔禾区

3. Turpan City

Gaochang District 高昌区 42.960889, 89.21716742.946017, 89.23118242.950152, 89.24012742.953682, 89.238152

Shanshan County 鄯善县 42.880909, 90.132269

Toksun County 托克逊县

3. Hami City

Yizhou District 伊州区 42.811472, 93.433611

Barkol County 巴里坤县

Yiwu County 伊吾县

4. Changji Prefecture

Changji city 昌吉市 44.101911, 86.996106

Fukang city 阜康市 44.196194, 87.874286

Hutubi County 呼图壁县 44.206923, 86.893920

Manas County 玛纳斯县 44.329306, 86.160519

Qitai County 奇台县

Jimsar County 吉木萨尔县

Mori County 木垒县

5. Bortala Prefecture

Bole city 博乐市

Alashankoucity 阿拉山口市

Jinghe County 精河县

Wenquan County 温泉县

6. Bayingolin Prefecture

Korla city 库尔勒市 41.705044, 86.283372

Luntai County 轮台县

Yuli County 尉犁县 41.373725, 86.318747

Ruoqiang County 若羌县

Qiemo County 且末县 38.104943, 85.574115

Yanqi County 焉耆县

Hejing County 和静县 42.311591, 86.310317

Hoxud County 和硕县

Bohu County 博湖县

7. Aksu Prefecture

Aksu city 阿克苏市 41.117222, 80.16175041.124182, 80.172647

Wensu County 温宿县 41.344615, 80.24148941.266701, 80.247408*

Kuqa County 库车县 41.731278, 83.00861141.753920, 83.019399

Xayar County 沙雅县 41.192463, 82.73932141.233676, 82.835233

Xinhe County 新和县

Baicheng County 拜城县

Wushi County 乌什县

Awat County 阿瓦提县

Kalpin County 柯坪县

8. Kizilsu Prefecture

Artux city 阿图什市 39.642389, 75.99469439.639799, 75.99512639.669080, 76.091044

Akto County 阿克陶县 39.147917, 75.95222239.260278, 76.001764

Akqi County 阿合奇县

Wuqia County 乌恰县

9. Kashgar Prefecture

Kashgar city 喀什市 39.431667, 76.055750 , 39.457111, 76.041944*, 39.456833, 75.975333* , 39.469306, 75.969472*, 39.451806, 76.110250

Shufu County 疏附县 39.359194, 75.863889 ; 39.33253536,75.68783723

Shule County 疏勒县 39.358111, 76.051139 ; 39.382061, 76.072503*; 39.380806, 76.078222 ; 39.410674, 76.13295939.407461, 76.094108;

Yengisar County 英吉沙县 38.937523, 76.05879638.960800, 76.156387

Zepu County 泽普县 38.086181, 77.112836

Shache County 莎车县 38.351695, 77.30574038.317354, 77.21057938.362843, 77.22569938.411947, 77.14444238.362651, 77.12096238.365028, 77.11986138.460150, 77.46743938.678054, 77.30483938.236269, 77.096636

Yecheng County 叶城县 37.916778, 77.35147237.851194, 77.437028

Makit County 麦盖提县 38.837583, 77.70747238.880546, 77.656862

Yopurga County 岳普湖县

Jiashi County 伽师县 39.538611, 76.71391739.438250, 76.74047239.488704, 76.706074

Bachu County 巴楚县 39.825278, 78.550111*; 39.818870, 78.51851939.812540, 78.556033

Taxkorgan County 塔什库尔干县

10. Hotan Prefecture

Hotan city 和田市 37.111806, 79.970833*; 37.163833, 79.86691737.130112, 79.971045

Hotan County 和田县 37.249778, 79.84805637.235631, 79.836379; 37.239629, 79.850156;

Moyu County 墨玉县 37.111861, 79.64191737.252194, 79.72188937.227560, 79.73481537.259190, 79.747715

Pishan County 皮山县

Lop County 洛浦县 37.101962, 80.179048

Qira County 策勒县 36.982383, 80.81375336.964510, 80.813332

Yutian County 于田县 36.800339, 81.83290936.835777, 81.755686

Minfeng County 民丰县

11. Ili Prefecture

Yining city 伊宁市 43.977428, 81.13883043.870143, 81.383824

Kuytun city 奎屯市 44.412373, 85.070769

Korgas city 霍尔果斯市

Yining County 伊宁县 43.974431, 81.49615644.000237, 81.53337743.980717, 81.535563

Qapqal County 察布查尔县 43.839905, 81.164962

Huocheng County 霍城县 44.025250, 80.87408344.058975, 80.849792

Gongliu County 巩留县 43.517357, 82.209137

Xinyuan County 新源县

Zhaosu County 昭苏县 43.149514, 81.10932043.182521, 81.135026

Tekes County 特克斯县

Nilka County 尼勒克县 43.798260, 82.487920

12. Tacheng Prefecture

Tacheng city 塔城市 46.717771, 82.955078

Usu city 乌苏市 44.421126, 84.670065

Emin County 额敏县

Shawan County 沙湾县 44.346051, 85.629137

Toli County 托里县

Yumin County 裕民县

Hoboksar County 和布克赛尔县

13. Altay prefecture

Altay city 阿勒泰市

Burqin County 布尔津县

Fuyun County 富蕴县

Fuhai County 福海县

Habahe County 哈巴河县

Qinghe County 青河县

Jeminay County 吉木乃县

14. Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps

Shihezi city 石河子市

Aral city 阿拉尔市

Tumxuk city 图木舒克市

Wujiaqu city 五家渠市

Beitun city 北屯市

Tiemenguancity 铁门关市

Shuanghe city 双河市

Kokdala city 可克达拉市

Kunyu city 昆玉市

* means camps are likely not in use any more

Photos: Hong Kong Protesters Return to the Streets


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens filled the city’s streets for a second weekend of protest against a controversial extradition bill that would allow authorities to send suspected criminals to China. The demonstration took place despite an earlier statement from Chief Executive Carrie Lam indicating that the proposed bill would be suspended indefinitely. Marchers were calling for Hong Kong’s leadership to step down and for a full withdrawal of the extradition bill. Organizers claim that more than 2 million people took part in the march in Hong Kong on Sunday.

A protester clenches his fist as hundreds of thousands of people march on the streets to stage a protest against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

People pay their respects at the site where a man fell from a scaffolding at the Pacific Place complex while protesting against a proposed extradition bill, in Hong Kong, on June 16, 2019.

A man takes a selfie with a protest poster before sticking it to the wall of a walkway near the Legislative Council ahead of a speech by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on June 14, 2019.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, holds a press conference in Hong Kong on June 15, 2019. Lam said she will suspend a proposed extradition bill indefinitely in response to widespread public unhappiness over the measure, which would enable authorities to send some suspects to stand trial in mainland courts.

This general view shows thousands of protesters gathered ahead of the start of a new rally against a controversial extradition-law proposal in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Protesters in a subway station, photographed on their way to the rally in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019

Protesters hold placards as they attend a demonstration demanding that Hong Kong’s leaders step down and withdraw the extradition bill, on June 16, 2019.

A large banner protesting against the extradition bill that reads “Fight for HK,” hung by pro-democracy protesters above Hong Kong on June 16, 2019

Protesters march on the streets against an extradition bill in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Protesters hold placards as they prepare to demonstrate against the now suspended extradition bill on June 16, 2019.

A woman takes pictures from a rooftop as protesters march on a street below on June 16, 2019. 

An overhead view shows thousands of protesters marching through the street in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Marchers continue to protest an extradition bill on June 16, 2019.

Protesters march through the streets of Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Protesters hold banners and shout slogans as they fill the streets of Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Protesters dressed in black take part in a new rally against a controversial extradition-law proposal in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Protesters march in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Demonstrators gather along a police barricade on June 16, 2019.

A protester with a mask gathers with others near the Legislative Council as they continue protesting against the unpopular extradition bill in Hong Kong early on June 17, 2019.

A protester holds a flag of Hong Kong between police and demonstrators outside the Office of the Chief Executive in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.

Mourners hold candles during a vigil for a protester who died the previous night during a rally in Hong Kong, on June 17, 2019.

Protesters gather along a road after taking part in a march and rally on June 16, 2019. 

A helmet and messages of support for the protest against a proposed extradition bill are seen displayed in the early morning in Hong Kong on June 17, 2019.

Barricades, placed in an underground tunnel by protesters, photographed after a demonstration against the now suspended extradition bill on June 17, 2019

Hong Kong Is on the Frontlines of a Global Battle For Freedom


PostBy: 殷楚楚-chuchu yin

Protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by police during a rally against an extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12.

Hong Kong Is on the Frontlines of a Global Battle For Freedom

By Feliz SolomonJune 12, 2019 9:00 PM EDT

The crowds weren’t just equipped for a storm, they were counting on one. When rain started to fall on the tens of thousands of mostly young people amassed around Hong Kong’s legislature on the morning of June 12, umbrellas popped open with loud shouts of “Ga yau!” — a Cantonese cheer meaning “Add oil,” as to a fire. Within hours, the flimsy canopies were flipped sideways and turned into makeshift shields against tear gas and pepper spray fired by local police. They proved less reliable against rubber bullets, however, and might offer no protection at all against the authoritarian forces that loom over the entire island.

But the point was to try.

The protests were hardly the first in the former British colony since it was handed over to China in 1997. The specter of greater control by communist authorities on the mainland had driven Hong Kongers onto the streets in 2003, 2012 and 2014. But this time, the numbers were greater than ever before and the escalation carried at least the sense of a showdown.Photograph by Kin Cheung—AP

The specific issue at hand was a bill that would allow the extradition of fugitives to stand trial in mainland China. The legislation, fast-tracked by the city’s leadership, is widely seen as a threat to the unique freedoms this city of 7 million enjoys. Under the terms of the handover, Hong Kong has operated under a customized model called “one country, two systems,” which gave it a 50-year period of effective self-rule, even though it is part of China. Its history as a lucrative colonial port town left a liberal legacy unique in the People’s Republic.

Hong Kongers have long lived a freer, more cosmopolitan lifestyle than most Chinese, and prejudice against mainlanders is pervasive. Free speech and an independent press are enshrined in the Basic Law that has governed the city since the handover. They’re proud of their distinct cuisine and language, speaking Cantonese rather than the Mandarin more common in greater China.

But critics fear that China’s encroachment may bring an end to all that. Beijing might use the law to nab opponents and submit them to its notoriously opaque justice system, they say. The risk could extend beyond residents, even to visitors who pass through the city’s transit hub. “If Hong Kong’s extradition bill becomes law,” says Sean King, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia and currently senior vice president for the consultancy firm Park Strategies, “I’d think very carefully about visiting again anytime soon.”

In other words, the contest for Hong Kong reflects the stakes for the larger world that China seeks to lead.

The rise of Beijing has been the major global story of the new century. But the very breadth of that ascent and the bland labels of the areas where it has edged toward dominance — trade, infrastructure, finance, tech — have served to mask the nature of the system China brings with it. That system is control.

On the mainland, the system appears to go unchallenged, because control is almost total and cast as conformity. Along with a surveillance state, China’s Communist Party has worked to impose a singular vision of Chinese identity in territories where diversity once thrived. In the far western province of Xinjiang, authorities have detained more than a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps where they are forced to adopt secular Chinese customs. In Tibet, the party is systematically erasing a rich Buddhist heritage. President Xi Jinping has revived nationalism as a unifying force, in step with a rising tide of authoritarians around the globe that U.S. President Donald Trump has in many cases embraced.A police officer pepper-sprays demonstrators during a protest against the extradition law proposal on June 10.A police officer pepper-sprays demonstrators during a protest against the extradition law proposal on June 10. Lam Yik Fei—The New York Times/ReduxDemonstrators overturn metal barriers on June 10, as protests against the extradition law turn violent.Demonstrators overturn metal barriers on June 10, as protests against the extradition law turn violent. Lam Yik Fei—The New York Times/Redux

Now it appears to be Hong Kong’s turn to feel the heat of a greater power forcing it into conformity — but China’s freest city won’t give in without a fight. Hong Kong has a long history of mass demonstrations. Significantly, just days before the protests erupted, it was host to one of the largest-ever vigils for the victims of Beijing’s bloody 1989 crackdown on democracy activists at Tiananmen Square. It’s the only place on Chinese soil where the massacre is openly commemorated, while government censors try to wipe it from mainland memory. The spirit of the protests snuffed out 30 years before helped inflame the demonstrations seen in Hong Kong.

“We’re furious, we’re angry, some of us are afraid — but we’re here anyway,” says Laurie Wen, a 48-year-old writer who joined this month’s protests. “The thing that infuriates us the most is pointing to the sky during the day and calling it night.”

Read more: ‘I’m in Prison Because I Fought For My City’s Freedom. Hong Kong’s Extradition Law Would be a Victory for Authoritarianism Everywhere’

Hong Kong’s fresh wave of civil disobedience began with a murder. In February 2018, a pregnant 20-year-old woman from Hong Kong was killed by her boyfriend during a trip to Taiwan. The suspect, Chan Tong-kai, then 19, flew back to Hong Kong and has since been jailed for lesser crimes. Unable to prosecute the Hong Kong resident for a murder beyond the city’s jurisdiction and without legal grounds to send him to Taiwan, the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, pushed for a bill that would allow Chan to be extradited.

But the legislation raised alarm bells. Hong Kong’s courts and Lam would have the authority to transfer suspects to jurisdictions with which the territory has no extradition agreement — not just Taiwan but also mainland China. This presents a threat not just to criminals but potentially to anyone whose behavior offends the Communist Party leadership, from human-rights advocates to business executives.Police officers stand guard during a protest on June 12.Police officers stand guard during a protest on June 12. Billy H.C. Kwok—Getty Images

That helps explain why an unusually diverse assemblage of lawyers, students, stay-at-home moms, business-people and others joined the protests against what they see as an existential assault on their rights. On Sunday, June 9, a two-mile stretch of a central avenue was filled with column after column of protesters in a uniform of plain white T-shirts. From above, the mass of slow-moving city dwellers looked like a giant snake sliding through a forest of skyscrapers and wrapping its jaws around Hong Kong’s legislative headquarters.

If the estimates are even close to accurate, the march was the largest protest in the city’s history; organizers say more than a million people — one-seventh of the population — flooded the streets with chants of “No extradition to China!” and “Carrie Lam, step down!”

The reality is, China already feels empowered to grab its adversaries from Hong Kong soil. In 2015, five book-sellers peddling salacious volumes about mainland politics disappeared; all five eventually resurfaced in China. In 2017, a Chinese tycoon was abducted by secret police from one of the city’s luxury hotels. But the extradition bill would render what are now noteworthy exceptions into something entirely routine; if the option to legally extradite people is on the table, Beijing will use it, critics say.Tear gas is released during a protest on June 12.Tear gas is released during a protest on June 12. Billy H.C. Kwok—Getty ImagesProtesters raise their hands during a protest on June 12.Protesters raise their hands during a protest on June 12. Billy H.C. Kwok—Getty Images

Chinese officials have spoken out in full support of the legislation, but Lam steadfastly denies that the amendments were Beijing’s idea. “This bill was not initiated by the central people’s government. I have not received any instruction or mandate from Beijing,” Lam told reporters at a press conference on June 10. “We were doing it, and we are still doing it, out of our clear conscience and our commitment to Hong Kong.”

Though Lam’s critics describe her as a “puppet” of the mainland, her protests illustrate the importance of maintaining at least the pretense of independence. The Hong Kong government is still haunted by the massive protests of 2003, which forced it to back down on national-security legislation outlawing sedition and criticism of the Chinese government. Scrapping the bill was perceived as an admission that the government knew it was wrong, and Lam is fearful a repeat would destroy both Beijing’s trust in her loyalty and her legitimacy at home. The last time Hong Kongers took to the street in great numbers, in the 2014 student-led occupation of the financial district that became known as the Umbrella Movement, the authorities here and in Beijing refused to grant concessions. Many student leaders were jailed, and some remain behind bars. If Lam gives in now, Hong Kong will have proved that throngs in the street still have currency in the final free enclave of China.Protesters walk through a cloud of tear gas on June 12.Protesters walk through a cloud of tear gas on June 12. Billy H.C. Kwok—Getty Images

This time, unlike in 2014, the protests have taken on a more violent tenor. On the streets, clashes broke out after some demonstrators hurled bricks and bottles at police. The first clouds of tear gas exploded into the crowds just before 4 p.m. on June 12, sending panicked protesters and journalists fleeing for the safety of malls and parking garages. But the demonstrators are defiant, vowing to defy the government until the legislation is dead in the water.

The business and diplomatic communities have answered the call to support them. More than 100 local businesses committed to joining a labor strike on June 12 — an extremely rare event in Hong Kong — fearing the law could even endanger investors and government employees transiting through Hong Kong.

The government has already shown itself willing to punish private companies for offending Beijing; last year, Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was denied a working visa after chairing a talk by a pro-independence activist.

Protest leaders have shown no sign of backing down. “We ask everyone to continue staying here to support the demonstration,” Claudia Mo, a lawmaker with the pro-democracy Civic Party yelled to cheering crowds shortly before they were dispersed. “During Occupy Central in 2014, we said, ‘We will be back.’ Today, we say, ‘We are back!’”

Read more: ‘Hong Kong Was My Refuge, Now Its Freedom Is at Stake’Police advance toward protesters outside the government headquarters on June 12.Police advance toward protesters outside the government headquarters on June 12. Dale De La Rey—AFP/Getty ImagesDemonstrators transport bricks at a protest site on June 12. Police said some protesters threw bricks at officers.Demonstrators transport bricks at a protest site on June 12. Police said some protesters threw bricks at officers. Lucien Lung—Riva Press/Redux

The rift between Beijing and Hong Kong has now been widening for 22 years, and every attempt by the central government to bring Hong Kong further into its fold has triggered panic and protest. This in turn has deepened Beijing’s distrust of Hong Kong, which it sees as disloyal and subject to foreign interference.

News about the latest protests is being heavily censored in China, where state-controlled newspapers have blamed the unrest on “foreign forces” meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs — but experts say it is China’s own interference that may be further alienating its rogue territory.

“By forcing the issue in such an aggressive and abrupt way,” says James Millward, a professor of history at Georgetown University, “China can actually be creating a population in Hong Kong that will dig in and actually redefine itself in opposition to the mainland even more than it has so far.”Protesters shout after police fired tear gas on June 12.Protesters shout after police fired tear gas on June 12. Anthony Wallace—AFP/Getty Images

That risks putting the two sides on a more overt collision course. At best, more sustained opposition to Beijing will lead to political deadlock. At worst, it could lead to punishment in whatever form it deems fit.

Beijing’s tolerance of Hong Kong ultimately comes down to a cost-benefit analysis, and the city may be becoming more trouble than it’s worth. In 1993, four years before the handover, the coastal enclave was China’s cash cow — a financial gateway between East and West. At the time, the city accounted for roughly 27% of China’s GDP. But 26 years later, the mainland is awash in mercantile centers made in its own image and Hong Kong accounts for only about 2.9% of the Chinese economy.

“Uncomfortably for Hong Kongers, and everyone who loves Hong Kong, the city finds itself on the front lines of a global battle between a resurgent Chinese Communist Party and a world that adheres to liberal democratic values,” says Ben Bland, director of the Southeast Asia Project at the Lowy Institute and author of Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow. “The systems maintained by these two blocs are incompatible when pressed up against each other.”Police rest on a street during a rally near the government headquarters on June 12.Police rest on a street during a rally near the government headquarters on June 12. Dale De La Rey—AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s freedoms currently allow it to fight back in ways that other parts of China can’t, but for how long? The state is becoming only more pervasive. -Xinjiang is seen by many as a laboratory for wider application of invasive surveillance. Human-rights groups have reported police methods for harvesting data from Xinjiang residents from phones and ID cards and using it to track and detain supposed threats to public order. “Many people think that Hong Kong may be the next place where it gets rolled out,” says Millward of Georgetown. In the meantime, the memory of Tiananmen — where public protest was ultimately met with tanks and fusillades — is as vivid as it is chilling in Hong Kong.

Like many youths who joined the latest protests, high school student Rachel Liu grew up in a political state scheduled to expire within her lifetime. At 15 years old, she’s tasted the freedom that Hong Kong offers and is afraid of the change an increasingly authoritarian Beijing will bring to the only home she knows. “There are so many officials in China, and they have so much power,” she said. “Even if this amendment doesn’t pass, there will be other amendments, other laws in the future that will bring Hong Kong more and more under China’s control. There’s nothing more important than this movement right now.” — With reporting by Laignee Barron, Aria Chen, Amy Gunia, Abhishyant Kidangoor and Hillary Leung/Hong Kong and Charlie Campbell/Shanghai