Posts Tagged ‘Chinese police’

Do something useful

July 19, 2011

(Do something useful No.1)


Just back from China and from pretty much getting latest book finished. Except for a small hitch, about which I will blog later.

Meantime, I am adding a new Category button called Do Something Useful. I will use it to file interesting miscarriage of justice and political persecution cases about which readers of this blog might want to do something. Like onpass the cases to friends, sign petitions, even write letters. Imagine how good you will feel if someone you decide merits your support gets let out of prison…

Please only support cases that you have read. Do not assume that me posting stuff automatically means people are innocent of what they have been accused of.

Most of the cases will come from China and Italy since they are — in institutional terms — the Third World countries in which I spend most time. But let’s not pretend nothing ever goes wrong in the UK; there is just a lot less of it. At some point I will go through previous posts and link ones like Knox and Sollecito into this new category.

Our starter for ten today is a lady from China called Wang Lihong. Read on. The link to her case on the Global Voices campaign site is here.

China: Campaigning for the Release of Female Activist Wang Lihong

The Chinese government has been arresting human right activists and political dissidents since February 2011 under the pretext of the Jasmine crack down. Many of the detainees have been released, including the prominent artist activist Ai Weiwei. However, a female activist, Wang Lihong has been detained for 117 days, with the court finally deciding to prosecute her last week.

A number of prominent bloggers have decided to break the silence and campaign for the release of Wang Lihong even though the political climate is still tense. Independent documentary maker, Ai Xiaoming has written a biography [zh] for Wang Lihong in her blog:

Who is Wang Lihong?

Wang Lihong


Wang Lihong was born in October 1955 in an army family in Qingtao and finished her elementary and secondary education in Beijing. She was sent to serve the rural society in Shaanxi in April 1975 and enrolled in the Chinese Department of Yanan University between October 1978 and July 1982. She returned back to Beijing upon graduation and worked there. She left her job in 1991 and became an entrepreneur. She retired in 2008 and started participating in social welfare activities online.

Wang was arrested on March 21, 2011, under the charge of “inciting social unrest”. Later in the official arrest document issued on April 22, 2011, the charge has been changed to “disturbing public transportation in a crowd”. Many believed that the police referred to the “surrounding gaze” flash mob action in Fujian, back in April 2010 (see below).

Below is an incomplete list of social activities that she has participated in since 2008.

  1. The police murder case of Yang Jia on July 1 2008. She visited Yang Jia’s mother and interviewed her and blogged about Yang Jia’s case.
  2. Together with another blogger, Temple Tiger, she helped the homeless people around Tienanmen square.
  3. The Deng Yujiao self defense murder case in May 2009. Wang Lihong travelled to Hubei to join the “surrounding gaze” flash mob in order to pressure the court for an open and fair ruling on Deng’s case.
  4. On May 2009, Wang campaigned for a visit to petitioner, Yao Jing, who was seriously injured by local government officials from Linyi who tried to intercept her petition in Beijing. Together with a group of bloggers, Wang raised donation for Yao Jing’s hospital and lawyer expenses.
  5. Campaigned for human rights lawyer Ni Yulan, who was prosecuted by Beijing authority soon after she was released from jail.
  6. Participated in the “surrounding gaze” flash mob action in support of the three Fujian netizens who was accused by local authorities for defamation in their citizen reports about a suspected rape case in March and April 2010.
  7. Celebrated the Nobel Prize award to Liu Xiaobo in October 2010. She was detained for two weeks and was under house arrest for several months.
  8. In March 2011, she visited two activists in a Henan detention center, Wang Yi who was sentenced to one year labour education for writing a tweet and Tian Xi, an AIDS activist.

Wang’s citizen practice

During her detention, the police have asked Wang to make three promises for a probation arrangement: 1. to never meet sensitive people again; 2. to never travel to sensitive regions again; 3. to never get involve in other people’s business again.

She refused to sign the document and made a statement instead (via @Wanyanhai [zh]):

我是一个有良知的人,我不能保证面对苦难时保持沉默,我不能保证面对像钱云会、唐福珍、李淑莲……这样的悲惨事件假装看不见。 假如我面对苦难和恶行保持沉默,那么下一个被恶行打倒的就是我自己。

I am a person with a conscience. I cannot guarantee that I can keep silence in front of others’ suffering. I can’t guarantee that when I stand in front of Qian Yunhui, Tang Fucheng, Li Shuling… I can pretend that I do not see their miseries. If I keep silence in front of all these suffering and evil deeds, the next person beaten down by evilness will be myself.

Prominent citizen reporter, Tufuwugan, has encountered with Wang in various public incident since 2009 and he has written a blog post on his impressions of Wang [zh]:


We have completely different styles. She likes to argue for the truth and never compromises while I like to hang around with a [flash mob] group and joke around. That’s why I really like her righteousness and simple mindedness. She has everything written in her face and never lied about her feelings… She is a really engaging citizen and a thorn in the eyes of those mother f**kers.

What Tufu and Wang have been doing all these years has opened up a new political space in China. Ai Xiaoming wrote another blog post about the significance of Wang Lihong’s citizen action [zh]:


They get to know one and other through the Internet and collectively practice their citizen rights. We have so few experts and scholars who are willing to speak for the grassroots, but countless netizens participate [in grassroots movements] and create a new climate for the new politics. This is something beautiful that we have never had before: citizens are collected through the Internet and participate in public affair. Regardless of their background, they come together without knowing each others’ real identity. They are connected through common concern. They feel that they can do something to make change, little things such as yelling out for innocent netizens [who have been wrongly prosecuted]. “Surrounding gaze will change China” has become a belief spread across the Chinese Twittersphere. In 2010, outside the Fujian Mawei court, hundreds of netizens travelled across the country to present themselves on the spot and there have been more than 5,000 signatures collected for the campaign. He Yang’s documentary work has recorded the whole political scene. This is the first time since the 1989 incident [Tiananmen Square] that I have seen people marching in the street, calling out “Speech is not a crime, Long live freedom!”

Free Wang Lihong

A blog, Free Wang Lihong [zh], a Facebook event page [zh] and a Google Group [zh] have been set up to collect articles and news reports about Wang and campaign for her release.

Back in Twitter, @weiquanwang has created a signature petition page [zh] for the release of Wang Lihong. Children’s rights activist @zhaolianhai [zh] also helps collecting signatures via a Google Spread Sheet [zh].

Some netizens have claimed that they will surrender themselves to the police if the court sentences Wang to imprisonment. @tufuwugan [zh] is among one of them and there are more, he reports via Twitter:


Just now I received a phone call from Chu Chengzhi saying if Wang is founded guilty, he would surrender himself. He asked me to get some legal advice first. He is right. I was also involved similar “crimes”. If she is guilty, we are all guilty, let us all be guilty. They just want to terrify people through prosecution. Let’s take the initiation to take your prosecution, to fulfill your animal thirst for prosecuting people.

Yin Longlong has written a poem, ‘Search for Wang Lihong‘ [zh] to pay his tribute to Wang. Below is the translation of the poem’s first verse:


I look for my pride, a steel file
A string. The sea has submerged the skyscrapers, princesses and mermaids outside the Emperor’s hall
In the century before the last one
I look for Wang Lihong, only to tell her that the Dynasty is falling apart
Tell her that we have chosen silence because they are worthless to listen to
Tell her that there are still breathes under the earth of our dead sisters
Tell her
Animals and insects are inside the summer prison cell

Your money or your freedom

January 15, 2010


Another rumbling of perhaps not-so-distant thunder. Google’s threat to pull out of China is a significant development in increasingly confrontational relations between China and ‘the West’ (which in my definition is not really west because it includes Japan, as well as Europe and the US). Google’s move ratchets up another notch the political pressure that has been rising over market access for foreign firms, the question of the Renminbi exchange rate, negotiations over China’s vast iron ore imports and the arrest (initially on espionage charges) of Rio Tinto employees, and the handling of Chinese political dissidents, not least ones involved in the new-ish Charter ’08 movement.


Note that most of these are commercial and economic disputes. A simple metric has been at work in relations between China and the West since the Tiananmen massacre of 1989. It can be summed up as a Western bottom line of: ‘Your money or your freedom’. In the early 90s, in the first months of Bill Clinton’s first term, there was a momentary clamour for China to mollify the West by becoming freer. This did not last very long, mainly because China offered the West a different prize: money (or at least the strong smell of profit via Chinese market opening). Everyone has their price, and in the golden years between the 2002 start of the last Chinese credit cycle and the 2008 global financial crisis, the West was paid in money.


The situation — or at least perception of it — began to change in the past two to three years as China recycled vast amounts of foreign exchange earnings into (mostly) foreign government bonds. The main result was to maintain an artificially depressed exchange rate which helps China-based exports. Everybody else in Asia has done this over the years but, as China’s currency management continued against a backdrop of global economic recession, and as more and more multinational companies started to complain that China is finding new ways to block their market access, Western governments have gotten increasingly miffed. Throw in the arrests of Rio Tinto employees, initially on charges of espionage, and you have the beginnings of a Western consensus that China is no longer paying enough for us to overlook its unpleasant human rights record. At least, I think, this is a useful way of viewing the situation.


Google’s threat to quit, interestingly, is more a human rights/morality position than a commercial one. It has, it says, been the subject of orchestrated attacks (using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as the point of access) seeking to obtain information about human rights activists and campaigners dealing with China. Lots of other human rights lobbyists, lawyers, journalists and so on have had their Gmail accounts hacked, not via assaults on Google itself but through direct attacks on email users themselves. Google has not pointed the finger directly, but it is hard to imagine who would attempt to do these things on a regular basis beyond agents – at whatever degree removed – of the state. There have been various attempts in media coverage to spin the story such that Google, which has about a 30% share of the China search market compared with more like 60% for Baidu, is really willing to walk away because it is not the market leader. This is crude and unfair. The reality, surely, is that Google is putting up (morally) with way too much in return for what it is getting out (financially) from China. Everyone has their price, and Google’s is too high for China. That does not mean Google is bad, it means it is far better than most. The firm was willing to run censorship (albeit a bit less than Baidu) on its Chinese search engine in order to get a .cn presence, but having its systems attacked in a quest for information on political dissidents is too much. Compare that with Yahoo! which in 2004 voluntarily provided information to Chinese authorities which led to the jailing of a journalist for 10 years.


It will be interesting to see how the commercial fortunes of Baidu and Google are affected, long-term, if Google does quit China. Baidu’s share price has shot up around 15% since Google publicly stated its position, presumably on the assumption that it can now get a virtual monopoly position in search. Google’s share price is unaffected. I am making a note to check where they are at in five and ten years.


Meanwhile, for your delectation, here are some of my favourite word search terms that Baidu uses to censor and block web pages in China. These are my own (doubtless flawed) translations from documents leaked by a Baidu employee in 2009.


communist party



don’t love the party 

network blocked

the current government

China human rights

princeling [refers to children of political leaders]

the party now

one-party rule 

freedom of speech

common bandit

today’s police

defend legal rights


requisition land


the masses

government official drives the people to revolt

bandit officials

suppress students

Zhao Ziyang

political crisis

evedropping device

sell blood

wife swap

oral sex



mother and son incest

a night of passion

cheating in examinations
the sale of the answer
fake diploma

More links

Rebecca Mackinnon, who knows far more about this stuff than me, writes a spirited op-ed in the WSJ and seems to have a similar opinion.


Chinese soft power

January 5, 2010

The Chinese government decides to remind us that, whereas Italy is an institutionally weak state, China is the authentic institutional Third World, the real McCoy (or real Mackay if you prefer the likely Scottish origin of this term) of arbitrary, unprofessional and gratuitously nasty behaviour. I refer to the execution of a mentally-ill Briton, and an 11-year jail sentence for one of China’s best-known pro-democracy campaigners, which occurred in the same week.

 Akmal Shaikh, 53, a former London minicab manager, was executed in Urumqi for arriving in China with a suitcase containing 4kg of heroin. He had a long history of psychiatric problems. It appears that drug traffickers duped him into carrying the drugs and sent him to China saying it was part of a plan for him to fulfil his ambition of becoming a ‘pop star’. Arrested on arrival, Shaikh was given a 30 minute trial. During a statement he made during his also brief appeal, judges laughed at Shaikh’s nonsensical discourse and confirmed the death penalty, as this China law blog relates.

The 11-year jail sentence was handed down to writer Liu Xiaobo for ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Liu is one of the main drafters of Charter ’08, the Chinese pro-democracy manifesto published two years ago and modelled on Charter ’77, which was launched by dissidents in Czechoslovakia in the midst of the Cold War. Liu was also given a very brief trial at which his lawyers were allowed almost no time to present a defence (the obvious defence is that Liu has done nothing other than exercise rights guaranteed by China’s constitution). The court condemned him at Christmas, presumably in the hope that foreigners were thinking about other things.

If this was the hope, it may have been misplaced, since the cases of both Liu Xiaobo and Akmal Shaikh have received worldwide media coverage. Not for a long time has China faced so much negative press in such a short period.

The Chinese government and its running dogs have shot back with what philosophers call ‘moral equivalence’, or the argument that ‘you’re just the same as we are, only from a different culture’. This might involve reference to the fact that the death penalty is used in the United States, or that all countries have to defend against attacks on state power. 

But these attempts at obfuscation  do not cloud what is stark reality. In the Shaikh case, the court refused to allow either an independent local doctor or a psychiatrist sent from Britain to meet or assess the defendant. China’s 1997 Criminal Code states that a person who is unable to recognize or control his own misconduct does not bear criminal responsibility. However there is no clear requirement for a court to order a psychiatric evaluation. The main justice-related role of psychiatric institutions in China continues to be as places in which to lock up sane people who have criticised the state.  

The Liu case is a reminder that China’s courts are subject to direction by the Communist Party’s  Central Political-Legal Committee, currently headed by former Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang, which determines the outcome of many ‘special’ cases and makes sure that others – such as challenges to the Party – are never admitted to trial. Liu’s 11-year sentence was not really a judicial decision at all. 

A selction of British press comment on the execution of Akmal Shaikh:

More information about Liu Xiaobo:

Deja vu all over again: the letter which Vaclev Havel and others connected with Charter ’77 tried to deliver to the Chinese embassy in Prague (as reprinted in the Washington Post)

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