East Asia
√úr√ľmqi Road

China: activist filmmaker faces prison

Police in China charged Chen Pin Lin, director of documentary Not the Foreign Force, with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,”¬†according to Chinese human rights monitors¬†Weiquanwang and Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch. The charge, an offense under Article 293 of China’s Criminal Act, has been widely criticized for its elusive definition and use against dissidents and¬†human rights defenders. The film, also known as √úr√ľmqi Road in Chinese, depicts the nationwide protests against COVID-19 lockdown measures in China.¬†Posted online by¬†Chen¬†under the pseudonym “Plato,” the film criticizes¬†the Chinese government for attempting to blame foreign forces for the protests. (Image via YouTube)

East Asia
Hong Kong

Hong Kong executive pushes new security law

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee¬†announced the commencement of a four-week consultation period for a new local security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Article 23 mandates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) pass its own laws to prohibit crimes such as treason, secession, sedition and subversion against China’s Central People’s Government. Massive protests involving an estimated 500,000 participants halted the previous attempt to legislate Article 23 in 2003. The current push highlights the Hong Kong government’s efforts to address “soft resistance,” such as online activity that may jeopardize national security.¬†(Photo: HKFP)

East Asia
china labor

Wildcat labor actions spread in China

Although winning no coverage in English-language media, labor actions are spreading across China in the current economic downturn in the People’s Republic. This week, workers hung banners outside the headquarters of the Guilin No. 3 Construction Company in Guangxi province to demand payment of outstanding wages owed¬†to hundreds of employees. On the same day, migrant workers in Jinan, Shandong province, raised banners in the city’s central business district demanding payment of backlogged wages by the China Railway Construction Corporation. By definition, such actions are not authorized by the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).¬†Numerous such recent actions were described at¬†the symposium “Non-violent Resistance, High-Tech Totalitarianism and China’s Future,” held last weekend¬†in Washington DC.¬†(Image:¬†China Labour Bulletin)

East Asia

Arrests at Hong Kong’s ‘patriots-only’ election

Hong Kong Chief Executive Ka-chiu Lee applauded the “good turnout” in the city’s “patriots-only” District Council elections‚ÄĒdespite a turnout of only 27.5%, the lowest in any race since the return to Chinese rule in 1997. He also charged that protesters had attempted to “sabotage” the vote. Four of the city’s leading democracy advocates were pre-emptively arrested for supposedly planning protests before the polls opened. This was the first district-level vote since Hong Kong’s government overhauled the electoral system, instating changes that effectively made it impossible for pro-democracy¬†candidates to run.¬†Most of the city’s pro-democracy activists are now behind bars, in exile, or silenced by fear of repression. (Photo of League of Social Democrats¬†chair¬†Chan Po-ying: HKFP)

East Asia

China expands mosque closure campaign

The Chinese government has increased mosque closures in northern Ningxia region and Gansu province, home to significant populations of Hui Muslims, according to a report¬†by Human Rights Watch. The campaign of closures marks an expansion of the policy beyond the Uyghur people of Xinjiang region. Officially termed “consolidation,” the campaign calls for shutting down mosques or modifying their architectural features to align with more typically Chinese aesthetics. The Hui, a distinctive ethno-religious group in China numbering over 10 million, are now at the forefront of concerns regarding the government’s broader campaign to “consolidate” mosques. (Photo:¬†Zhuxian mosque, Henan province, by Sarkis Pogossian)

East Asia

Hong Kong steps up crackdown on Cantopop stars

Hong Kong District Court judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung handed down a judgment sentencing Tommy Yuen, a former Cantopop boy-band member, to 26 months imprisonment. Yuen was convicted of “acts with seditious intention” among other charges. Lin found that Yuen made seditious statements on Facebook and Instagram in 2021 disparaging police and officials. Lin asserted that Yuen had been advocating for Hong Kong independence and insulting Hong Kong’s government. Yuen was well known as a member of the Cantopop boy group E-kids, which was disbanded in 2006. He had been active in the 2019 anti-extradition protests, while Lin won a reputation for his harsh sentences handed down to protesters. (Photo: Yuen, outside West Kowloon Court in March 2021, standing to right of Alexandra “Grandma” Wong. Credit: Studio Incendo via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia

Hong Kong: protester convictions overturned

Seven high-profile democracy activists in Hong Kong had part of their sentences thrown out on¬†appeal. They were convicted two years ago over a mass demonstration on Aug. 18, 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, in defiance of a ban on street protests. The Court of Appeal’s judgement found that just because they were at the front of the procession didn’t mean they had actually organized it. However, their convictions¬†for taking part in the rally were upheld. Martin Lee,¬†Margaret Ng and Albert Ho were given suspended sentences or credit for time served, and were released. But Jimmy Lai, Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan remained in custody, as they also face charges under the National Security Law. (Photo: Iris Wong/Wikimedia)

East Asia

Hong Kong pro-democracy radio station closed down

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Citizen¬†Radio aired its final broadcast, with the founder citing the “dangerous” political environment. Tsang Kin-shing, a veteran political activist, wrote in the station’s closing Facebook post of mounting difficulties. Under the National Security Law imposed by the Chinese government in 2020, the station’s bank account was “frozen,” and consequently it could only afford rent for the studio through August. “We could do nothing but to stop the broadcasting,” said Tsang. In a press conference at the studio, Tsang also told reporters of the growing obstacles to journalistic work: “If we invite guests, they may not be able to speak freely, because there are so many red lines.” (Image: Citizen¬†Radio)

East Asia

UK orders closure of China-run ‘police stations’

UK Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat told Parliament that the government has ordered China to close “overseas police service stations” operating within the United Kingdom, calling the stations’ existence “unacceptable.” Tugendhat said that British authorities received reports from non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders of such stations in Croydon, Hendon and Glasgow, with allegations of another in Belfast. The United States and Ireland both claim to have recently uncovered similar stations in their countries. Like the UK, they said the stations were used to monitor and harass Chinese diaspora communities.¬†(Photo of¬†Glasgow¬†location, within restaurant storefront: Google via The Ferret)

East Asia
glory to HK

Hong Kong: bid to ban protest anthem backfires

The Hong Kong Department of Justice applied to the Special Administrative Region’s High Court for an injunction to prohibit any performance or online dissemination of the song “Glory to Hong Kong,” anthem of the 2019 protest movement. The government asserts that the song contains secessionist lyrics that¬†breach multiple laws in Hong Kong and China, including the National Security Law. However, thousands of Hong Kong citizens responded to the government’s move by gathering in public to sing the song, in defiance of an ongoing ban on protests. It also shot to the top of the iTunes charts. After days of this, a judge postponed deciding on the petition, finding it potentially overbroad and asking the government to be more specific on the breadth of its request. (Image:¬†Campaign for Hong Kong via Twtter)

East Asia

Macau national security law threatens free speech

Reporters Without Borders¬†denounced Macau’s expansion of¬†its national security law, saying the revision “increases the pressure on journalists and further threatens…residents’ right to information.”¬†The Macau Special Administrative Region’s National Security Law, first passed in 2009, defines seven crimes that can result in a maximum sentence of up to 25 years’ imprisonment. Under the revised rules,¬†these crimes have been expanded far beyond their previous definitions. For example, “subversion” and “secession” now extend to non-violent acts, while “sedition” includes “acts that incite participation in riots.” Additionally, the law now applies to “any individual” who is suspected of undermining China’s national security. This applies regardless of the territory in which the acts occur, and regardless of the individual’s nationality‚ÄĒmeaning that Macau law enforcement will have authority to pursue suspected violations extraterritorially. (Photo: kewl.lu via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia

China: Muslim protests over mosque ‘Sinicization’

The predominantly Muslim town of Nagu in China’s Yunnan province saw street-fighting between residents and police over planned demolition of the dome of the locality’s historic mosque. Orders were issued in 2020 to demolish the dome, which had recently been expanded, as part of President Xi Jinping’s campaign for the “Sinicization” of Islam in China. The campaign mandates that mosques in what is deemed an overly “Arabic style” must be “rectified.” The order for “rectification” of Nagu’s 13th-century Najiaying Mosque went unenforced until a crew of workers with cranes and bulldozers arrived unannounced, accompanied by some 400 riot police. Clashes ensued when residents mobilized to defend the mosque. Authorities responded by flooding the town with up to 5,000 troops, and cutting off the internet in the area. Dozens of protesters have been arrested, and authorities have issued an ultimatum for accused instigators to turn themselves in. (Image via WikiVoyage)