East Asia
Zunzi

Censorship regime expands in Hong Kong

Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao ended the decades-long run of popular satirical cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan, known by his pseudonym “Zunzi,” after his work drew fire from government authorities. Since 1983, Zunzi’s work had lampooned city officials over corruption, authoritarianism, rights abuses, and subservience to Beijing. His drawings had recently been publicly criticized by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee and Security Bureau chief Chris Tang. Meanwhile, books about Hong Kong protest movements, the Tiananmen Square massacre and other subjects deemed politically sensitive by Beijing are being removed from the city’s public libraries. A government audit stated that the Cultural Services Department needed to “step up efforts in examining library materials for safeguarding national security.” (Image: Zunzi cartoon depicting a monk, representing the Chinese government, controlling the rebellious Monkey King, representing Hong Kong, by a magic incantation—China’s national anthem. Photo credit: Bill Weinberg/The Village Sun)

East Asia
Tiananmen

China broadens scope of anti-espionage laws

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress approved revised amendments to the Counter-Espionage Law of the People’s Republic of China, in the first revision of the legislation since 2014. Under the previous law, threats to national security narrowly concerned state secrets. However, the new provisions broaden the scope of “espionage” to encompass any action, document, data or material which may be considered a threat to national security by state authorities. The reforms also expand the duties of law enforcement personnel in countering espionage activity, and the definition of “spying” has been broadened to include cyberattacks. The reforms follow President Xi Jinping’s new emphasis on strengthening “national security.” (Photo: chinaworker.info)

East Asia
Yau Tong

Hong Kong sees first protests since 2020

The first protest since the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong was held in Tseung Kwan O, an eastern area of the city. A small number of protestors marched against a land reclamation plan and construction of a waste disposal facility. The marchers complied with restrictions imposed by authorities. The protest was limited to a maximum of 100 participants, whose banners and placards were pre-screened. Protestors were required to wear numbered tags. However, two days later, a smaller but seemingly unauthorized protest was held outside Hong Kong’s Central Government Offices. Some 40 residents from Yau Tong squatter community in Kowloon, which is set to be razed to make way for a public housing project, gathered to voice opposition to their impending eviction. (Photo: HKFP)

East Asia
Taiwanese Marines

Taiwan extends military conscription period

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced a plan to strengthen and restructure the nation’s defense strategies, including extending the mandatory conscription period from four months to one year. Beginning in 2024, all males turning 19 will need to undergo a year-long period of military service—for the first time since 2008. In light of China’s expansionist military activities in the South China Sea and the firing of ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan this year, Tsai stressed the need for Taiwan to be well-prepared for war. “The decision is a difficult one, but as the head of the military and for the continued survival of Taiwan, this is an inevitable responsibility,” Tsai said. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Sinitic language map

Podcast: the linguistic struggle in China

In Episode 154 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg conducts an in-depth interview with Gina Anne Tam, author of Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960 (Cambridge University Press) on how Mandarin (Putonghua) became the official language of China, and what has been the role in China’s national identity of the regional “dialects,” or fangyan. In a dilemma that has vexed China’s bureaucracy for 2,000 years, the persistence of fangyan raises questions about conventional notions of nationalism and state formation. What can the tenacious survival of Shanghaihua (Wu), Fujianese (Min), Cantonese (Yue), Toisan and Hakka tell us about the emergence of an “alternative Chinese-ness” in the 21st century? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
Guangzhou

Bicycling in China & the origins of Critical Mass

Legendary transportation activist George Bliss will be presenting a slideshow and hosting a discussion of his 1991 trip to China at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in New York City on Friday Dec. 9. What would NYC be like if we got rid of cars and everybody rode bikes? In 1991, Bliss and filmmaker Ted White visited Guangzhou, China (then pop. six million). Only one in a thousand owned cars. Bikes cost about $50. There was no theft because cheap attended bike-parking was everywhere. Riding en masse was fun, and traffic flowed safely and efficiently with almost no red lights. The term “critical mass“—first applied to this phenomenon by Bliss in White’s film Return of the Scorcher—soon became a rallying cry in the global bike movement. While that China is long gone, its legacy points to the city we could yet have, even half a world away. (Photo: George Bliss)

East Asia
Nanjing

China: nationwide protests challenge dictatorship

Following weeks of sporadic protests against the recurrent draconian COVID-19 lockdowns in China, spontaneous demonstrations broke out in cities across the country. Street demos were reported from Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangdong, Chengdu and Wuhan as well as Beijing. In addition to slogans against the lockdowns and for freedom of speech and assembly, such verboten chants were heard as “Xi Jinping, step down” and “Communist party, step down.” The spark was an apartment block fire in Urumqi, capital of western Xinjiang region, that killed at least 10 who were under lockdown orders and unable to flee. Hong Kong-based Borderless Movement left-dissident website has issued a list of “Demands from Chinese and Hong Kong Socialists” in response to the outburst, calling for an end to lockdowns and forced testing, provision of multiple vaccines, and the right to citizen and worker self-organization. The statement calls for “marginalized groups in the mainland and abroad, including Hongkongers, Taiwanese, Uyghurs and Tibetans to continue building a long-term strategic program for democratic struggle in China.” (Photo of student protest in Nanjing via Twitter)

East Asia
Hong Kong

Hong Kong: first conviction under Anthem Ordinance

A Hong Kong court sentenced citizen journalist Paula Leung to three months in prison—the first conviction under the territory’s National Anthem Ordinance. The law was enacted in Hong Kong on June 12, 2020, pursuant to an act passed by the People’s Republic of China in September 2017, which mandated that the semi-autonomous city bring its legal code into conformity. According to regional news outlets, Leung attended a mall screening of Olympic fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long receiving his gold medal on July 30, 2021. During the playing of the Chinese national anthem, attendees waved the colonial-era Hong Kong flag. This was found to be in violation of Article 7 of the law, which makes it a criminal offense to “insult the national anthem,” punishable by up to three years imprisonment. (Photo: VOA via Jurist)

East Asia
Bridge Man

Xi Jinping consolidates self-coup —amid repression

After years of centralizing power in his own person, China’s president and party secretary Xi Jinping secured a third leadership term at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee is stacked with loyalists, abandoning the practice of balancing rival tendencies within the body. This cements Xi’s place as China’s “paramount leader” in the autocratic tradition of Mao Zedong. On the eve of the Congress, a lone protester draped a banner from a Beijing overpass calling for strikes to bring down “dictator” Xi. He was immediately arrested, but his brief action quickly became a sensation on Chinese social media—before all such content was censored by authorities. Some who expressed support online for “Bridge Man” have been harassed by the police. The lead-up to the National Congress saw another wave of arrests and “pretrial detention” of dissidents and human rights defenders. (Photo via China Change)

East Asia
Hwasong

North Korea law authorizes pre-emptive nuclear strikes

North Korea passed a law enshrining its right to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes. According to the official Korea Central New Agency (KCNA), the law states that “if the command and control system of the national nuclear force is in danger of being attacked by hostile forces, the nuclear strike will be carried out automatically and immediately.” The KCNA added that “by promulgating a law on a policy of the nuclear forces, our country’s status as a nuclear-weapons state has become irreversible.” The new law replaces a 2013 law that allowed for the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation only. (Photo: MissileThreat)

East Asia
HK47

Demand release of Hong Kong 47

Human Rights Watch published a call for Hong Kong to end its unfair trial practices against 47 lawmakers and activists charged under the National Security Law imposed in 2020. After the media ban on coverage of the cases was lifted, the prosecution named five of them as “major organizers”—Benny Tai, a legal scholar; Au Nok-hin, ex-lawmaker; Chiu Ka-yin and Chung Kam-lun, ex-district council members; and Gordon Ng Ching-hang, an activist. In these cases, the prosecution is calling for harsh sentences including life imprisonment, saying that they sought to “paralyze the operations of the Hong Kong government.” Calling for the dropping of charges against the 47 and for their immediately release, HRW said the crimes established by the law are “overly broad and arbitrarily applied.” (Image: Lam Chun-tung/Initium via HRW)

Planet Watch
Nagasaki

Nagasaki mayor: ‘tangible and present crisis’ of nuclear warfare

In official comments on the anniversary of the 1945 US atomic bombing of the Japanese city, the mayor of Nagasaki sounded a note of alarm. Mayor Tomihisa Taue stated: “In January this year, the leaders of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China released a joint statement affirming that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ However, the very next month Russia invaded Ukraine. Threats of using nuclear weapons have been made, sending shivers throughout the globe. The use of nuclear weapons is not a groundless fear but a tangible and present crisis.” (Photo: Pop Japan)