The Gamekeeper

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

Vilification of blogger Wu Gan a new turn in silencing dissent

Published by Verna Yu on Sunday, 31 May, 2015 in the SCMP

The tone of an astonishing personal attack on a detained popular online activist is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution

State media was awash with news of the criminal detention of rights campaigner and celebrity blogger Wu Gan, also known as “Super Vulgar Butcher”.

When an activist is detained on the mainland, the news usually emerges through social media or websites hosted abroad. Overseas media then pick up the story and confirm it through lawyers, relatives or fellow activists.

State media tend to keep quiet, as if nothing happened.

This week, however, state media led by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, Xinhua and Central China Television, was awash with news of the criminal detention of rights campaigner and celebrity blogger Wu Gan, also known as “Super Vulgar Butcher”.

On Thursday, in an article headlined “Revealing the true face of Super Vulgar Butcher”, the top half of the political news page of People’s Daily was dedicated to news that Wu had been detained by police in his home province of Fujian on the criminal charges of defamation and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a blanket charge often levelled at activists and dissidents.

The article assailed Wu’s character, listing his flamboyant protests that had upset officials. It quoted people supposedly from his home town talking about his broken family and failed marriage.

Wu cannot respond to any of these accusations because he is now in police custody.

Before his detention, Wu, who has 60,900 followers on Twitter, said on his account that he was in Jiangxi to join a protest by four lawyers over a rape and murder case, which allegedly involved the torture and jailing of four innocent people.

The People’s Daily article was carried by other state media outlets, including China News Service, and pro-Beijing Hong Kong media including Phoenix TV and Wen Wei Po.

State-run Beijing News and Xinhua had similar stories on Wu, while CCTV and Beijing Television carried lengthy reports showing footage of Wu’s loud protests.

Compared with the usual practice of steering clear of news deemed too sensitive to be reported, this time state media did not shy from reporting the detention of the online celebrity.

The authorities appear to have realised that they should take the lead and present the official side of the story. The all-out personal attack, reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, looks like a coordinated effort to ensure Wu will not be elevated to hero status by his supporters.

Wu made his name in 2009 when he reached out to meet Deng Yujiao, a pedicurist who was arrested on murder charges for stabbing to death a government official who was trying to molest her. The outrage generated online turned her case into a national cause celebre and she was eventually released.

It now seems that the authorities are keen to avoid past mistakes and decided that People’s Daily should set the tone with a negative spin for other media outlets to follow.

This trend appears to be part of President Xi Jinping’s two-year-long ideological campaign to bring intellectuals and media into line.

In a speech in August 2013, Xi stressed that “work in the ideological sphere is an extremely important task”.

A People’s Daily article in November 2013 described the importance of maintaining the party’s “unshakable” control of the media. It stated the need “to march onto the battleground of the internet, to push all sorts of propaganda efforts onto the internet, to voice out on the internet and to radiate positive energy there”.

In recent years, influential figures such as veteran journalist Gao Yu have been paraded on state television confessing their supposed crimes. But the sight of a grassroots-level activist like Wu being denounced across state media is unusual. This may show that the authorities are broadening their suppression of government critics to those who pillory local cadres.

The treatment of Wu perhaps reveals authorities’ anxiety over the influence of bloggers, and that making an example of Wu shows that even grassroots-level campaigns will not be tolerated.


2015/05/31 Posted by | Causes, Media, Socialmedia | , | Leave a comment

China’s South China Sea claims are not supported by its own historical records

Column by Philip Bowring published in the SCMP on Sunday 31st May 2015

Philip Bowring says China’s own written records show that, long before its vessels became active, seafaring merchants from Southeast Asia and elsewhere ruled the South China Sea.

Is China starting down a path similar to that followed by Japan and Germany before 1945, when nationalism backed by new economic clout led to overconfidence and adventures which eventually proved disastrous?

The question needs asking in the context of China’s latest moves ultimately aimed at making the South China Sea into a Chinese lake. Beijing has been railing against a US overflight of a China-controlled islet being expanded with a massive dredging operation.

Mainland-based academics have rushed to condemn this “dangerous provocation”. Yet the brutal fact is that no international body or significant state recognises China’s claim that the sea and its islets and shoals are its territory; least of all neighbouring states.

The artificial expansion of the islets may be more for show than to provide any significant strategic advantage. They may even prove impermanent, should they be hit by monster typhoons. But they are part of a pattern which in 2013 saw Chinese vessels occupy the Scarborough Shoal and drive out Philippine fishermen. The shoal lies well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and had long been fished by boats from nearby Luzon. The seizure was an act of imperialism.

The US, like any other country, has a right to overfly territory which is not officially acknowledged as part of this or that nation. The same applies to features occupied by Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. China’s claim that its reclamations are to improve security are viewed with derision by its neighbours. But those people do not count. They do not exist in the version of history by which Beijing claims the whole sea, stretching to the coast of Borneo, as defined by its nine-dash line, on the basis that the Chinese had always been in command of the sea.

Given that Hong Kong last week celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, it is worth recalling the relevance of China’s experience with Buddhism to the question of the sea. Far from showing Chinese maritime command, China’s own records show clearly that long before Chinese vessels first became active – during the Song dynasty – shipping between China and the Strait of Malacca, and even to southern India, was the preserve of mariners from Sumatra, Java, Borneo and south and central Vietnam, with Tamils and Arabs later becoming major players.

The leading centre of Buddhism in Southeast Asia was the Srivijayan capital, Palembang, in Sumatra, to which Chinese Buddhist monks travelled on Srivijayan ships to study, sometimes proceeding from there to Sri Lanka or India.

A 7th-century Chinese monk wrote of it: “There are more than 1,000 Buddhist monks whose spirit is turned only to study and good actions. They study all possible subjects like in India.” A Chinese wanting to study in India needed to go there “to learn how to behave properly”.

Chinese texts from as early as the 3rd century refer in detail to ships from Sumatra more than 50 metres in length and able to carry 600 people plus cargo. By the 6th century, trade between Srivijaya and ports around the South China Sea was very regular, with the journey to Canton usually taking 30 to 40 days. Other links included routes from Butuan in northeastern Mindanao to the Cham ports, such as Nha Trang. Javanese traders had a settlement near Manila in the 9th century, long before Chinese settled there.

The single largest driver of trade was Chinese demand for and supply of luxury goods, buying aromatics, ivory, spices and tropical forest products and selling silk and porcelain and other goods. For a thousand years, the traders were primarily the people of island and coastal Southeast Asia – the Austronesians whose seamanship enabled them to colonise the island world from the eastern Pacific to Madagascar. It was also an era where India was the main outside cultural influence on the region, spreading Buddhism, Hinduism, writing systems and kingship ideas.

Yes, this was a long time ago, but Chinese claims today are best refuted by China’s own written records, be they of Buddhist monks or in dynastic annals reporting trade missions and accounts of travellers to the southern lands. Chinese documents are the single most important source for the early history of maritime Southeast Asia and conform to evidence in more fragmentary Tamil, Javanese, Malay and Arab records.

Even though Chinese merchants and settlers in the region’s ports came to play a major role in commerce, they always shared these roles, whether with the Arabs, the Muslim sultanates and later the Europeans. China only twice briefly attempted to use force to impose its will on the maritime region, during the Mongol period when an invasion of Java failed, and briefly during the Zheng He voyages of the early Ming.

Communist party governments everywhere, not just in China, are notorious for rewriting history. But if Beijing wants to know why it feels surrounded by enemies, it should ask itself the reason: riding roughshod over the interests and identities of its neighbours, raising issues of “unequal treaty” borders and engaging in colonialism in Xinjiang and Tibet, by fostering Han settlement to undermine the ethnic identity of those once-independent nations.

Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator

Philip Bowring has been based in Asia for 39 years writing on regional financial and political issues. He has been a columnist for the South China Morning Post since the mid-1990s and for the International Herald Tribune from 1992 to 2011. He also contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, Asia Sentinel, a website of which he is a founder, and elsewhere. Prior to 1992 he was with the weekly Far Eastern Economic Review, latterly as editor.

2015/05/31 Posted by | Politics | , | 2 Comments

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year 2015

2014/12/29 Posted by | Event, Fun | | Leave a comment


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