China tightens restrictions and bars scholars from international conferences

Further restrictions of note:

The international conference was supposed to gather some of the most promising and most established Asia studies scholars from across the world in lush Honolulu.

Instead, at least five Chinese scholars based in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were prevented from attending virtual events via Zoom, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

They said Chinese security officers and education officials directly intervened, citing education regulations published during a global coronavirus pandemic which require all Chinese scholars to receive university permission to attend any international event in-person or online.

“After years of encouraging and funding PRC scholars to participate internationally, the intensifying controls of recent years are now full-scale, and academic work, at least on China, is to be quarantined from the world,” saidJames Millward, a history professor at Georgetown University who attended the conference. “The doors have slammed shut fast.”

The conference, which ended last weekend, was an annual gathering organized by the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), one of the largest membership-based organizations in the field. For emerging scholars as well as more senior academics, the conference is an opportunity to network and to hear the latest research on Asian countries across a variety of disciplines.

Because of the ongoing COVID pandemic, AAS decided this year to hold a mix of in-person events and online-only panels.

In one case, a group of police officers visited the home of a scholar in China after they had presented their research paper to an online Zoom panel earlier in the week, questioning the scholar for hours, in part because they considered the title of the paper “incorrect.”

“It was deeply frightening,” said one academic who attended the panel but requested anonymity to protect the identity of the scholar involved.

NPR reviewed the paper but is not publishing its title or subject to protect the identity of the writer. The paper did not touch on subjects which Chinese authorities normally consider sensitive, such as human rights, Tibet, Xinjiang or Hong Kong.

Chinese scholars on a separate virtual panel were also told by Chinese university administrators to cancel their presentations. Eventually, they emailed the other attendees to withdraw from the panel due to “medical reasons” but hoped to partake in AAS events again “in less sensitive times,” according to two people with direct knowledge of the incident.

“Topics that have seemingly been considered nonpolitical are now being yanked or deemed not permissible to be exchanging with international colleagues,” said another academic who attended the panel who also did not want to be named so as not to identify the Chinese scholars impacted.

Strict COVID prevention policies had already stymied the volume of intellectual exchanges between the PRC and the rest of the world. Those who study China have found themselves isolated by border closures that have made travel to and from China nearly impossible, rendering archives and field sites in China inaccessible for the last two years and counting.

Since 2016, China’s education ministry has required its academics to seek university approval for all overseas trips and collaborations. In September 2020, universities began applying these rules for online events held by international organizations, as well, though such rules had not been extensively enforced until now.

Academics say these controls will further deplete the already-sparse exchanges between China and the rest of the world while hobbling the careers of young Chinese scholars.

“We have already been anxious, because for those of us in modern China studies, it’s been two years with no end in sight about when we might be able to return to the archives,” said a third academic who went to the AAS conference. “You keep thinking maybe things will get better, so after the [Winter] Olympics, after [October’s Chinese Communist] Party Congress, there will be a loosening of restrictions, but unfortunately it continues to worsen.”

The AAS said it was aware some PRC-based scholars were prevented from attending and now is trying to ascertain exactly how many scholars were impacted. “The AAS firmly supports the right of scholars worldwide to take part in the free exchange of ideas and research through conferences and other forms of academic cooperation,” the association said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.

AAS has previously come under heightened scrutiny within China. In March 2021, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sanctioned a member of one of AAS’ governing councils because of her research examining Chinese state policy in the region of Xinjiang, where authorities had detained hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Uyghurs. The academic, Joanne Smith Finley, had organized two panels on Xinjiang for the annual AAS conference just days earlier.

Source: China tightens restrictions and bars scholars from international conferences

Organization of Islamic Cooperation Accused of Ignoring Uyghur Muslims in China

Indeed. Much easier to other countries than China despite the ongoing oppression and indeed genocide of Uyghur Muslims:

A U.S. declaration that China has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against its mainly Muslim minority in western Xinjiang province appears to have had little impact on the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which this week honored Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a high-level forum.

Invited by host Pakistan, Wang attended the 48th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad as a special guest and spoke at the summit opening. He followed up Thursday with a surprise visit to Afghanistan, whose Taliban-led interim government is eager for Chinese investment and support.

The confluence of events was distressing to the Campaign for Uyghurs, a Washington-based rights group, which condemned both Wang’s attendance at the summit and OIC’s silence on China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority, including mass incarceration in so-called reeducation camps.

“It was appalling to see that Pakistan invited Wang Yi as a ‘guest of honor,’ while Uyghur Muslims do not have the right to identify as Muslims or practice Islam,” Campaign for Uyghurs said on its website.

According to Hasan Askari, an international affairs analyst, Pakistan’s invitation to the Chinese foreign minister at the OIC summit as an observer is part of an OIC tradition that allows the host country to invite high level diplomats from non-member OIC countries.

The U.S. accused China of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Muslim majority Xinjiang region in western China, including forced labor, sterilization of Muslim women and arbitrary detention of more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims in internment camps.

Beijing denies the allegations and says people of all ethnic groups live happily in Xinjiang.

The OIC summit addressed the plight of Rohingya Muslims as well as Muslims in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere, but mostly ignored the Uyghur genocide in China, the Campaign for Uyghurs said.

Only Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu brought it up.

“In China, Uyghurs and other Muslims have difficulties protecting their religious rights and cultural identity,” Cavusoglu said at the OIC meeting. “Is it right to ignore the situation of the Uyghurs?”

Turkish politicians are usually the most outspoken defenders of Uyghur rights among Muslim politicians, said Robert Bianchi, professor of international law at the University of Chicago, because of their ethnic and cultural ties throughout Central Asia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party “is particularly sensitive to demands from right-wing nationalists who are junior partners in his governing coalition,” Bianchi said. “He can’t survive without their support, so he often agrees to accept more Uyghur refugees and to speak out against Chinese repression.”

At the summit, Wang said that his country pledged to provide 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Islamic countries.

According to Abdulhakim Idris, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Uyghur Studies, many Muslim-majority countries receive billions of dollars from China in the name of financial investment.

“By receiving billions of dollars from China, these countries are not only forced to remain quiet on the genocidal atrocities against Uyghur Muslims in East Turkistan but also commanded from Beijing to do whatever the PRC wants,” Idris told VOA, calling Xinjiang by the Uyghurs’ preferred name of East Turkistan.

Source: Organization of Islamic Cooperation Accused of Ignoring Uyghur Muslims in China

China seeing new surge in cases despite ‘zero tolerance’

Of note (assuming numbers are reported correctly). According to John Hopkins, actual numbers are close to 600,000 infections and 7,000 deaths:

China is seeing a new surge in COVID-19 cases across the vast country, despite its draconian “zero tolerance” approach to dealing with outbreaks. 

The mainland on Monday reported 214 new cases of infection over the previous 24 hours, with the most, 69, in the southern province of Guangdong bordering on Hong Kong, which has been recording tens of thousands of cases per day

Another 54 cases were reported in the Jilin province, more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) to the north, and 46 in the eastern province Shandong. 

In his annual report to the national legislature Saturday, Premier Li Keqiang said China needs to “constantly refine epidemic containment” but gave no indication Beijing might ease the highly touted “zero tolerance” strategy.

Li called for accelerating vaccine development and “strengthening epidemic controls” in cities where travelers and goods arrive from abroad. 

“Zero tolerance” requires quarantines and lockdowns on entire communities and sometimes even cities when as few as a handful of cases have been detected. Chinese officials credit the approach — along with a vaccination rate of more than 80% — with helping prevent a major nationwide outbreak, but critics say it is taking a major toll on the economy and preventing the population from building up natural immunity. 

No new cases were reported in Beijing and the city was largely back to normal, although masks continue to be worn in public places indoors. 

One area that continues to feel the effects of tight COVID-19 control is the religious sector. Three of Beijing’s most famous Catholic churches, Buddhist temples and mosques stated Sunday they had been ordered closed in January with no date given on reopening. 

Even before the pandemic, such institutions were under heavy pressure from the Communist authorities to follow through on demands from leader Xi Jinping that all religious centers be purged of outside influence, including the physical appearance of places of worship. 

The latest daily case numbers mark some of the highest since the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 that is believed to have sparked the pandemic. 

They bring China’s total to 111,195 with 4,636 deaths, according to the National Health Commission. At present, 3,837 people are receiving treatment for COVID-19, many of them infected with the omicron strain. 

Source: China seeing new surge in cases despite ‘zero tolerance’

Turkey rejected Uyghur citizenship applications over “national security” risks


The Turkish government has rejected the citizenship applications of some Uyghurs who have been outspoken about the detention of their families in China, citing risks they pose to “national security” and “public order,” according to interviews and documents reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: Turkey has been an important refuge for Uyghurs, who have faced repressive policies in China for years. But Ankara’s growing economic and security ties with Beijing have led to fears among some Uyghurs that they’re no longer safe in Turkey.

  • The denial of citizenship for some Uyghurs in Turkey fits a broader pattern of China’s growing ability to extend repression beyond its own borders, Elise Anderson, a senior program officer at the D.C.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project, told Axios.
  • Chinese government authorities are “surveilling, tracking and hunting down Uyghurs, and in some cases, have succeeded in sending them backto the People’s Republic of China,” Anderson said.

Details: Alimcan Turdi, a Uyghur who moved to Turkey in 2013 for education opportunities for his children, told Axios he has numerous relatives in Xinjiang who were detained in mass internment camps in 2017 and he has not heard from them since.

  • He began organizing protests in Turkey and speaking out against the Chinese government on social media in 2019. In October 2021, Turdi’s application for citizenship in the country he had called home for more than seven years was rejected.
  • Turdi says he received no explanation other than a document that cited “obstacle to national security” and “public order” — allegations that he called “very upsetting,” given the loyalty he said he feels for Turkey. Turdi is now in the Netherlands, though his family remains in Turkey.

Axios spoke to four other Uyghurs who described similar experiences and provided documentation.

  • Amine Vahid, a Uyghur woman who has lived in Turkey since 2015, said both her and her 17-year-old son’s applications were rejected in October 2021 on “national security” and “public order” grounds.
  • Vahid said she has participated in protests in Turkey because she has relatives in the camps, but claims her son has never been involved in activism and is being unfairly punished.
  • One Uyghur woman who wished to stay anonymous told Axios she has never participated in protests or anti-China social media activity, but that applications for her, her husband and three children were all rejected for the same reasons.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and embassy in D.C. did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The big picture: Many Uyghurs are worried about their ability to remain safely in Turkey, which is home to one of the largest Uyghur diasporas in the world, with estimates between 30,000 and 50,000 people.

  • The Chinese government has asked Ankara to extradite some Uyghurs back to China; many Uyghurs believe at least one Uyghur family in Turkey has been deported. Egypt, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have deported numerous Uyghurs at China’s request.
  • The inability to obtain citizenship and the loss of residency status can plunge Uyghurs into statelessness and make it difficult for them to keep jobs and go to school in Turkey.

Background: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was once critical of China’s repression of Uyghurs, including suggesting in 2009, years before the construction of the camps, that ethnic violence in Xinjiang amounted to “genocide.” Uyghurs and Turkish people share linguistic, ethnic and religious ties.

  • But as Erdogan has turned away from the West in recent years and strengthened economic links to China, Ankara’s criticism has grown muted.
  • On a visit to Beijing in 2019, Erdogan warned that to “exploit” the Uyghur issue would damage Turkey-China relations and that he believed it was possible to “find a solution to this issue that takes into consideration the sensitivities on both sides.”

The bottom line: “Turkish people know about Uyghurs and care about Uyghurs,” Anderson said. “But at other times, Turkish authorities make moves that leave Uyghurs in fear.”

Source: Turkey rejected Uyghur citizenship applications over “national security” risks

Human rights? China won that Winter Olympics battle. Almost.

Time for Canadian Olympians and sport officials to speak up:

When three-time Olympian Gus Kenworthy took the remarkable, perhaps even brave decision to speak out against “human rights atrocities” while still in China at the Winter Games, the self-proclaimed “loud and obnoxious” British skier also proved that other athletes, had they chosen, perhaps could have used their Olympic platform to pipe up, too.

Because Kenworthy wasn’t hauled away and imprisoned, as Chinese critics of the ruling Communist Party routinely are. Doing so would have generated exactly the sort of global focus on the Chinese government’s authoritarian methods that it sought to avoid while global sports’ biggest show was in town. 

And with the notable exception of Kenworthy, China largely accomplished that mission. 

Olympians with any qualms about chasing medals in a country accused of genocide against its Muslim Uyghur population and of other abuses kept their views on those topics to themselves for the durations of their stay. And perhaps for good reason: They faced vague but, as it turned out, undeployed Chinese threats of punishment, constant surveillance and the sobering example of tennis star Peng Shuai’s difficulties after she voiced allegations of forced sex against a Communist Party official.

“We have seen an effective silencing of 2,800 athletes, and that’s scary,” said Noah Hoffman, a former U.S. Olympic skier and board member of the Global Athlete advocacy group pushing for Olympic reform.

Kenworthy, speaking to The Associated Press before his 8th-place finish in the halfpipe final on the Games’ penultimate day, laid out why.

“We’re in China, so we play by China’s rules. And China makes their rules as they go, and they certainly have the power to kind of do whatever they want: Hold an athlete, stop an athlete from leaving, stop an athlete from competing,” he said.

“I’ve also been advised to sort of tread lightly while I am here and that’s what I am trying to do.”

Immediately after competing, however, the proudly gay athlete’s gloves came off. 

He prefaced criticism with praise for China’s “incredible job with this Olympics” and carefully calibrated his words. But unlike other Olympians, he couldn’t bite his tongue until he got home. Kenworthy aimed jabs not only at the host country’s rights abuses and “poor stance on LGBTQ rights” but also at other athletes he said try “to appeal to the masses” and avoid ruffling feathers. 

“I’ve already kind of accepted that that’s not what I’m gonna do,” he said. “I’m just gonna speak my truth.” 

In fairness, Olympians found themselves squeezed on all sides in Beijing. Campaigners abroad hoped they would spark global outrage over the imprisonment in re-education camps of an estimated 1 million people or more, most of them Uyghurs. China, backed to the hilt by the International Olympic Committee, didn’t want critical voices to be heard. And their own voices told athletes to focus, focus, focus on the pursuit of Olympic success that they, their coaches and families sacrificed for.

The sweep and vagueness of a Chinese official’s threat before the Games of “certain punishment” for “any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit” appeared to have a particularly sobering effect on Beijing-bound teams. Campaigners who met with athletes in the United States in the weeks before their departure, lobbying them about Uyghurs and the crushing of dissent in Tibet and Hong Kong, noticed the chill.

“Prior to the statement, we had been engaging with quite a few athletes,” said Pema Doma, campaigns director at Students for a Free Tibet. They “were expressing a lot of interest in learning more and being engaged in the human rights issue.” 

Afterward, “there was a very, very distinct difference” and “one athlete even said to an activist directly: ‘I’ve been instructed not to take anything from you or speak to you,’” she said in a phone interview.

Other concerns also weighed on Olympians, way beyond the usual anxieties that often come with travel to a foreign land, away from home comforts.

Warnings of possible cyber-snooping by Chinese security services and team advisories that athletes leave electronic devices at home were alarming for a generation weaned on social media and constant connectivity with their worlds. 

Also wearing were daily coronavirus tests that were mandatory — and invasive, taken with swabs to the back of the throat — for all Olympians, locked inside a tightly policed bubble of health restrictions to prevent infection spreads. The penalty for testing positive was possible quarantine and missed competition, a terrible blow for winter athletes who often toil outside of the limelight, except every four years at the Games.

“Who knows where those tests go, who handles the results,” Kenworthy said. “It’s definitely in the back of the mind.”

“And there’s like all the cybersecurity stuff. It is concerning,” he told The AP.

Often, athletes simply blanked when asked about human rights, saying they weren’t qualified to speak on the issue or were focused on competition, and hunkered down. 

On Twitter, Dutch speedskater Sanne in ’t Hof blocked, unblocked and then blocked again a Uyghur living in the Netherlands who posted critical comments of Olympians in what he called “genocide” Games. Mirehmet Ablet shared a screengrab with The AP showing that the skater had barred him from accessing her account, where she tweeted that she “enjoyed every second!′ of her first Olympics. Ablet’s brother was arrested in 2017 in the Uyghur homeland of Xinjiang in far western China, and Ablet doesn’t know where he’s now held.

Other athletes also were effusive in praising their China experience. “Nothing short of amazing,” said U.S. speedskating bronze-medal winner Brittany Bowe. 

Hoffman, who competed for the U.S. at the 2014 and 2018 Games, said internal politics within teams may also have dissuaded athletes from speaking critically. Coaches can bench athletes who bring unwanted attention and “there’s pressure from your teammates to not cause a distraction,” he said in a phone interview. Athletes with self-confidence dented by sub-par performances may also have felt that they’d lost any platform.

“There’s lots of really subtle pressure,” Hoffman said. 

He expects some athletes won’t be critical once home, so as to not disrespect the cheerful and helpful Games workers.

But he’s hopeful others will speak up on their return and that “we do get a chorus.” 

Feeling unmuzzled, some already are. 

Back in Sweden with his two gold medals in speedskating, Nils van der Poel told the Aftonbladet newspaper that although he had “a very nice experience behind the scenes,” hosting the Games in China was “terrible.” He drew parallels with the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany and Russia hosting the Sochi Olympics before seizing control of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. 

“It is extremely irresponsible,” van der Poel said, ”to give it to a country that violates human rights as clearly as the Chinese regime does.”

Source: Human rights? China won that Winter Olympics battle. Almost.

China’s high-tech repression of Uyghurs is more sinister — and lucrative — than it seems, anthropologist says

Keeps on getting worse:

When people started to disappear in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang in 2014, then-PhD student Darren Byler was living there, with a rare, ground-level view of events that would eventually be labelled by some as a modern-day genocide.

The American anthropologist, who learned Chinese and Uyghur languages, witnessed a digital police state rise up around him, as mass detention and surveillance became a feature of life in Xinjiang. He spent years experiencing and gathering testimony on the impact.

“It’s affected all of society,” he told CBC’s Ideas.

Since those early days of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s so-called “People’s War on Terror,”Human Rights Watch says at least one million Uyghur and other Muslims in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in what China calls “re-education” or “vocational training” camps, in prisons or “pre-trial detention” facilities. 

Survivors have recounted being tortured and raped in the camps, scruitinized by the gaze of cameras 24/7, and perhaps most crucially, forced to learn how to be Chinese and unlearn what it is to be Uyghur. 

Countless of their children, says HRW, are forced to do the same in residential boarding schools. 

China — currently in the Olympic spotlight and steering clear of such topics — routinely denies accusations, including from Canada’s House of Commons, that its treatment of Uyghurs amounts to genocide. 

China declared its campaign in 2014 after a series of violent attacks that it blamed on Uyghur extremists or separatists. 

But what all Uyghurs are now facing is more sinister and lucrative than that, said Byler, now an assistant professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

It is, he said, a modern-day colonial project that operates at the nexus of state surveillance, mass detention and huge profits, and is enabled by high tech companies using ideas and technology first developed in the West.

Byler calls it “terror capitalism,” a new frontier of global capitalism that is fuelled by the labelling of a people as dangerous, and then using their labour and most private personal data to generate wealth.

“When we’re talking about a frontier of capitalism, you’re talking about turning something that previously was not a commodity into a commodity,” he said. 

“So in this context, it’s Uyghur social life, Uyghur behaviour, Uyghur digital histories that are being extracted and then quantified, measured and assessed and turned into this pattern data that is then made predictable.”

The process Byler describes involves forced harvesting of people’s data and then using it to improve predictive artificial intelligence technology. It also involves using the same population as test subjects for companies developing new tech. In other words, Xinjiang serves as an incubator for new tech.

Also critical is using those populations as unpaid or cheap labour in a resource-rich area considered a strategic corridor for China’s economic ambitions.

“As I started to think more about the technology systems that were being built and understand the money that was flowing into this space, I started to think about it as more of a kind of security industrial complex that was funding technology development and research in the region,” Byler told CBC’s Ideas.

Byler said research shows that tech companies working with Chinese state security tend to flourish and innovate, thanks largely to access to the huge troves of data collected by various levels of government.

David Yang, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, conducted such research using thousands of publicly available contracts specifically for facial recognition technology procured by mostly municipal governments all over China. 

A contracted firm with access to government data “steadily increased its product innovation not just for the government, but also for the commercial market,” for the next two years, said Yang. 

‘Health check’

Surveillance is a feature of everyday life in Xinjiang, so the personal data crucial to the profits is constantly being collected.

Central to the harvesting is a biometric ID system introduced there in 2017 requiring citizens to provide fingerprints, facial imagery, iris scans and DNA samples.

There are also turnstiles, checkpoints and cameras everywhere, and citizens are required to carry smartphones with specific apps.

“It’s the technology that really pervades all moments of life,” said Byler. “It’s so intimate. There’s no real outside to it.”

It was in 2017 that Alim (not his real name) returned to Xinjiang from abroad to see his ailing mother. His arrest upon landing in China was the start of what he said was a descent into powerlessness — and the involuntary harvesting of his data. 

Alim, now in his 30s, spoke to IDEAS on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals against remaining family in Xinjiang.

At the police station at home, as part of what he was told was a “health check,” Alim had a DNA sample taken and “multiple pictures of my face from different sides … they made me read a passage from a book” to record his voice.

“Right before the voice recording, I had an anxiety attack, realizing that I’m possibly going to be detained for a very long time,” Alim said.

The warrant for Alim’s arrest said he was “under suspicion of disrupting the societal order.” 

In a crowded and airless pre-trial detention facility, he said he was forced to march and chant Communist Party slogans. 

“I was just a student visiting home, but in the eyes of the Chinese government, my sheer identity, being a male Uyghur born after the 1980s, is enough for them to detain me.” 

Once released through the help of a relative, Alim found that his data haunted him wherever he went, setting off police alarms whenever he swiped his ID. 

“I basically realized I was in a form of house arrest. I felt trapped.”

Global connections

While the Xinjiang example is extreme, it is still an extension of surveillance that has become the norm in the West, too, but where consent is at least implicitly given when we shop online or use social media.

And just as the artificial intelligence technology used for surveillance in Xinjiang or elsewhere in China has roots in the computer labs of Silicon Valley and Big Tech companies in the West, new Chinese iterations of such technology are also being exported back into the world, selling in countries like Zimbabwe and the Philippines, said Byler.

China may be the site of “some of the sharpest, most egregious manifestations of tech oppression, but it’s by no means the only place in the world,” said lawyer and anthropologist Petra Molnar, who is associate director with the Refugee Law Lab at  York University in Toronto.

One such place is the modern international border, not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, where Molnar is studying how surveillance technology affects migrant crossings.

Molnar said China’s avid investment in artificial intelligence is creating an “arms race” that carries risks of “normalizing surveillance” in competing countries with stricter human rights laws. 

“How is this going to then impact average individuals who are concerned about the growing role of Big Tech in our society?” she said from Athens.

“It seems like we’ve skipped a few steps in terms of the kind of conversations that we need to have as a public, as a society, and especially including the perspectives of communities and groups who are the ones experiencing this.” 

‘A lot more nuance to this story’

Despite human rights concerns, other countries are loath to condemn China over Xinjiang because it is such an important part of the global economy, said Byler.

But he points out that he focuses on the economics of Xinjiang partly “to destabilize this easy binary of ‘China is bad and the West is good.'”

China’s “People’s War on Terror” should be seen as an extension of the “war on terror” that originated in the U.S. following the 9/11 attacks and is now a global phenomenon, said Byler.

“If we want to criticize China, we also have to criticize the ‘war on terror.’ We have to criticize or think carefully about capitalism and how it exploits people in multiple contexts,” he said. 

“There’s actually a lot more nuance to the story.”

The West’s complicity, he said, begins with “building these kinds of technologies without really thinking about the consequences.” 

Byler’s observations on the ground form the basis of two books he’s authored on the situation in Xinjiang — and of his policy suggestions to lawmakers, including Canadian MPs, about the repression in Xinjiang. 

He’s called on lawmakers to demand China’s leaders immediately abolish the re-education detention system and release all detainees. He’s also called for economic sanctions on Chinese authorities and technology companies that benefit from that process and for expediting asylum for Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims from China.

“I am a scholar at the end of the day,” said the Vancouver-based anthropologist.

“Maybe I can nudge people to think in ways that advocate for change. It takes many, many voices and I’m just trying to do my best with what I know how.”

Source: China’s high-tech repression of Uyghurs is more sinister — and lucrative — than it seems, anthropologist says

The ‘Genocide Games’ Disruptors Giving Hell to Beijing

Creative, even if drowned out by the cheerleading media and others:

With the 2022 Winter Olympics well underway in Beijing, a coalition of activists from around the world is vowing to keep up its pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Chinese government throughout the two weeks of the competition, which they’ve dubbed the “Genocide Games.

The organizers, many of them women in their early twenties and thirties, have launched a series of events to run on each day until the end of the Games on Feb. 20. “During the month of February we will be continuing our campaign against Beijing 2022, shining a spotlight on China’s egregious human rights abuses,” Pema Doma, Campaigns Director for Students for a Free Tibet, told The Daily Beast. “Together we’ll continue to challenge Chinese propaganda at Beijing 2022.”

One of their main programs is the #IWillNotWatch campaign, heavily promoted on social media to discourage viewers around the world from watching the Olympics “and to counter Beijing’s propaganda show,” Zumretay Arkin, Program and Advocacy Manager for the World Uighur Congress in Munich, told The Daily Beast.

On Feb. 4, as Beijing was airing its glitzy Opening Ceremony, the coalition live-streamed Beijing 2022: The Alternative Opening Ceremony, where several young Tibetans, Uighurs, and Hongkongers convened to spotlight China’s human rights abuses.

NBC’s broadcast of the opening ceremony attracted just 14 million TV viewers, making it one of the least-viewed opening ceremonies in the history of the Olympics, according to statistics from NBC Sports. This marked a stark decline of about 43 percent from the 23.8 million viewers who watched the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018.

The day before the ceremony, activists stepped up their pressure with a series of demonstrations in 65 cities around the world to protest what they called “the IOC’s failure to hold China accountable for their serious and worsening human rights abuses.”

At a protest in San Francisco, a Tibetan monk clad in a maroon robe walked at the front of the march holding a portrait of the Dalai Lama as he led some 100 marchers south across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Chinese Consulate in downtown San Francisco. Behind him, several Uighurs waved the flag of the East Turkestan independence movement, which is unofficially used by activists to represent China’s Xinjiang Province. Others carried placards that read, “No Rights, No Games,” and “No More Shame Games.” Another showed a skier standing in front of an Army tank, a reference to the iconic photo of the Tank Man, a Chinese citizen who used his body to stop a column of tanks rolling down a Beijing street in 1989 during an anti-democracy crackdown.

As the March wound its way through the streets of San Francisco, bystanders stopped to take photos and to applaud the protesters. Dozens of drivers beeped their horns and leaned out of their cars to shout support.

When China won the Summer Olympics in 2008, rights activists expressed concerns about the country’s dismal human rights record. In response, China and the IOC argued that the Games would actually improve human rights and rule of law in China.

Activists say that the opposite happened. China, encouraged by the legitimacy given to it by its successful hosting of the 2008 Games, stepped up its suppression of human rights.

Since 2008, an estimated 160 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against China’s increasingly abusive policies in Tibet, which Freedom House has ranked the least free place on earth, tied with Syria. In Xinjiang, as many as 1 million Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people, have been thrown into brutal prison camps, which the Chinese refer to as “re-education schools.” Hong Kong has also faced a severe crackdown against democracy, with prominent politicians, activists and journalists arrested, and civic organizations shut down.

“The Chinese government has felt emboldened since 2008,” says Chemi Lhamo, a 25-year-old Canadian-Tibetan activist in an interview with The Daily Beast. “It got the message from the international community that it was okay with China’s abuses, that the world will turn a blind eye to this.”

This time around, no one is predicting that the Olympics will democratize the country. Touting an authoritarian one-party rule as an alternative to Western-style democracy, China has risen to become an economic, technological and military powerhouse. Chinese leader Xi Jinping still wants to be legitimized by holding the Olympics, but he sees no need to placate the international community.

“How in the world does it make sense for China to host the Games when it has such a brutal record?” said Lhamo. “Things have not gotten better—they’ve gotten worse.”

Activists representing disparate peoples in China began to strategize immediately after China was awarded the Winter Games. In October 2020, a delegation representing 160 human rights groups had a virtual meeting with the IOC hoping to convince the body to either cancel or relocate the Winter Olympics. The meeting didn’t go well, some of those who attended the meeting told The Daily Beast.

“The conversation was tense, and they were not very respectful of the activists,” says Frances Hui, the 21-year-old director of We The Hongkongers, who took part in the meeting. “Each of us shared our own firsthand, heartfelt experiences. I couldn’t believe it when they told us the Olympics was simply about people from around the world playing sports.”

Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer who also took part in the meeting, says the IOC responded with the same excuse that was given in 1936 when Nazi Germany was awarded the Games: politics and sports should be kept apart. “The IOC refuses to listen,” he told The Daily Beast. “Human rights are getting worse and there is growing evidence of that. The IOC is clear about what’s happening in China. But it doesn’t care.”

Source: The ‘Genocide Games’ Disruptors Giving Hell to Beijing

Netherlands: University funding row raises Chinese influence fears

Not unique to the Netherlands:

The Free University of Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam or VU Amsterdam) in the Netherlands has said it will return Chinese funding for its Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre (CCHRC) after an embarrassing row over Chinese influence on academia when it emerged that several of the centre’s academics publicly denied China oppresses Uyghur peoples.

But the row in the Netherlands amid other recent controversies over Chinese funding of university centres and Confucius Institutes in Germany and the United Kingdom has also made university disclosure of foreign funding more urgent, academics said. 

In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the CCHRC at VU Amsterdam received a subsidy of between €250,000 (US$282,000) and €300,000 (US$339,000) from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, China. 

According to documents obtained by Dutch broadcaster NOS, the Chinese university was the sole financial contributor to the CCHRC during those years, which has raised eyebrows. 

VU Amsterdam has said it would return the money it had already received from China for this year, NOS revealed last week. But the university only backed down after the damaging revelations prompted a public outcry and strong statements by the Dutch education minister and others condemning the activities of the centre. 

On Wednesday NOS said the activities of the Centre were being suspended, with all its lectures for students cancelled, ascribing the decision to the executive board and deans of the university. The Centre’s activities were already in doubt after the return of funds, making it dependent on the university or other donors for its continued survival. 

The row blew up just as the Dutch education ministry is due to present its National Guidelines on Knowledge Security on 31 January and to announce its ‘Government-wide knowledge security front-office’, which is expected to have an advisory role and support universities in identifying risks. 

It also followed the publication last week of the European Commission ‘toolkit’ for universities on how to deal with foreign interference. 

Dutch Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf responded swiftly and unequivocally to the report, saying he was “very shocked” that the funding arrangement signalled possible academic dependence. 

“It is urgent and sensible that the Free University now takes action quickly. Scientific core values such as academic freedom, integrity and independence must always be guaranteed,” he said in a statement. 

The minister added: “It is important that Dutch knowledge institutions are and remain alert to possible risks of undesired influence by other countries and that they take adequate measures to safeguard academic core values, especially when it comes to universal values like human rights.”

The centre runs an academic journal and organises conferences. Its mission, laid down in the financing agreement with the Chinese university, is to draw attention to a “global view of human rights”, and specifically to the way in which non-Western countries such as China view human rights.

University’s lukewarm initial response

After a lukewarm initial response when the university merely underlined that “as befits the Free University, the research of the CCHRC is independent, interdisciplinary, dialogical and socially relevant”, it added to its statement just hours later, saying “even the appearance of dependence is unacceptable” and announced that it was “taking appropriate measures”, including halting the funding from China. 

The university said it has not yet decided whether it will also refund subsidies from previous years, but it said it would first conduct an investigation to determine “whether the independence of the institute’s research has been safeguarded on all fronts”.

The CCHRC website noted in October 2020 that a delegation of people affiliated to the centre ‘recently’ visited the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. 

Western researchers estimate that over a million ethnic minority Uyghurs are being held in  ‘re-education camps’, widely regarded as a euphemism for concentration camps, in Xinjiang. Several countries, including the United States, have accused China of genocide against the Uyghurs. 

However, the CCHRC website noted: “The situation we encountered in the four cities in this trip did not reflect the grim situation as depicted in the Western reports. There is definitely no discrimination of Uyghurs or other minorities in the region.”

CCHRC Director Tom Zwart, who is also a frequent guest at Chinese state events and on Chinese state television, told NOS any similarities between the centre’s positions online and those of the Communist Party were “coincidental” and were not steered by any direct influence. 

Zwart described the CCHRC website as a place for “uncensored free thought”, ascribing the comments on its webpages to individuals “who do not represent the organisation as a whole”.

On 26 January CCHRC released a new statement on its website saying the website would be “temporarily taken offline” in order “to check whether a sufficiently clear distinction is made between statements made on behalf of the Centre and opinions and observations made in a personal capacity.”

It added: “[The] Centre explicitly endorses the conclusions of the United Nations regarding the systematic violation of the Uyghur human rights. In this vein, the Centre’s director, in the presence of members of the Chinese State Council and the Politburo, called on 8 April 2021 to respect and protect the rights of Uyghurs and stop repressive anti-terrorism policies.”

Is academic freedom compromised?

Ingrid d’Hooghe, an expert on China-Europe relations and senior research fellow at the Leiden Asia Centre, Leiden University in the Netherlands, said: “The director of the Centre said in an interview which was also on TV that they were fully independent, there was nothing that made them say what they were saying. But apparently it did not cross their mind that even if they are independent, it doesn’t look like it.”

Dutch academic Lokman Tsui, a researcher on digital freedoms and a former assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said via Twitter: “Important to note: until this year, they [the university in Chongqing] were the only funder. Problematic, because it’s hard to be independent if your research centre relies on one single funder. Problematic also, because public universities in China are closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.”

Tsui added: “But whether the research centre is independent or not is also beside the question. The more important question is: Why is the university allowing its integrity and its reputation to be compromised by accepting money meant to validate China’s atrocious human rights record?”

Andreas Fulda, associate professor at the University of Nottingham, UK, and an expert on Europe-China relations and academic freedom, said: “If they had also received funding from the Dutch government or from the EU or whoever else, they could say they are not dependent on just one funder. But if you’re completely dependent on one funder and you lose autonomy, you are more likely to bend your research in one way or another.” 

“A member of the Dutch public will not know whether this [research] is the genuine article or whether this is something that is deeply problematic – this is the area where we enter the field of idea laundering and reputation laundering [by China],” Fulda told University World News

Need for disclosure legislation

“We need legislation that universities have to make funding public,” Fulda said, pointing to Section 117 of the United States Higher Education Act which requires universities that receive foreign gifts of US$250,000 or more within a calendar year to file a disclosure report to the government. 

Other draft foreign influence bills, including the Senate Bill S.1169 in the US, are currently attempting to tighten those rules, including reducing the amount that has to be declared by institutions and individuals if the funding comes from certain countries such as China, after a number of universities failed to report substantial foreign gifts under Section 117

An amendment to the UK Higher Education Bill tabled on 12 January in the House of Commons would require disclosures of foreign funds of £50,000 (US$68,000) going back 10 years. 

“The question is, if the Dutch government or other governments in Europe issued new regulations where universities were forced to make these contracts public, whether it would change things, and I think it would,” said Fulda. 

Leiden Asia Centre’s d’Hooghe said: “There is no regulation that forces people to register somewhere what kind of collaboration they have. With new regulations in Australia and, to a certain extent, in the US and Canada, you have to become public with that kind of information. Not so in the Netherlands.”

“It’s not necessarily that people want to keep it a secret, it’s just not something that is done routinely. So at top levels in the university, but often even at the faculty level, the departments don’t have a good overview of exactly what kind of research is being done with whom, and how this is financed,” she said

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) published a “Framework for Knowledge Security” in July 2021 that outlined risks and the need for monitoring research collaboration, as well as recommending that universities set up their own internal ‘knowledge security advisory team’ to include experts such as cybersecurity specialists.

The focus is on building risk awareness but does not go as far as requiring disclosure of foreign funding. Some universities have pointed out that they cannot ‘police’ research or researchers on behalf of the government. 

Who will investigate?

The Netherlands Inspectorate of Education has not indicated that it will carry out a broader investigation into China influence at universities in the country, saying in a statement following the VU Amsterdam row: “No other signals about Chinese influence are known to the inspectorate.”

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the Inspectorate of Education “would be wise to do more homework in this area”.

“In a decade of documenting Chinese government threats to academic freedom around the world, Human Rights Watch has found threats at universities from Australia to the United States, and proposed a code of conduct to help mitigate these risks. 

“One key step: universities should publicly disclose all direct and indirect Chinese government funding and a list of projects and exchanges with Chinese government counterparts on an annual basis,” she said.

“In showing its permeability to Chinese government influence, the Free University shouldn’t limit its response simply to returning the funding. It should urgently assess whether students and scholars of and from China on its campus are subjected to harassment or surveillance,” which she noted had been well documented elsewhere, notably in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. 

“University leadership and scholars should assess whether censorship and self-censorship have eroded the curriculum or classroom debate,” Richardson added. 

“The Free University should also join forces with counterparts across Europe – from Berlin to Cambridge to Budapest – who have faced similar problems, and agree to share information and adopt common standards with the goal of collectively resisting Beijing’s efforts to curtail academic freedom. The list of potential participants – supposedly ‘free’ universities – is disturbingly long.”

EU toolkit for universities: will it make a difference?

The EU issued a toolkit for universities on 18 January. Although it is comprehensive, d’Hooghe noted that “these rules are not binding because the EU has no competence in the area of education”. Universities are outside Brussels’ remit.

She saw it more as a “service to EU member states who still don’t have national rules, who find it very difficult to develop them or don’t have the capacity to develop them”.

While many ongoing collaboration projects with Chinese universities continue, despite academics and researchers being unable to travel due to pandemic restrictions, d’Hooghe said she knew of many who “are staying away” from starting new projects with China, in part due to risks, including reputational risks. 

But she noted that legislation on a national level regarding foreign influence could be tricky. “University autonomy is regarded as an important value and very important for science to advance, so universities are very reluctant to be limited by binding regulations.”


The Chinese Exploitation Of Turkish Citizenship To More Easily Obtain US/EU Residency Permits — Greek

Would be nice to have more data rather than just examples of advertising by immigration consultants. That being said, not surprising that alternate and backdoor pathways emerge:

In order to circumvent strict norms put in place by the United States, rich Chinese people are on the lookout for easier alternatives to acquire the US citizenship.

They have recently discovered that obtaining Turkish citizenship first would make it easier for them to acquire US citizenship.

Chinese websites and social media platforms are flooded with advertisements for obtaining Turkish citizenship.

These advertisements underline that the alternate way to obtain US Citizenship is by first obtaining Turkish citizenship which can be acquired through an investment of at least USD$250,000 in property.

The advertisements emphasise that it is possible to go to America and other western countries easily after obtaining Turkish citizenship.

The tagline of ads reads, “if you buy real estate, all your family members get their passports as gifts.”

As a result of China’s strained relations with the USA and many European countries in recent years, it has become difficult for Chinese citizens to obtain a residence permit in Western countries.

One Chinese real estate consultancy firms that deals with real estate sales from Turkey, emphasises in one of its advertisements that for Turkish citizenship, “Britain is the best springboard for settling in developed countries, such as the USA.”

The expressions used in the advertisements for Turkish citizenship published in China are as follows: “AFTER YOU BUY THIS, YOU CAN GO TO THE USA.”

The advertisements highlight the features of the Turkish passport: It can only be earned by buying a house for USD$250,000.

• It is a cheap and simple process, and it has two great advantages: It is the best springboard to go as an immigrant to developed countries such as the UK and the USA. After obtaining a Turkish passport, you can go to the USA as an immigrant with an E2 investor ID.

• E2 is a visa issued by the USA only to countries with mutual trade partnerships. After you get Turkish Citizenship, you can commute to and from the USA, you can live in the USA. Your spouse can work in the USA. Your children can study in American schools.

• Turkey is a country that has a trade partnership with the US. The E2 visa is the country’s most issued visa. It can take 500-600 people every year.

• If you get a Turkish passport, you can go to England with a business visa. The UK government allows Turkish citizens to engage in business. A 1-year commercial visa can be obtained on the first application. After five years, the right to stay in the UK indefinitely can be earned. After getting a business visa from the UK, your children can study in the UK. They can study for free in public schools.

• You can earn a Turkish passport with very simple transactions, just by buying a house. You don’t need to go yourself. If you buy real estate for 1.600 million yuan (USD$250,000), all your family members will be given passports. It does not ask for any documents. You can complete the transactions without leaving home.

It is recalled that a Turkish passport guarantees visa free travel to over 100 countries. You can get an E2 visa to the US with it.

Turkey has provision vide, in which a foreigner can obtain Turkish nationality on the basis of certain amount of investment in real estate, capital investment, by way of business generating employment for Turkish nationals, or by investing in Treasury bonds or any type of government loan instrument.

In 2018, with a legal regulation, the lower limit of real estate investment, which is one of the options for citizens of other countries to obtain Turkish citizenship, had been reduced from USD$1 million to USD$250,000.

However on January 06, 2022, the regulation on the ‘Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law’ was amended and the investment values were enhanced.

The Turkish government facilitated the regulation for foreigners to acquire Turkish citizenship in a bid to support the Turkish lira.

However, China is exploiting this provision of Turkey, whereby Chinese citizens are purchasing real estate in Turkey or making a fixed capital investment to obtain Turkish citizenship.

This is in order to bypass the difficulty its citizens face in obtaining the residence permit in western countries.

Source: The Chinese Exploitation Of Turkish Citizenship To More Easily Obtain US/EU Residency Permits — Greek

Journalists and News Orgs Including ESPN Snub Beijing Olympics of ‘Shame’

How is CBC and other Canadian media handling this ethical and moral quandary? CBC Sports seems to be a cheerleading mode, with little critical notes on issues related to China being the host and the restrictions it means:

For sports reporters, being sent to cover an Olympic Games has always been seen as a privilege, a career highlight, a chance to bathe in the reflected glory of the world’s top athletes while enjoying a couple of weeks in the sun or on the slopes, all expenses paid.

Now, not so much. Reporters assigned to next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics are being warned to leave their cellphones at home and pack “burner phones” and “clean” laptops to prevent Chinese spies hacking into their data. They have been sent a 36-page guide on how to navigate China’s ultra-strict COVID regulations just to get into the country, including a health-monitoring app and multiple PCR tests. Once inside the Olympic bubble, they could be served food by robots, prepared by robots, in order to limit unnecessary human contact. And if, after all that, they do test positive for the rampant Omicron variant, then it will all have been in vain; their Olympics will be over.

Not surprisingly, some editors are deciding it’s just not worth it and are keeping their staffs at home, including executives at ESPN, the U.S. cable sports giant that announced Thursday that the four reporters it had been due to send to China would be staying home and covering the Games from the U.S.

As a non-rights holder, ESPN was never going to be able to broadcast any actual sports coverage from Beijing. Its news reporters would normally be flitting between venues, catching up with American stars to generate stories off the field of play and filming video stand-ups before key venues. As part of their pandemic plan, however, Beijing Olympic organizers are treating all three Olympic clusters—in central Beijing and two mountain zones outside the capital—as Olympic venues in their own right, further limiting the activities of non-rights holders.

ESPN’s executive editor, Norby Williamson, displayed his frustration at those restrictions in a statement confirming the coverage plans. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us,” he said.

But even NBCUniversal, which has paid billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast successive Olympics, is cutting back on its team in China. Its anchors and announcers will cover the Games from the NBC sports hub in Stamford, Connecticut. They will be following the example of the BBC, which successfully covered last year’s Summer Olympics from a “greenscreen” studio in the suburbs of Manchester designed to fool viewers into thinking they were watching a live feed from downtown Tokyo.

With the U.S. leading a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Games—which means Western political leaders snubbing the opening and closing ceremonies in the Bird’s Nest stadium—NBC has been stung by suggestions from human rights groups that its coverage could legitimize Chinese repression of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. Molly Solomon, NBC’s Olympic production chief, told reporters this week that athletes would “remain the centerpiece of our coverage” but the “geopolitical context” would not be ignored.

That political pressure will remain, at least until American skiers, skaters, snowboarders, and hockey stars start showing off their medals. A bipartisan group led by Rep. Tom Malinowski, the New Jersey Democrat, called on Friday for the International Olympic Committee to explicitly guarantee athletes’ right to free speech in Beijing after a Chinese official warned that competitors who spoke about against human rights abuses could be sent home.

Some journalists have not even been allowed to go at all. Canadian reporter Devin Heroux tested positive for coronavirus late last year and has been told he cannot now cover the event. “Unfortunately my plans to cover the Olympics from Beijing have been derailed,” the CBC reporter wrote.

Reporters who are going admit they will not be allowed to report freely. “It’s naive to think the pandemic hasn’t played right into China’s hands,” Christine Brennan, a USA Today columnist told the Washington Post. “They would have wanted to control us, anyway. This just gives them another excuse. China will be China.”

Owen Slot, chief sportswriter at The Times of London, described his shock when he and other reporters assigned to the Beijing Games were invited to a security briefing at the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper in December: “Don’t use your phones over there, we were informed. Take a burner phone. Take a clean laptop. And even then, if do you phone home, your friendly hosts may be straight into your wife’s data instead.”

Fortunately, Slot wrote earlier this month, he already has a burner phone at home on which he can call home to his family. “Yet we are just scratching at the surface here. How did we get to a point where we granted hosting rights to a nation where you can’t use your phone?”

He added: “The truth is that we are entering the most extraordinarily appalling year for our global sporting feasts. We start 2022 with the Olympics in Beijing and finish it with the World Cup in Qatar. It is a double whammy of shame. We will hold our noses, award the medals and leave behind us the empty rhetoric of disapproval.”

Source: Journalists and News Orgs Including ESPN Snub Beijing Olympics of ‘Shame’