Chinese Universities Are Enshrining Communist Party Control In Their Charters

Sigh. As some have noted, has potential implications in terms of how other countries treat Chinese degrees:

It wasn’t just the fact that one of China’s best universities had changed its charter last December to emphasize loyalty to the ruling Communist Party that raised eyebrows. Shanghai’s Fudan University also deleted principles like freedom of thought, and did so publicly, as if expecting praise.

Furious students staged a rare and risky protest in the school cafeteria in December. They sang the school’s anthem, which praises academic freedom.

“Everyone was enraged,” one of the student protesters told NPR. She withheld her name because of the almost certain repercussions for speaking publicly on the matter.

To disguise their protest plans, the students publicized the event as a marriage proposal.

Fudan is one of at least three universities that have revised their charters since 2018, emphasizing unswerving loyalty to the Communist Party, an NPR analysis found. They have downgraded or erased language about academic freedom from their charters, while adding a new clause: “The university Communist Party committee is the core leadership of the school.”

The move is part of a broader trend that has been growing since 2013, the year Xi Jinping became China’s president. From 2013 to 2017, at least 109 universities unveiled their first-ever charters, affirming party leadership, according to NPR’s analysis.

The new charters effectively hand the party ultimate control over the schools’ administration, mirroring how the party dominates government agencies.

Some of China’s most prestigious universities, including Beijing’s Peking University and Renmin University, have new charters. And Nanjing University, which amended its charter in December, has a prominent international studies program jointly administered with Johns Hopkins University.

Academic freedom has always been precarious in China, although the 2000s saw a brief liberalization. But since Xi took office, academics say, ideological constraints have intensified, stifling discourse and innovation at home even as China seeks a global footprint in academia.

There are still some holdouts. For example, East China Normal University and Wuhan University — which have joint-venture campuses in the Shanghai area with New York University and Duke University, respectively — have not amended their charters, which still contain commitments to academic freedom.

But at the universities that have adopted pro-party charters, say academics interviewed by NPR, the rule change encapsulates some of the difficulties that educators face in China.

“I think it is a good thing that charters now reflect reality more accurately,” says Qiao Mu, who once taught journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University. He left China for the U.S. in 2017 after his career was stymied because of his political outspokenness. “Why include all this pretty language about democratic freedom and freedom of thought if there is none of that?”

Teachers punished

Cao Zhenhua has experienced the restraints firsthand. In 2018, he was fired as a lecturer at Guizhou Minzu University after being accused of questioning the current relevance of Marxism in a seminar.

“The university party secretary, institute director and local party officials tried to move me to library duties because of my political problems, but I put up a huge fight,” Cao remembers. Four professors were docked pay, but because Cao pushed back on his punishment, he was dismissed.

“This kind of ideological thinking is like that of the class-struggle sessions during the Cultural Revolution,” Cao says, referring to a violent period in the 1960s and 1970s in China when Chairman Mao Zedong sought to root out political enemies.

Universities’ local party representatives, backed by an emboldened public security apparatus, increasingly call the shots at school. When Yang Shaozheng, a former economics professor at Guizhou University, came under fire in 2018 for writing and commenting critically on Chinese politics, public security officials called him in and reprimanded him.

“They said, ‘You can no longer use case studies drawn from reality in your lectures. You also must stop publishing political essays online.’ They told me, ‘Shut your stinking mouth.’ I told them, as a university professor, what I choose to talk about is my right,” Yang recounts, his voice rising in anger at the memory.

University administrators did not defend him. Yang was fired that August.

Campus party informants

Much of the control on campuses is implemented through low-tech means: human monitors. Students say classes are quietly seeded with student party members, who secretly report what teachers and students opine during lectures to party committees and school counselors.

“It took so much effort to say even one phrase. You had to pay attention to people’s expressions. One person might hear me and agree. But another person might hear me and report me. I could not give lectures in such circumstances, short of simply reading from the textbook,” says You Shengdong.

You, an economics professor, was sacked in 2018 from Xiamen University, he says, after unknown students reported him for criticizing slogans used by Chinese leader Xi and the growing role of inefficient state-owned enterprises in the economy. Administrators, threatening to draw on footage taken from cameras installed in his classroom, sided with the students who reported him.

Notices at Shaanxi Normal University, one of the three universities that publicly changed their charters to reflect party loyalty in December, detail the responsibilities of student spies, or “information officers,” as they are officially called. These informants must possess “a certain level of political sensitivity,” the notices say, and must report on student and teacher opinions regarding school and national policies as well as any “major social events.”

“We simply keep an eye on things,” says an undergraduate information officer at Peking University who declined to be named because of the political sensitivity of this work.

December’s anthem-singing protest at Fudan University illustrates just how such a monitoring network can mobilize to quickly control small-scale incidents.

A student who created the chat group to organize the protest deleted the group from WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app, in the early morning hours before the event, after his school counselor got wind of the scheme and pressured him to withdraw.

University counselors assigned to students are responsible for their “political thought education,” to make sure they are both on track academically and also steering clear of political activities, according to university hiring notices.

The day after the singing protest, members of the party youth league at Fudan University posted a prewritten statement on WeChat: “The school anthem remains the same. Not only does Fudan have academic independence and freedom of thought, but it also educates the country’s future leaders, strengthens the university and protects the country. The determination that led us to Fudan in the first place hasn’t changed. If given a second chance, I’d still choose Fudan.” Professors who posted veiled statements of support for the protest on WeChat were told to take their posts down.

“I thought Fudan was relatively free. But oftentimes, what the students are told has already been censored from above,” says the Fudan student protester.

“How can innovation happen in a society like this?” asks Shi Jiepeng, a classical-Chinese expert who is now a visiting scholar at University of Tokyo. Shi was also singled out by party inspectors three years ago because of remarks he had made about deceased Chinese leaders such as Mao and Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty.

Anonymous calls from people allegedly offended by his comments also began pouring into his department’s office phone. Online trolls heaped abuse upon Shi on WeChat and another popular social platform, Weibo. Shi was eventually fired in July 2017 from his position as assistant professor of classical Chinese at Beijing Normal University.

He says his managers had received numerous complaints from students about remarks he had made in lectures in previous years, but his managers only quietly reprimanded him before dismissing the claims. “The problem is not that Chinese students and colleagues are reporting their professors. That phenomenon has always existed,” says Shi.

But now, Shi says, China’s political environment has changed in such a way that university administrators are receptive to such complaints and are pressured to take immediate action. “The problem is that the political winds have shifted at the top,” Shi says, “and that shift has been orchestrated by the political leaders themselves.”

Source: Chinese Universities Are Enshrining Communist Party Control In Their Charters

Beijing think tank cancels global conference amid Canadian boycott

The formal notice and related story of the cancelled 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing. One really has to wonder what the International Metropolis co-chairs and Secretariat were thinking when choosing Beijing to host the conference, beyond the finances:

A global migration policy conference Canada played a key role in establishing has been cancelled after its Beijing host pulled out of the event scheduled for June.

The 2020 International Metropolis Conference was at the centre of a boycott led by Canadian scholars over China’s poor human rights record: the repression of the Muslim Uighur and Tibetan minorities; threats to Hong Kong’s legal and judicial independence; and the ongoing detention of foreign nationals, including Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

In an email to participating researchers and policy-makers last week, Professors Jan Rath of the Netherlands and Paul Spoonley of New Zealand, co-chairs of the event’s steering committee, said they regretted but respected the decision by the Centre for China and Globalization to pull out of the conference. Boycotters had argued that the centre is part of the Chinese apparatus and feared it would be used to legitimize the Communist regime’s policies and practices.

“We can understand that external pressures have complicated the organization of the event,” said the letter. “An International Metropolis Conference in Beijing would have offered an opportunity for members of the Metropolis network to meet and engage with their counterparts in that country and in the region, and vice-versa, in the interest of enhanced mutual understanding of migration developments.”

Andrew Griffith, a former director-general of the Canadian immigration department who led the boycott with others, welcomed the cancellation.

“The regime’s ongoing human rights abuses and cultural genocide efforts regarding minorities like the Uighurs make China an inappropriate host for an open discussion of migration issues, where human rights are central,” Griffith told the Star.

The conference had been organized by the International Metropolis Network, made up of experts from around the world in migration and settlement policies as a platform where state officials, non-government organizations and researchers share ideas and discuss best policies to manage migration and integration.

Canada was instrumental in the establishment of the international network of experts, with one of the organization’s three secretariats at Carleton University. The annual conference attracts as many as 1,000 participants and presenters a year and has been held around the world.

Organizers maintain that Metropolis has always been an “apolitical” network aimed at fostering understanding of migration issues.

“China has emerged as a major economic power in the world, and as a country with a significant role in migration, whether in Asia or globally. For us to have a comprehensive picture of regional and global migration means understanding China’s role in migration, both as a country of origin and, more recently, a country of destination,” the International Metropolis said in its letter to members. “To ignore China in the field of migration today is to have but a partial understanding of global migration phenomena.”

Griffith disagreed, pointing to the recent denial of entry to Hong Kong of Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, a group critical of the Chinese regime, as an example of interference and repression by Beijing.

“For conferences in Western countries, that is largely true, but certainly not in a country like China, which would have used the conference to legitimize its policies and practices and not allow any open discussion of its repression of the Uighurs and other human rights abuses,” said Griffith

The conference’s steering committee said further details will soon be provided on an “alternative” International Metropolis event to replace the cancelled Beijing conference.

The ominous metaphors of China’s Uighur concentration camps

Uncomfortable parallels:

The recent leak of Chinese Communist Party documents to the New York Times offers a chilling glimpse into the 21st century’s largest system of concentration camps.

A million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are now detained in a Chinese operation that combines the forced labour and re-education of Mao-era laogai with the post-9/11 rhetoric of the “war on terror.” U.S. President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, border camps crowded with migrant children and America’s global archipelago of so-called black sites detaining terror suspects deserve condemnation. So too do the concentration camps of the world’s newest superpower.

Retina scans, DNA databanks and facial recognition technologyare now ubiquitous across China’s Xinjiang province. They are modern-day updates to earlier surveillance technologies like Soviet internal passports.

KGB tactics

Satellite images and clandestine video footage of watchtowers, concrete barracks and barbed-wire perimeters conform to the prison esthetic described by Holocaust survivor Primo Levi and Russian labour camp detainee Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

Nighttime roundups resemble KGB tactics, while involuntary medical injections recall the dark history of forced sterilization, from Nazi eugenics to the targeted sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada.

Another haunting parallel is the language Chinese officials use to justify their actions. Speaking of the concentration camps of totalitarian Europe, the late social theorist Zygmunt Bauman, himself a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, wrote that “gardening and medicine” have offered “archmetaphors” for the management of unwanted populations.

To cultivate a garden is to ensure the survival of some plants while eliminating others. Gardens require fences, walls and the extermination of weeds. As if to illustrate Bauman’s point, a Chinese official in Kashgar recently informed a crowd of Uighers:

“You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one. You need to spray chemicals to kill them all.”

The tenderly pruned gardens of classical China were peaceful retreats for poets and philosophers. By contrast, the association of human beings with noxious weeds and the Chinese Communist Party’s embrace of industrial agricultural metaphors have yielded dystopian results.

Language of disease

More than anything, Chinese statements about Uighur concentration are saturated with the language of disease.Likening Islam to a contagion, an official Communist Party document suggests Uighers have “been infected by unhealthy thoughts.”

“Freedom is only possible,” it adds, “when the ‘virus’…is eradicated.”

In an exercise in victim blaming for which cultural theorist Susan Sontag argues medical metaphors are especially conducive, Chinese officials have warned: “If you were careless and caught an infectious virus, like SARS” (a scenario that led to mass medical detention in China in the recent past), then “you’d have to undergo enclosed isolated treatment. Because it’s an infectious illness.”

Chinese officials are thus defending the camps as quarantine cells that will safeguard China from the Uighur epidemic while eliminating religious and cultural pathogens.

The human body has long served as a metaphor for state and society both in Western and Chinese thought. And medical analogies have proven central in the political calculus of extrajudicial detention. With a pseudo-scientific endorsement, policy-makers around the world have classified unwanted populations as parasites or social pathogens that need to be cured, physically isolated or excised completely.

First concentration camps

The first concentration camps in contemporary history, established by Britain during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), were directly inspired by plague quarantine camps in India and South Africa. The goal was to “cleanse” besieged towns of “disease, crime and poverty” by introducing wartime refugees to sanitary enclosures administered by British medical officials.

The Soviet Union likewise consigned “parasitic classes” to the gulag, while earlier generations in China referred to political prisoners as “convalescents.” Even today, xenophobic voices in America associate Latino migrants with “tremendous infectious disease.”

The biological metaphors revealed by the Chinese government’s recent document leak, however, find their most sinister analogies with Nazi Germany.

“The battle in which we are engaged” against the “Jewish virus,”Hitler proclaimed, “is of the same sort as the battle waged…by Pasteur and Koch. We shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jew.”

A germaphobe, Hitler imagined fighting “battles against a veritable world sickness, which threatens to infect the German people, a plague that devastates whole peoples.” In this imaginary landscape, Nazi apologists invariably depicted concentration camps as sanitary spaces that isolated Jewish “parasites” in the name of racial hygiene.

The genetic emphasis of Nazi racism ultimately meant “curing” Jews was an impossibility. By Hitler’s logic, outright extermination — or “euthanasia” in sanitized state-speak — was the only recourse. China, by contrast, holds out hope that Uighur camps, or “re-education hospitals”, can cure their “patients” and thus “clean the virus from their brain.”

Yet like cancer, Chinese Communist officials fear, “there is no guarantee the illness will not return.” And just because an inmate has “recovered from the ideological disease doesn’t mean they are permanently cured,” the documents reveal.

The language of disease justified some of the 20th century’s worst crimes. If left unchecked by the international community, China is poised to continue that tradition in the 21st century. And where China leads, others are likely to follow.

Source: The ominous metaphors of China’s Uighur concentration camps

Human Rights Watch dénonce l’offensive de la Chine contre les droits de l’homme

One of the better reports on the HRW report:

Le gouvernement chinois profite de sa puissance économique pour attaquer avec une intensité inédite le système international de protection des droits de l’homme, a estimé mardi 14 janvierl’organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW), en appelant les démocraties à réagir.

« Le gouvernement chinois mène une intense offensive contre le système international de protection des droits de l’homme, (…) la plus intense qu’on ait vue depuis l’émergence de ce système au milieu du XXsiècle », a déclaré depuis New York Kenneth Roth, directeur exécutif de l’ONG, en présentant son rapport annuel, qui couvre une centaine de pays.

En Chine, le parti communiste a bâti « un Etat policier orwellien high-tech et un système sophistiqué de censure de l’Internet pour surveiller et supprimer les critiques publiques », a écrit M. Roth dans ce document de 650 pages, qui dénonce notamment « le système cauchemardesque » de répression instauré contre les musulmans du Xinjiang.

« Menace existentielle » sur les droits humains

A l’étranger, le gouvernement chinois « utilise son influence économique croissante pour museler les critiques », selon l’organisation.

« Si d’autres gouvernements commettent des entorses graves aux droits de l’homme, aucun autre gouvernement ne montre les muscles avec autant de vigueur et de détermination pour saper les normes internationales des droits humains et les institutions qui pourraient les soutenir. »

M. Roth avait espéré présenter ce rapport cinglant depuis Hongkong. Mais il a été refoulé dimanche en arrivant dans ce territoire semi-autonome, secoué depuis sept mois par des manifestations prodémocratie qui dénoncent une ingérence croissante de Pékin dans les affaires de l’ex-colonie britannique.

Human Rights Watch dénonce l’inaction, voire la complicité d’autres pays face à cette « menace existentielle » que fait peser Pékin sur les droits de l’homme, selon elle.

« Plusieurs gouvernements sur lesquels on pouvait compter pour que leur politique étrangère défende les droits de l’homme au moins une partie du temps ont largement abandonné cette cause », affirme l’organisation.

« Certains dirigeants comme le président américain Donald Trump, le premier ministre indien Narendra Modi et le président brésilien Jair Bolsonaro brident le même ensemble de lois protégeant les droits humains que la Chine, galvanisant leur public en combattant les mondialistes qui osent suggérer que tous les gouvernements devraient respecter les mêmes normes. »

Reproches faits à l’UE ou à l’ONU

L’Union européenne, « occupée par le Brexit, handicapée par des Etats membres nationalistes et divisée sur les migrants », en prend aussi pour son grade, ne défendant plus les droits de l’homme comme avant.

HRW reproche notamment à Emmanuel Macron de « ne pas avoir mentionné publiquement les droits de l’homme » lors de sa visite en Chine en novembre.

Les dirigeants de l’ONU, où Pékin fait tout pour éviter que la situation au Xinjiang soit discutée, sont aussi pointés du doigt. M. Roth reproche notamment à son secrétaire général, Antonio Guterres, de ne pas avoir voulu « demander publiquement que la Chine mette fin à l’emprisonnement massif de musulmans » au Xinjiang.

Article réservé à nos abonnés Lire aussi « China Cables » : révélations sur le fonctionnement des camps d’internement des Ouïgours

Plus généralement, HRW accuse gouvernements, entreprises et universités de préférer se taire plutôt que de risquer de perdre l’accès à l’immense marché chinois.

L’ONG cite notamment les récentes représailles de Pékin à un tweet de Daryl Morey, directeur général de l’équipe de basket des Houston Rockets, qui soutenait les manifestants de Hongkong.

Article réservé à nos abonnés Lire aussi « L’intimidation est énorme » : à Hongkong, les entreprises étrangères sous l’œil de Pékin

Human Rights Watch appelle les démocraties à s’unir pour contrer les efforts Pékin contre les droits humains, en gelant par exemple les comptes bancaires à l’étranger de tous les responsables impliqués dans la répression au Xinjiang.

L’ONG les appelle aussi à conditionner toute visite d’Etat de dirigeants chinois à « de véritables progrès en matière de droits de l’homme ».


Ai Weiwei: Capitalism and ‘Culturecide’ The idea of ‘cultural differences’ has been used as a justification for some of humanity’s worst crimes.

Well worth reading and reflecting upon the nexus between Western firms and Chinese repression:

Lu Xun, the greatest Chinese writer of the 20th century, created a character named Ah Q who became both adored and feared among Chinese for his wicked display of flaws in China’s “national character.” When Ah Q grew scabies on his head, he forbade people in his presence from pronouncing the word “scabies” — or any other word that sounded like it might conjure it. Such words were taboo. “Verboten.”

A few weeks ago, here in Berlin, I received notice of a lawsuit that had been filed against me by a casino clerk. The complaint said I had called him a Nazi and a racist without any factual basis. I had two weeks to present a written response, failing which I would be subject to punishment. The notice came as I was about to set out for England. I passed the matter to a lawyer and departed.

But the complaint led me to prod my memory. Yes, about a year ago I had played cards at the Berlin Casino in Potsdamer Platz and at the end of play had put my chips on the counter of the cashier’s window for redemption. The clerk, who may have been in his 50s, was leaning back in his chair. He looked at me but made no move. Then, enunciating each word distinctly, he said in English, “You should say please.”

I was put off. “What happens if I don’t?”

“You’re in Europe, you know,” the clerk said. “You should learn some manners.”

I found the comment irritating but not wholly strange. Immigrants to Germany do hear such things.

I pressed on: “Fine, but you’re not a person who can teach me manners.”

That caused him to lean forward. He fixed me with a gaze and said, “Don’t forget that I’m feeding you!”

The ante was raised. Behind his almost comical facade, I sensed a truly powerful disdain and resentment.

“That’s a Nazi attitude,” I said, “and a racist comment.”

I gave up arguing and went to the casino manager. After a bit of investigating, the manager offered me a detailed apology, and that was that — or so I thought until the notice of the lawsuit arrived. I don’t know what will come of that complaint, but it is a small matter compared with the issue that I now want to raise.

The casino clerk had cloaked his ethnic prejudice as a question of culture: Immigrants (whom we Germans are “saving”) should be learning European civilization. This made me reflect on where else “cultural difference” has been a euphemism under which bias, slavery and genocide have all had their ways. Hitler’s Germany? Apartheid? Bosnia? The American South? Too often! But indeed these are cultural matters. Is Nazi thinking merely a tumor that can be cut from the body politic and discarded? I doubt it. For good or ill, cultures last for years.

In today’s world, authoritarian politics and predatory commerce cooperate to exploit “cultural differences.” Nowhere is this point clearer than in the symbiosis in recent decades between Western corporations and the Communist elite in China. The West offers capital and much-needed technology, while China’s rulers supply a vast, captive, hard-working, low-paid and unprotected labor force. Western politicians, as if trying to justify the unholy collusion, for years argued that rising living standards in China would produce a middle class who would demand freedom and democracy. It is clear by now that that has not happened. The Chinese elite, now far wealthier than before and as in control as ever, can laugh up its sleeve at the Westerners and their visions of inevitable democracy. Instead the West’s own hard-won democracy has become vulnerable.

But does the West know it? Look at Hong Kong. Courageous protesters have persisted for more than six months in confronting the world’s mightiest dictatorship, a regime with a record of ironclad rejection of both reason and compromise when it deals with protesters or rivals. Hong Kong’s young democrats have looked for support from the world’s democracies. They stand at today’s edge of what may well be the greatest confrontation of the 21st century. Can the Western world see that helping them is not charity but self-defense?

When protesters in Hong Kong look to the vast northwest area in China called Xinjiang, they can see what happens when Beijing-engineered change reaches full throttle. In recent years (at first barely noted in the West), an annihilation of the language, religion and culture of Muslim Uighurs has proceeded systematically. About a million people have been sent to “re-education camps,” where they have been forced to denounce their religion and to swear fealty to the Communist Party of China.

When The New York Times published 400 pages of internal government documents on the rationale and techniques of this culturecide, an irate Beijing flatly denied the existence of the camps. But it did not (it could not) claim that the documents were inauthentic. It announced that the “trainees” in its re-education centers had all “graduated.” But the following facts were not announced: the number of graduates, where they are now living and whether they have been reunited with family.

I feel a personal bond with that distant, rustic Xinjiang, because I lived there from the early 1960s until 1977 with my father, the poet Ai Qing, who was banished there for nearly 20 years. He had expressed himself too freely through his poetry.

Westerners may think of Xinjiang as a distant and mysterious place, but in some ways it is not very exotic. Multinational corporations including Volkswagen, Siemens, Unilever and Nestlé have factories there. Supply chains for Muji and Uniqlo depend on Xinjiang, and companies such as H & M, Esprit and Adidas use Xinjiang cotton. We might ask: What is it about this remote place, to which the emperors of old banished criminals in lieu of sending them to prison, that makes it so attractive?

Might a “culturally different” nonwhite labor force play a role? People in no need of control because a harsh Communist government is already doing that work? In Xinjiang, as elsewhere in China, bosses from East and West have exchanged benefits, formed common interests and have even come to share some values. The chief executive of Volkswagen, which leads China in car sales, was recently asked for the company’s comment on the concentration camps in Xinjiang. He answered that VW knew nothing of such things, but the recent Xinjiang papers show otherwise. VW not only knew of the camps but signaled its readiness to go along. International diplomacy has facilitated the partnering of foreign business and Chinese Communism, and the German government has done especially well in that role.

We need to remember that extraction of profit from slave labor is not new to Germany. The Nazis used corvée labor. The main difference today is that the extraction is happening in distant countries. The scale, if anything, is larger. VW builds its cars in China, including the Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley and Lamborghini brands under its umbrella. It has shown that it sees the future of German industry to be in China. Piggybacking on “cultural difference” is still viable there.

China and Russia have shown how legacies of Communist authoritarianism can combine with predatory capitalism to build new political structures of daunting power. The world’s democracies have not figured out what to do about this even as they sense themselves falling behind or, worse, beginning to fit in. Traditional democratic values have begun to slip away. Economic and political trends reach beyond national borders, seem large and unstoppable, and are destroying values and ideals that human societies have evolved over centuries.

I am well aware that the word “Nazi” is taboo in Germany, but when I used it with the casino clerk, I meant it not as an expletive but as a general analytic term: A culture asserts its superiority, an ethnicity its purity, and the horde below is not only different but inferior, in need of being guided and, if necessary, ruled by force. Hence slavery is justified. Hence it is all right that hundreds of thousands of people are pulled from their homes. Rulers and slave masters get halos.

In the 1930s and 1940s this was called Nazism. Today in Germany, the taboo on the term is electric — stronger by far than Ah Q’s rejection of “scabies.” Could German supersensitivity be rooted in awareness, deep down, that the idea does remain alive?

The great challenge facing German and other Western governments is whether they can find a way to exit the carnival of profit making with their moral integrity intact. So far we have seen little on this score other than craven diffidence. The crux of the matter is not ignorance of the moral alternatives but a failure of will. Pursue greed? Do what is right? We shyly select the former. When Western governments come to realize that liberal democracy itself is at stake, this balance might tip the other way.

Translated from the Chinese by Perry Link.

Many Han Chinese don’t mind the gulag for their Uighur neighbours

Useful background and analysis:

The district of Erdaoqiao in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang, looks very similar to many urban areas of China. Its streets are filled with luxury cars competing for space with frantic food-delivery scooters. Many buildings are new, built with steel, glass and cookie-cutter uniformity.

No visible evidence remains of the riots here in July 2009, the country’s bloodiest ethnic clashes in decades. They involved battles between Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim group indigenous to Xinjiang, and ethnic-Han Chinese who make up more than 90% of China’s population. The spark was a protest by Uighurs against the killing of two Uighur factory-workers by a mob in southern China. Of more than 200 people who were killed on the first day of the violence in Erdaoqiao and other areas of Urumqi, many were Han. Later, Han crowds gathered in the streets, hungry for revenge. The city stewed for days in a miasma of anger and fear.

Urumqi today is calm, but its ethnic contours remain distinct. Erdaoqiao is still known as a Uighur area. Its Uighur-run shops sell steaming bowls of noodles and stewed lamb, circular flatbreads, colourful bolts of fabric and religious articles. In other parts of the city, the residents are mainly Han people, who make up three-quarters of Urumqi’s population and dominate its economy. The city’s tallest building is a 229-metre office tower that belongs to a state bank based 2,000km to the east, in Beijing—a city that seems a world away from Xinjiang’s Uighur culture.

Urumqi is a Han bastion, but in Xinjiang as a whole there are about 10m Uighurs and around 9m Han people. They are divided not only by culture but also by geography. Han people mainly live in the north where Urumqi is located. Uighurs are concentrated in the much poorer south, in ancient oasis towns such as Kashgar and Hotan. Between north and south is the vast Taklimakan desert (see map).

To understand why officials in Xinjiang began building a gulag in 2016 in which they have incarcerated an estimated 1m people, mostly Uighurs, it is important to understand the nature of this ethnic divide. The riots in 2009 made Han people more suspicious of Uighurs. The government’s draconian reaction has made Uighurs more resentful. The prison camps, euphemistically known as vocational training centres, are evidence that this divide has become even more institutionalised. That suggests that the Uighurs’ suffering will last a very long time.

Uighurs are put in camps for such things as being overtly pious Muslims or too fond of their Uighur traditions. The authorities say this has helped curb terrorism. They say there were thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang in the 15 years before the facilities were built, and none since. But the mass internment of Uighurs is certain to have increased their bitterness towards Xinjiang’s Han rulers.

Articles of interest over the holidays – China

The order from Chinese officials was blunt and urgent. Villagers from Muslim minorities should be pushed into jobs, willing or not. Quotas would be set and families penalized if they refused to go along.

“Make people who are hard to employ renounce their selfish ideas,” the labor bureau of Qapqal, a county in the western region of Xinjiang, said in the directive last year.

Such orders are part of an aggressive campaign to remold Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities — mostly Uighurs and Kazakhs — into an army of workers for factories and other big employers. Under pressure from the authorities, poor farmers, small traders and idle villagers of working age attend training and indoctrination courses for weeks or months, and are then assigned to stitch clothes, make shoes, sweep streets or fill other jobs.

These labor programs represent an expanding front in a major effort by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to entrench control over this region, where these minorities make up about half the population. They are crucial to the government’s strategy of social re-engineering alongside the indoctrination camps, which have held one million or more Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Source: Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of WorkersInside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of WorkersThe Communist Party wants to remold Xinjiang’s minorities into loyal blue-collar workers to supply Chinese factories with cheap labor.

The first grader was a good student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why.

“The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog. “When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.”

The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl’s father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in a state-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China’s far western Xinjiang region.

As many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population’s devotion to Islam. Even as these mass detentions have provoked global outrage, though, the Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region’s children.

Source: In China’s Crackdown on Muslims, Children Have Not Been Spared


A Chinese-owned channel is broadcasting forced confessions on Canadian TV’s. A human rights group says it should stop


Chinese state-run media available in Canada has been broadcasting forced confessions from people detained by mainland China authorities, alleges an international human rights group calling for Ottawa to punish those responsible.

Safeguard Defenders, a human rights organization based in Hong Kong and Europe, filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. It is calling on the federal government to use so-called Magnitsky legislation to punish those responsible for broadcasting the confessions.

“We believe that the violations are severe enough that their licence should be pulled,” said Peter Dahlin, executive director of Safeguard Defenders, whose own forced confession was run on Chinese television in 2016 after he’d been detained for more than three weeks.

The target of the complaint is China Global Television Network, an international television station based in China and owned by the Chinese government. The network is available in Canada via digital service.

Dahlin said that over the past five years, Chinese state-run media has broadcast nearly 100 forced confessions from prisoners, and about half of them have been broadcast into Canada. He says this is a violation of broadcast standards.

He said when British broadcast regulators began investigating CGTN for the practice in May, such broadcasts stopped for a time.

Dahlin also wants Canada to sanction Chinese television journalist Dong Qian and the former president of China Central Television, which oversees CGTN, Nie Chenxi, for their part in producing and airing the confessions.

The sanctions would be under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials act, also known as the Magnitsky law. Dahlin said pressure from Canadian regulators can go a long way in stopping such confessions from happening because the chance they could lose their broadcast licence is real.

“This is not about censoring Chinese media,” he said. “We do believe China should be held to the same standards as everyone else.”

Dahlin said he is surprised Canadian regulators hadn’t already taken the issue up themselves.

He said the confessions are often obtained through coercion or even torture, noting two brothers, one a Canadian citizen, Chen Zhiheng and Chen Zhiyu, both had confessions broadcast in which they admitted to forgery.

Dahlin said his organization believes were it not for the investigation by the United Kingdom last year, both Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians detained in China for more than a year, would have had confessions broadcast by now.

“It is almost certain both Michaels would have been on TV attacking the Canadian government and being used as a foreign policy tool,” Dahlin said. “That’s how powerful these kind of administrative regulatory bodies can be.”

Spavor and Kovrig were arrested in December last year, shortly after Canadian authorities detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China-based tech giant Huawei, on a request from the United States. The arrest of the two men in China is widely regarded as retaliation against Canada for arresting Meng.

At the time, Dahlin shared his own story of detention with Star Vancouver. He said he was held in a padded room with two guards he wasn’t allowed to speak to, able to hear other prisoners being beaten.

He was released and deported after being manipulated into a taped confession that was broadcast on Chinese state-run television.

Source: A Chinese-owned channel is broadcasting forced confessions on Canadian TV’s. A human rights group says it should stop

China’s ‘magical reality’ is a growing threat

More on China’s reality distortion or avoidance:

“I was hung … [in] a spreadeagled pose for hour after hour,” said Simon Cheng, a former staff member of the British consulate in Hong Kong, describing how he was tortured after he was detained in August while on a business trip to mainland China. Mr. Cheng said that the police who detained him insisted that he was “a mastermind and British proxy to incite and organize the protests” in Hong Kong.

Beijing has responded to months of demonstrations in Hong Kong not by addressing people’s grievances that their freedoms are being eroded, but instead by claiming that foreign governments were behind the demonstrations.

It’s clear from Mr. Cheng’s account of his abusive interrogations that the police were not interested in the truth, but in inventing a reality that is politically convenient for the Chinese Communist Party.

In her 2016 memoirs How Enemies Are Made, the Chinese disability rights activist and filmmaker Kou Yanding described being secretly detained by the Chinese police for participating in the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella protests. She said that her interrogators were uninterested in her explanations or her community-based work. Instead, they “not only want to make up stories,” she wrote, they “can even create reality.” As her interrogators reinvented her chance meetings with Chinese dissidents as subversion plots, Ms. Kou felt she was in some kind of “magical realism,” a fiction her captors willed into being.

This “magical” world serves the purpose of passing the buck for failed government policies, rallying the bureaucracy for repression, and shoring up popular support. Official documents recently leaked to The New York Times substantiating the repression in Xinjiang, in western China, quote President Xi Jinping attributing incidents of unrest there to “extremist religious thought,” that “like a drug” makes people “go crazy and … do anything.” The idea that the region’s Turkic Muslims are infected with a “thought virus” – rather than having genuine grievances against an oppressive government – led the government to detain one million of them in “political education” camps, where they are forcibly indoctrinated.

Professor Fu King-wa of Hong Kong University recently traced Chinese government messaging about the Hong Kong protests on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. He concluded that the Chinese authorities had constructed “a separatist or ‘pro-Hong Kong independence’ frame for Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement.” A month into the protests, the Chinese government unblocked online the previously sensitive term “Hong Kong independence,” and then generated more than 10 per cent of posts that supported this angle. Meanwhile, mainlanders who supported the protests were detained or silenced.

The Chinese government was not merely spreading fake news or disinformation. Rather, it seems to be practising a kind of reality engineering in which it is using its coercive and information machinery to generate enemies, be they Islam, an independence movement or imperialistic plots.

These imaginary enemies come at the expense not only of the countless individuals harmed in the process, but of finding real solutions to the discontent in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Only in this way, the party seems to believe, can it ensure its legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese public – convincing people that only the party can defend the country against all threats, even fabricated ones.

But by blaming foreign governments for self-generated problems, China’s leadership seems to be increasingly trapped inside its own propaganda bubble. Under Mr. Xi’s centralized rule, lower level officials are wielding the magic wand of reality engineering, telling the top what it wants to hear. The results have been policies in Xinjiang, where the government has cracked down on Turkic Muslims, and in Hong Kong, that are disastrously misguided, resulting in massive suffering.

While these dynamics are not new – they are similar to those Mao Zedong used during the 1958-62 Great Famine – they seem to have enjoyed a resurgence since Mr. Xi came to power in 2013. The milestone was in 2015, when the government began to broadcast forced confessions of detained human rights lawyers and several foreign nationals on state television, publish lengthy “exposés” to smear them and ensure that such a reality is spread far and wide using social media.

Previously, Chinese authorities tried to keep their oppressive measures muted: The imprisonment of the dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2009 was merely a one-liner in the state newspapers. The idea then was to prevent those promoting democratic ideas from reaching the public. The government’s aim now seems to be to publicly discredit those who speak for rights as foreign agents.

Unlike in Mao’s time, when China was isolated, Mr. Xi’s policies now have global implications. The world should be alarmed by the trajectory of the Chinese government’s worldview. Its mistreatment of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, the people of Hong Kong and now foreign diplomatic staff should be a warning for all.

Source: China’s ‘magical reality’ is a growing threat: Maya Wang

How McKinsey Makes Its Own Rules

Seems like our Ambassador to China got out at the right time…

It’s not easy being McKinsey & Company these days.

For most of its 90-odd-year existence, the prestigious management consultancy prided itself on remaining above the fray. McKinsey consultants plied the executive suites of Fortune 500 companies, counseling chief executives with discretion and quietly building a business that, with $10 billion in annual revenues, is now bigger than many of the entities it serves. The substance of the company’s work, and even the identities of its clients, lie concealed under an institutional code of silence. That reticence, enforced by a nondisclosure agreement, bedeviled Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign until last Monday, when McKinsey granted him a rare dispensation to reveal the names of his former clients.

On the occasions when McKinsey’s work has been scrutinized of late, it hasn’t reflected well on the firm. Reporting by The New York Times, ProPublica and others over the past 18 months has raised serious questions about how it does business at home and abroad: corruption allegations against companies McKinsey partnered with in South Africa and Mongolia; a federal criminal investigation into the firm’s bankruptcy practice in the United States; attempts to deny that it helped put into effect controversial Trump administration immigration policies; and evidence that McKinsey cherry-picked nonviolent inmates for a pilot project and made it seem that an attempt to curb violence at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex was working (it wasn’t). McKinsey has denied wrongdoing in each of these instances.

These and other examples of McKinsey’s recent conduct reveal a common dynamic. An examination of these episodes, including thousands of pages of documents and interviews with dozens of current and former McKinsey consultants and clients from multiple projects, suggests McKinsey behaves as if it believes the rules should bend to its way of doing things, not the other way around.

McKinsey’s self-regard has long been uncommonly high. In the firm’s 2010 internal history, a copy of which ProPublica obtained, partners compare the firm to the Marine Corps, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jesuits: “analytically rigorous, deeply principled seekers of knowledge and truth,” the history’s authors write. One McKinsey partner went a step further, declaring without a hint of irony that the firm’s trait of shared values is more than “even the Catholic Church can promise.”

This attitude works for the firm in corporate consulting, an unregulated field where McKinsey’s reputation leaves it largely free to do things its own way and where its insistence on not being publicly credited has also shielded it from blame for its failures. But as McKinsey has expanded its consulting empire in recent years, it has taken on a growing book of work for government entities, as well as for corporate clients in areas subject to government oversight, such as advising bankrupt companies on restructuring.

In that field, consulting firms confront a web of contracting, disclosure and ethics rules that are designed to dictate and limit their behavior. These rules exist to prevent governments from wasting taxpayer money on underqualified or overpriced contractors and to protect government integrity and avoid conflicts of interests. In recent years, as McKinsey has burrowed deeper into this world, interviews and records show, it has developed a habit of disregarding inconvenient rules and norms to secure, retain and profit from government work.

Consider McKinsey’s imbroglios in South Africa and Mongolia. The firm did not follow the due diligence protocols commonly deployed to avoid running afoul of anti-corruption laws. The result: Its consultants found themselves working alongside dubious local companies that got them entangled in corruption investigations. Only after McKinsey became embroiled in the South Africa corruption scandal did the firm decide it needed to put more stringent safeguards in place.

In the United States, a damning but largely overlooked report issued in July by the Office of Inspector General for the General Services Administration, the hub for federal contracting, depicted McKinsey as ignoring rules and refusing to take no for an answer. The report examined McKinsey’s attempts to renew a major long-running contract in 2016. The firm was asked to provide additional pricing information to satisfy federal contracting rules. Rather than comply, McKinsey went over the contracting officer’s head, lodging complaints with top G.S.A. officials, who refused to exempt the firm from the rules.

Eventually, the firm found a friendly G.S.A. manager who was willing to not only award the contract, but also manipulated the G.S.A.’s pricing tools to increase the value of the contract by tens of millions of dollars. The report concluded the manager “violated requirements governing ethical conduct.”

The pattern repeated itself when McKinsey failed in multiple attempts to win a separate contract around the same time. Stymied, according to the report, McKinsey browbeat the contracting officer, threatening to resubmit the proposal until it got its way. The G.S.A. manager again intervened for reasons left unexplained by the report and McKinsey got its contract.

The report’s assessment of McKinsey’s behavior was withering, and it revealed that the firm subsequently used the same friendly manager to help secure contracts at three other federal agencies in 2017 and 2018. “Multiple contracting officers,” the inspector general wrote, told investigators that McKinsey’s requests were “inappropriate” and “a conflict of interest.”

The report recommended that the G.S.A. cancel the contracts, which as of earlier this year had earned McKinsey nearly $1 billion over a 13-year span. In a response to the report, the G.S.A. stated that it would ask McKinsey to renegotiate the contracts to lower the price. “If McKinsey declines” or “renegotiations do not yield a result in the government’s best interest,” the agency wrote, it would cancel them. Neither has happened to date, according to federal contracting records. A McKinsey spokesman said: “We have reviewed the report and the relevant facts, and have found no evidence of any improper conduct by our firm. We are in negotiations with G.S.A. and look forward to completing them soon.” A G.S.A. spokesperson said it is negotiating for “better pricing” and will not award McKinsey any further work under the contracts until those negotiations are concluded.

McKinsey has also taken steps to evade public accountability. As ProPublica reported, a senior partner leading McKinsey’s work at Rikers asked top corrections officials and members of the consulting team to restrict their communications to Wickr, an encrypted messaging app that deletes messages automatically after a few hours or days. That insulated some of McKinsey’s work from government oversight and public records requests. (“Our policies require colleagues to adhere to all relevant laws and regulations,” a McKinsey spokesman said. He neither confirmed nor denied the use of Wickr.)

Speaking more broadly, the McKinsey spokesman said: “We hear the calls for change. We are working hard to address the issues that have been raised.”

McKinsey has so far escaped serious repercussions for its reluctance to follow inconvenient rules. That could change next year.

Consultancies such as McKinsey, which advise companies restructuring under bankruptcy protection, are required to disclose potential conflicts of interest. For the past few years, McKinsey has been locked in a complicated set of court disputes with Jay Alix, the founder of a competing advisory firm, and with the Justice Department’s bankruptcy watchdog over whether McKinsey failed to follow bankruptcy disclosure rules, a subject The Times has covered in depth.

McKinsey has, since then, disclosed a number of new potential conflicts in old bankruptcy cases and paid $32.5 million to creditors and the United States trustee to settle claims over insufficient disclosures. The trustee has said that “McKinsey failed to satisfy its obligations under bankruptcy law and demonstrated a lack of candor.” The firm denies wrongdoing and says it settled “in order to move forward and focus on serving its clients.”

Subsequently, McKinsey has moved, in effect, to rewrite the rules. It drafted a protocol ostensibly meant to clarify what advisers like itself need to disclose. Critics pointed out that McKinsey’s protocol allows such firms to avoid disclosing relationships they deem indirect or “de minimis.”

There remains more to come. Apart from the criminal investigation, a judge in Houston has scheduled a trial in February to decide the merits of Mr. Alix’s allegations. The judge, David R. Jones, has described the trial in apocalyptic tones. It will be, Judge Jones has said, “the ultimate career ender for somebody.” For McKinsey, a trial would mean being called on to defend its work in public — with real accountability and real consequences for its actions. The firm might even benefit in the long run from the sunlight.

Source: How McKinsey Makes Its Own Rules