China Reform Monitor - No. 1302

A grassroots backlash against China

October 6, 2017

September 21:

After a "brawl involving Muslim people at a toll booth went viral, internet users inundated the official Weibo accounts of Tangshan city government departments with complaints" about the priority treatment Muslims receive "for the sake of social stability,"
the official Global Times reports. Chinese internet users have created derogatory terms to stigmatize the religion amid a backlash against national policies often depicted as overly favorable to Muslim minorities. To achieve national unity and social stability, ethnic Muslim minorities including Hui and Uighur people receive extra points on their China's college entrance examinations, more lenient family planning policies, and a certain ratio of positions in government.

China’s internet censors, moreover, have blocked the terms "green religion" and "peaceful religion," which are among those used to circumvent censorship when criticizing Islam. "It's necessary to remove radical phrases that discriminate against Islam and are biased against Muslims to prevent worsening online hatred towards the group. Those phrases severely undermine religious harmony and ethnic unity. Blocking such phrases is not an infringement of people's freedom of speech, as freedom should abide under China's related regulations and law," said Xiong Kunxin at Minzu University.

September 25:

The official CCTV Finance aired a documentary called "Magnificent China" that claims "China has built the world's largest video surveillance network." Known as "China Skynet," the system has more than 20 million camera that can identify in real-time vehicle types, pedestrian age, gender, clothing, etc. "The level and use of artificial intelligence and large data for policing in China is at the forefront of the world," notes the program. Some have questioned the system, however. "There is no privacy, it is the same as the zoo. In front of the country you are naked," Ming Pao reports.

September 19:

From January 1–September 5, private investment from China to Ethiopia reached more than $680 million – up from $560 million for all of 2016,
the official People's Daily reports. In 2017, Chinese firms remained the single largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ethiopia, followed by India, said Mekonen Hailu, Director of Ethiopia Investment Communications. Most Chinese investment is in the manufacturing sector, taking 67.1 percent of registered capital, with the remainder split among various sectors including real estate, construction, mining and health. "Ethiopian government is providing tremendous incentives to private investors including availability of cheap electricity and water utilities and affordable, abundant, trainable, young labor force," said Hailu. China is already Ethiopia's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $6.15 billion in 2015. Ethiopia, like other East African countries, runs a massive trade deficit with China.

September 26:

The Cyberspace Administration of China has completed its investigation of China’s top three internet giants — Tencent, Baidu, and Sina — and imposed maximum fines of up to 500,000 yuan ($76,000) on the three companies,
The Diplomat reports. The three tech giants failed to properly manage their social media platforms — Tencent’s WeChat, Sina’s Weibo, and Baidu’s Tieba — as some of their users "spread information of violence and terror, false rumors, pornography, and other information that jeopardizes national security, public safety, and social order," according to statements issued by the internet regulators in Beijing. The regulators demanded that the three companies "resolutely" remove all users who publish illegal information. "The internet is not place beyond law. The regulator will scrupulously implement the Cybersecurity Law and other regulations, and increase the supervision of online contents," the Guangdong regulator said.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Authorities have cracked down on social media ahead of the 19th Party Congress. On August 25, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced rules forbidding unidentified netizens from posting on internet platforms or online communities. On September 7, the authorities issued more detailed rules, demanding all group administrators and owners of public accounts regulate the conduct of their group members and the information posted in groups accordingly. On September 15, Sina Weibo required all its users to register with real names.]

September 27:

Authorities in Xinjiang have ordered Uighur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslim households and mosques to hand in religious items including prayer mats and Qurans,
Radio Free Asia reports. Earlier this year, during the ongoing campaign against "illegal" religious items, authorities began confiscating all Qurans published more than five years ago due to "extremist content." The Qurans were seized as part of the "Three Illegals and One Item" campaign underway in Xinjiang that bans "illegal" publicity materials, religious activities, and religious teaching, and items authorities deem to be tools of terrorism—including knives, flammable objects, remote-controlled toys, and objects with Islamic symbols.

September 29:

Ahead of the 19th party congress, the CPC has expelled Sun Zhengcai – Politburo member, Chongqing party chief, and a contender for a top leadership post – for "serious discipline violations,"
the Hong Kong Free Press reports
. Sun was also formally dismissed from public office after the Political Bureau of the party’s central committee approved an investigative report that found "serious discipline violations." He is the first serving Politburo member to be placed under investigation since Bo Xilai, another former Chongqing party chief who was jailed for life in 2013. Bo was rumored to be part of a network plotting to stop Xi from assuming control of the party in 2012, and Sun was tasked with erasing Bo’s influence on the city. In February, party discipline inspectors publicly rebuked Sun for failing to clean up Chongqing, precipitating his fall from prominence.

Related Categories: Africa; Central Asia; China; China and East Asia Program

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