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Showing posts with label Censorship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Censorship. Show all posts

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Tiananmen Story Told Through Shirts & Dresses in Guangzhou, China

Today as I looked at the English messages on clothing sold and worn at the Dongji Xintiandi Shopping Mall in Guangzhou, I rather unexpectedly saw a potential story being told. So instead of sharing relevant links and tweets, what I witnessed at a Hong Kong vigil, or how much of what happens in China on this date is the same as any other day, this year I will reflect on the anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square through the messages on some of the clothing on display today in one shopping center in one city of China.

While this approach is certainly unusual, it captures some of the conflicting and almost surreal feelings one can experience considering today's history while walking down the streets of present day China. It also reflects how those who do speak out on this topic in China often have to resort to more indirect or creative expression to make it through heavy censorship even briefly.

_________________________________________________


Twenty-nine years ago many students in China had a dream.

"Reach for the Moon" shirt


They had goals.

"Democrazy" and "Help Me!" shirts


The students were peaceful, but the Chinese government was greatly concerned nonetheless.

"The Power of Dreams." shirt


Things didn't go the way the students had expected.

"There is a surprise" shirt


The government's response was not light.

"Extreme" shirt


And the streets of Beijing became like they they had never been before.

"Tank" shirt


Without the witnesses, photos, and videos, some of it would now be hard to believe.

"It's real" shirt


The government offered rationale for its actions.

"Security" shirt


And now the government even says that democracy is one of the twelve Core Socialist Values for the country.

"Not Fake But Faux." shirt


Some outside of China would question whether the country really claims that.

"Yep!" shirt


Many people today don't spend much time thinking about what happened 29 years ago.

"Never look back" shirt


They may be focused on a variety of other things.

"Less Stress More Sex." shirt


Some people don't want to talk about it even if they are aware.

"Don't Ask Me" shirt


Still, there are some in China who have their own dreams.

"REBEL" shirt


But they often see no effective way to proceed.

"Plan" shirt


Some would say there simply isn't any chance in China for what the students sought 29 years ago.

"Just Can't" dress


Despite the challenges, some still hold out hope.

"Never Give up" jumper dress


Some believe that even if they might not be able to achieve each and every goal they desire, that isn't reason things can't be better.

"Fuck The Perfect" shirt


There are questions as to whether the change can occur over time by encouraging fundamental behaviors.

"Be Curious" shirt


Or whether significant change would require much sacrifice for it to have even a slim chance of occurring.

"Find What You Love and Let It Kill You" shirt


Whatever the case, today in China it is difficult to discuss the facts of what occurred at Tiananmen Square. Even mentioning the date June 4 can lead to censorship. So people find ways to refer to the day in other ways.

And another May 35th goes by in China . . .

"May Can't Happen in June" shirt

Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, Dead But Not Gone

"As a tribute to the absent Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Medal and Diploma were placed on an empty chair during the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, 10 December 2010. Photo: Ken Opprann."

Incredibly sad in so many ways . . .

Chris Buckley in The New York Times:
Liu Xiaobo, the renegade Chinese intellectual who kept vigil on Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protect protesters from encroaching soldiers, promoted a pro-democracy charter that brought him an 11-year prison sentence and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2010 while locked away, died on Thursday. He was 61. . . .

Mr. Liu’s illness elicited a deluge of sympathy from friends, Chinese rights activists and international groups, who saw him as a fearless advocate of peaceful democratic change. He was the first Nobel Peace laureate to die in state custody since Carl von Ossietzky, the German pacifist and foe of Nazism who won the prize in 1935 and died under guard in 1938 after years of maltreatment.

Portion of the statement from Ms Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
Liu Xiaobo's absence from the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony was marked by an empty chair. We now have to come to terms with the fact that his chair will forever remain empty. At the same time it is our deep conviction that Liu Xiaobo will remain a powerful symbol for all who fight for freedom, democracy and a better world. He belongs to a heritage of former Nobel laureates such as Carl von Ossietzky, Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Shirin Ebadi, to mention a few.

At the end of June the news reached us that Liu Xiaobo had been released from prison. He had been transferred to hospital, but was still under guard and held in complete isolation. We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill. The Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death.

The news of Liu Xiaobo's serious condition was met in part with silence and belated, hesitant reactions world wide. Eventually the governments of France, Germany, and the USA called for his unconditional release, as did the EU through its foreign policy spokesperson. It is a sad and disturbing fact that the representatives of the free world, who themselves hold democracy and human rights in high regard, are less willing to stand up for those rights for the benefit of others.

One of the "fundamental principles" endorsed in "Charter 08", the manifesto which led to Liu Xiaobo's fourth and longest prison term:
Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.

And a more personal note from Liu Xiaobo's Nobel lecture in absentia "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement", which he had hoped to read at his trial:
If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. She could not be present as an observer in court today, but I still want to say to you, my dear, that I firmly believe your love for me will remain the same as it has always been. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

Monday, June 5, 2017

28 Years Later, Another June 4th

A year ago I shared scenes from a vigil in Hong Kong commemorating the anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square. The post also includes links to older posts offering windows onto what I have seen elsewhere in China on June 4th — something I have done every year since beginning this blog.

I am in the U.S. for a bit right now. So this year I can't capture more June 4th scenes in China. Most of today will be a very happy occasion for me — my sister's wedding. But I still want to take some time to remember what happened 28 years ago and consider some perspectives on what it means today. So I will point elsewhere:

This year's vigil in Hong Kong

— "Hidden Away for 28 Years, Tiananmen Protest Pictures See Light of Day"

— "Interview With Yu Zhijian, One of the ‘Three Hunan Hooligans’ Who Defaced the Portrait of Mao Zedong Over Tiananmen Square in 1989"

— "Support grows in China for 1989 Tiananmen crackdown"

— "Learn from us on democracy, Taiwan tells China on Tiananmen anniversary"

— "Illegal Tiananmen Square Liquor Arrives in Hong Kong"

— Some tweets:








Monday, August 1, 2016

Assorted China Tech Links: Innovation and Control Mix, a Reason to Break Through, and Uber China Sold

Some longtime readers will remember the days when there was a more explicit tech focus here, and I hope to soon return to some old themes. For now, I will keep it simple and share links to six pieces on China tech:

1. Emily Rauhala pushes back against the idea that heavy censorship by the government means tech innovation has been stifled in China:
“You go on Facebook and you can’t even buy anything, but on WeChat and Weibo you can buy anything you see,” said William Bao Bean, a Shanghai-based partner at SOS Ventures and the managing director of Chinaccelerator, a start-up accelerator.

“Facebook’s road map looks like a WeChat clone.”

2. Despite the innovation, not everything is rosy about the Chinese internet. Christina Larson captures some of how the good and the bad fit together:
These stark contrasts—an Internet that is simultaneously dynamic and lethargic, innovative and stultifying, liberating yet tightly controlled—are easier to understand when you realize they are not necessarily contradictions. Being forbidden to develop tools for stimulating free expression or transparency essentially forces Chinese entrepreneurs to concentrate their resources on services that facilitate commerce, convenience, and entertainment. And the more successful those kinds of businesses become, the more money they and their investors have at stake, possibly cementing the status quo.

3. Zheping Huang looks at a specific case where Chinese people who previously didn't see a need to access online information and services blocked in China finally felt compelled to use a VPN to break through the Great Firewall:
Recently, hundreds of Chinese investors, who may be out $6 billion in one of China’s biggest financial scams, have leaped over the Great Firewall in an organized, determined way. After being ignored by China’s regulators and lawmakers, these desperate investors are pouring into Twitter to spread news of their plight.

While their numbers are small, their actions are already inspiring other Chinese investors burned in a monumental number of recent scams, turning Twitter into a new venue for angry Chinese citizens to protest. And as they leap over the Great Firewall, some are coming to a new realization—the government has been cracking down on free speech and civil protests just like theirs for years.

4. For something fresh from today, there is big news about Uber and Didi Chuxing:
Didi Chuxing, the dominant ride-hailing service in China, said it will acquire Uber Technologies Inc.’s operations in the country, ending a battle that has cost the two companies billions as they competed for customers and drivers.

Didi will buy Uber’s brand, business and data in the country, the Chinese company said in a statement. Uber Technologies will receive 5.89 percent of the combined company with preferred equity interest equal to 17.7 percent of the economic benefits.

5. The sale of Uber China comes as no huge surprise to many. Heather Timmons highlights how the writing was on the wall:
Then things got even worse—Beijing started to openly back Didi, with an investment by China’s sovereign wealth fund into the new Chinese giant. China’s state banks rolled out billions of dollars in loans to Didi.

In August 2015, Uber reported it was being scrubbed from WeChat, a move, Quartz wrote, that was “almost certainly designed to protect and promote Didi Kuaidi” and make it hard for Uber to do business.

6. And Josh Horowitz takes a quick look at the impact of beyond China:
Didi’s $1 billion investment in Uber likely gives it only a minuscule stake in the ride-hailing giant. But it nevertheless means it has its hands in every single one of its potential major competitors.

This changes perceptions of the future of the ride-hailing industry.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pondering the Writing Selection at a Beijing Museum

Lu Xun (September 25, 1881 — October 19, 1936), "a leading figure of modern Chinese literature", has had many fans in China, including Mao Zedong. At the Beijing Lu Xun Museum, the description of a piece he wrote less than a month before his death caught my attention in a way similar to a book I saw displayed at a Beijing bookstore.

exhibit at the Beijing Lu Xun Museum of a piece of writing by Lu Xun
On September 21, 1936, Lu Xun wrote For Future Reference III in which he chided self-deceit in Chinese characteristics, urged his fellow countrymen to see films and read books criticizing China. "We should read this, reflect and analyse ourselves to see whether he has said anything correctly or not, then make reforms, struggle and change ourselves without asking others for their forgiveness or praise. So we shall prove what the Chinese are really like."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Disney a Channel for Both American and Chinese Influence, Cares About Another Type More

shirt with an American flag design in the shape of a panda/mouse/etc shape
Shirt worn by a woman in Hengyang, Hunan

In minutes Disney will open a new park to the public in Shanghai. Some see it as an opportunity with deeper implications than an increased number of authentic Mickey Mouses in China. Last month, Graham Webster, a senior fellow of The China Center at Yale Law School, briefly commented on a tweet about a meeting between Disney CEO Robert Iger and Chinese President Xi Jinping:

I replied to Webster's tweet with a similarly brief comment:

My aim wasn't to refute Webster's point but to highlight the other side of the coin. It isn't clear how this coin is balanced.

David Barboza and Brooks Barnes in The New York Times recently provided an example from the past showing how Disney accepted the influence couldn't go just one way:
[In 1997] Disney agreed to back the director Martin Scorsese, who wanted to make “Kundun,” about China’s oppression of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Chinese government, which considers the Dalai Lama a separatist, denounced the project and pressured Disney to abandon it.

In the end, Disney decided that it could not let an overseas government influence its decision to distribute a movie in the United States. “Kundun” was released, and China retaliated by banning Disney films . . .

In October 1998, Mr. Eisner met Zhu Rongji, who had just been named prime minister, at China’s leadership compound in Beijing. Mr. Eisner apologized for “Kundun,” calling it a “stupid mistake,” according to a transcript of the meeting.
Disney's change of heart raises the question of how much of the content in Disney's movies has since been influenced to some degree, directly or indirectly, by a desire to not hurt the feelings of the Chinese government.

And Disney is now aiding Chinese influence in other ways:
Disney is going to extraordinary lengths to prove its commitment to China and the Communist Party. During a 2010 meeting with China’s propaganda minister, Mr. Iger pledged to use the company’s global platform to “introduce more about China to the world.” And he has done just that.
Barboza and Barnes also provide examples of how Disney has made a park that is "authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese." Some of this is similar to how other American companies have localized their products or services in China, such as Pizza Hut's durian pizza or Walmart's larger selection of live seafood. Yet with its movies and its parks' immersive experiences, Disney has the power to influence in ways Pizza Hut or Walmart can't. The Chinese government clearly appreciates this and wishes to contain Disney in a variety of ways, though other factors are at play, such as wanting local companies to receive a large piece of the profitable opportunities Disney generates.

So not only is it uncertain what any success for Disney in China would mean for Western, or more specifically American, influence, Disney shows how an American company's ambitions can lead to China having more influence beyond its borders. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. China undoubtedly has much it can positively contribute to the world. But most Americans don't want the Chinese government to have any ability to restrict the content of movies which appear in the U.S.

As the full NYT piece details, Disney has made a number of unusual sacrifices in order to operate in the mainland China market. For them to pay off, Disney's ultimate concern won't be the balance of American and Chinese influence it facilitates. They are simply pieces of a puzzle in reaching another goal.

Disney cares about Disney influence most.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pieces for the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution

sculpture "Hometown Love" ("鄉情") at Dongfanghong Plaza (東方紅廣場) in Xiangtan, Hunan
"Hometown Love" ("鄉情") at Dongfanghong ("The East Is Red") Plaza in Yuetang District, Xiangtan, Hunan — not far from Mao Zedong's childhood home

Today, May 16, is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. In the spirit of "never forget", here are links with excerpts to some recent pieces:


1. An in-depth multimedia account possible in Hong Kong but not in mainland China: "Cultural Revolution, 50 years on — The pain, passion and power struggle that shaped China today":
Fifty years ago today, China issued a top directive calling on its people to rid society of “members of the bourgeoisie threatening to seize political power from the proletariat” – marking the start of a decade-long violent class struggle.

For 10 tumultuous years from 1966, the country underwent massive sociopolitical upheaval that saw countless politicians and intellectuals driven to their deaths, civilians killed in armed conflicts, and cultural relics and artefacts destroyed. The official death toll numbered more than 1.7 million.

We detail the birth of the movement – Mao Zedong’s brainchild – and how the hardline political campaign shook the nation even as its effects rippled across the globe. Former Red Guards and rebels share their personal accounts of the difficult decade that the country and its people are still struggling to come to terms with half a century on.

2. "50 Years After the Cultural Revolution, a Son Awaits Answers on His Father’s Death":
The teenage mob threw the couple into the back of a truck and took them to a school where they were beaten with military-style leather belts, the favorite punishment tool of Red Guards; a jump-rope twisted into a whip; and shoes with nails jutting out, Ms. Liu later said. The mob then drove the couple to another school where the beating continued, including with iron rods.

The father, Chen Yanrong, 37, insisted that the landlord label was wrong; his family had long given up the property. But back then, the younger Mr. Chen said, “the more you denied something, the more you were beaten.”

As he lay in his own blood, Chen Yanrong begged for water. The students said no, and he stopped breathing soon after.

3. "‘Flesh banquets’ of China’s Cultural Revolution remain unspoken, 50 years on":
In 1968 a geography instructor named Wu Shufang was beaten to death by students at Wuxuan Middle School. The body was carried to the flat stones of the Qian river where another teacher was forced at gunpoint to rip out the heart and liver. Back at the school the pupils barbecued and consumed the organs. . . .

“Cannibalism? I was here then, I went through it,” a man named Luo told AFP. But Wuxuan has developed rapidly in recent years and now, he said, that history “has no meaning”.

4. "Maoists still a force 50 years after the Cultural Revolution":
In the ancient city of Luoyang, the old, the poor and the marginalized gather daily in the main public square to profess nostalgia for the political movement, downplaying that period's violent excesses. . . .

It was here in the plaza that Xu Xiaobin met a group of Maoist retirees who changed his thinking five years ago. That was before he was laid off from his 3,000 yuan ($460) -a-month machining job and condemned to a life of off-and-on construction work that has slowed to a trickle as the economy sputters.

"Even the word 'layoff' didn't exist" in Mao's time, Xu said, standing outside the state-owned gear factory that used to support his family of four. "You look on the Internet and there are people showing off their wealth. Then there are people like me, working under the sun in 40-degree (Celsius, 104-degree Fahrenheit) heat."

Born in 1974, Xu scarcely experienced China under Mao, whose death in 1976 started China's journey toward liberalization. But during childhood, Xu saw pictures of his laborer father, and was told he was respected, not denigrated.

5. "China marks 50 years since Cultural Revolution with silence"
No official memorial events were reported by China’s heavily controlled media and Chinese academics were forbidden from talking about the sensitive period. . . .

“I am shocked that after 50 years we still don’t have a complete report on the Cultural Revolution. It is a shame," [said Wang Youqin, author of Victims of the Cultural Revolution, a three-decade investigation into Red Guard killings].

The academic said she was convinced that ordinary people could make a difference by remembering and recording the events of that tumultuous decade.

“Things will change,” Wang said. “If we make the effort, if we tell the truth, people will listen.”

6. "'What mistake did we make?' Victims of Cultural Revolution seek answers, 50 years on"
Chen Shuxiang shakes his head when asked if he can forgive the teenagers who chained his father to a radiator and used an iron bar to bludgeon him to death. . . .

Chen is determined such atrocities will not repeat themselves and vows to use his final years to shed light upon the tragedy through his father’s story. Once his 12-year-old grandson is old enough, he will tell him the details of how his great-grandfather died.

“Nothing like this had happened before in all the 5,000 years of Chinese civilisation,” he says. “It can’t be allowed to happen again.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Laundry Detergent and Fashion: Women's Day in China

Today is a special day in much of the world, and, as reported by China Change, this year China spared no effort in its preparations:
Just before International Women’s Day on March 8, the Feminist Five activists in China, as well as their defense counsel, have been spoken to and put under pressure by police, according to friends and lawyers of the activists, communicating via social media.

On March 3, Internal Security police, the branch of the Public Security Bureau focused on internal political threats, sought out the defense lawyers of the feminist activists.
In Zhongshan on International Women's Day last year, I didn't see anything of note except a promotion for female lip hair removal. Several days later, I saw a Women's Day sale at the military-themed clothing store War Ground. Similarly, this year in Jieyang the only signs of Women's Day I noticed were sales at some small stores.

Women's Day sale at Cosmo Lady in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Kekafu in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Anta in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Ray Li Lady in Jieyang

Women's Day sale at Living Store in Jieyang featuring laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid

Women's Day sale at Art CNW in Jieyang featuring laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid

Remarkably, two of the Women's Day sales featured laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid.

Perhaps also in the spirit of the holiday, Xinhua News on blocked-in-China Twitter today reported "Nearly 5 million Chinese women received micro-financing worth $38.1 bln in 2015". The tweet also included a photo.

women wearing qipaos posing for a photo in China

I recognize the location as the Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street in Chongqing. After that, I must admit I have a few questions.

So I will end this piece simply by recommending Julie Makinen's story "How does China mark Women's Day? Hold the feminism, bring on the fashion show".

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Assorted Links: Hurt Feelings, Less Love, Less Info, and Mao's Holy Mangos

It has been a while since I semi-regularly did "assorted links" posts, and I would like to return to the practice. To kick things off, here are a few links with brief excerpts and little or no commentary.

1. David Bandurski addresses some questions about a common phrase heard from China when it is not pleased with foreigners' or other countries' actions or words:
In 2007, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters that diminutive Saint Lucia had “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

This was quite a feat for Saint Lucia’s 183,000-odd residents, given China’s population of more than 1.3 billion.

Is China really so sensitive? Why must it resort to such petulance? . . . And what on earth did Saint Lucia do?

2. Lilian Lin and Chang Chen report China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has suspended yet another gay-themed show:
The Web drama, which follows the lives of four high school students played by fresh-faced actors, has generated buzz on social media ever since it went online about one month ago. The show’s Beijing-based production house said that the drama was viewed more than 10 million times in the day after it premiered.

3. Edward Wong and Neil Gough report that gay-themed shows aren't the only thing the Chinese government is further clamping down on:
Chinese leaders are taking increasingly bold steps to stop rising pessimism about turbulent markets and the slowing of the country’s growth. As financial and economic troubles threaten to undermine confidence in the Communist Party, Beijing is tightening the flow of economic information and even criminalizing commentary that officials believe could hurt stocks or the currency.

4. Finally, Benjamin Ramm tells the fascinating story of how mangos became "holy" during China's Cultural Revolution:
To quell the forces that he had unleashed, Mao sent 30,000 workers to Qinghua University in Beijing, armed only with their talisman, the Little Red Book. The students attacked them with spears and sulphuric acid, killing five and injuring more than 700, before finally surrendering. Mao thanked the workers with a gift of approximately 40 mangoes, which he had been given the previous day by Pakistan's foreign minister.

They had a huge impact.

It's hard to top the mango story. So that's all for now.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Chinese State Media Tweet About Xi Jinping's Special Visits

The Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily received an important visitor today. They were inspired to report it on Twitter, which is blocked in China.

People's Daily wasn't the only state-media organization in China to receive a visit from Xi today and tweet about it. Xinhua made appropriate use of quotation marks in one of its tweets.

They also shared a heart-touching moment.

In its excitement, CCTV didn't feel inhibited to declare "exclusive" on something which happened within their own studio.

CCTV really loves inspections after all.

Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of commentary on Twitter.





Of course, none of this is a joke.

If these tweets aren't enough to satisfy, one can head to Medium where David Bandurski translated a portion of a poem about Xi's visit written by a deputy editor at Xinhua. Bandurski described it as a "steaming heap of sycophancy". That is also not a joke.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Book That Won't Be Published in Hong Kong

Woman holding a sign saying "Stand up for Press Freedom" at a rally in Hong Kong
Sign held at Sunday's rally in Hong Kong for five missing booksellers

Kris Cheng reported an example of people fearing to "stand up for press freedom" in Hong Kong:
A new book by a Chinese dissident planned for publication in Hong Kong and critical of China’s president Xi Jinping has been suspended due to pressure. . . .

Yu says that the book will be published in Taiwan in late February, calling Taiwan the “last lighthouse of publishing freedom for ethnic Chinese society”. On whether the Taiwanese version will be available in Hong Kong bookstores, Yu says he is “not optimistic”.
The chief editor for the publisher left little doubt the decision was a result of five Hong Kong booksellers disappearing under suspicious circumstances when he explained people "want to stay out of trouble so that they won’t be the next one".

Without changing any laws, China's "two systems" have become more similar.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hong Kong Media Not Steering Clear of Politics

Despite an increasing number of similarities, Hongkonger's ability to freely express themselves at yesterday's rally speaks to how Hong Kong remains different from cities in mainland China. Two stories on the front page of today's South China Morning Post speak to the same issue.

Front page of South China Morning Post with headlines "Steer clear of politics, Shanghai media told" and "Thousands Rally For Missing Booksellers"
"Why can't the police solve this problem? Because it is a political issue."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Wan Chai Bookfair Makes No Mention of the Missing Hong Kong Booksellers

Early this evening on Lockhart Road in Hong Kong, there were few remaining signs of last night's demonstration by People Power for the missing booksellers who worked at Causeway Bay Books, now closed due to the suspicious disappearances. Instead, there was a long row of tents on the road.

Wan Chai Bookfair on Lockhart Road


They weren't part of a new demonstration. They were part of an event of the Wan Chai Bookfair series. A number of different publishers and bookstores were present, including Cite Bookshop located directly in front of the entrance to Causeway Bay Books' building.

Cite Bookshop tent at the Wanchai Bookfair


Books for sale at the Cite Bookshop tent included Barbara Demick's book about life in North Korea . . .

Barbara Demick's "Nothing to Envy" for sale at a Hong Kong book fair


. . . Euny Hong's book about pop culture in South Korea . . .

"The Birth of Korean Cool" for sale at a Hong Kong book fair


. . . and a memoir by Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices" for sale at a Hong Kong Book fair


A variety of other books were available as well.

But it was what I didn't see which struck me most. Despite the obvious connections, I didn't notice a single mention of the missing booksellers or any sign of solidarity there or at any of the other tents set up on several streets in Causeway Bay.

It all seemed a bit surreal, especially as the yellow Causeway Bay Books sign continues to turn on at night.

Causeway Bay Books sign lit up at night

"Hong Kong is Dying": People Power's Demonstration for the Missing Booksellers

When I stopped by Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong this afternoon, not much had changed since yesterday's visit to the currently closed store yesterday. The sign at the building's entrance warning of mainland Chinese police was gone. Most of the same notes for Lee Bo and the other still-missing booksellers were on the store's still-locked door. I did not see the man who reminded me of Zhou Yongkang. Instead there was a different person nearby. I wasn't surprised when he took a few photos of me while I stood in front of the door. After I asked, he confirmed he was a press photographer. He soon joined several other photographers waiting outside who appeared bored.

When I returned to the area in the evening on my way to the nearby MTR station I saw a demonstration was about to start, so stayed around. It was led by People Power, a familiar political group in Hong Kong I have seen before, including at a Hong Kong fair half a year before the beginning of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. Photos of today's demonstration appear below along with a video of one of the demonstrators who spoke in both English and Cantonese.

The video would be more effective in some ways if shorter, but I have left it unedited to offer a look closer to what one would have experienced there. The speaker passionately expresses his concerns. Some people stop to listen. Many others in the busy commercial area simply walk by. Demonstrators hold signs and pass out informational flyers. There are even jokes.

I'm still digesting the events, so for the moment just a few informal points. The speaker in the video expressed a clear desire to reach out not only to Hongkongers but the rest of the world as well. This desire could also be seen in how another demonstrator made a point of speaking with foreigners, including me. I roughly estimate there was somewhere between 50-100 people watching at any moment while I was there. Uniformed Hong Kong police were present in an nonintrusive manner at the beginning but soon became less visible, if they were around at all.

Notable English comments made by the speaker in the video include (some paraphrased):
  • Lee Bo felt that if he stayed in Hong Kong and did not go to mainland China he would be safe. Lee Bo was wrong.
  • How can this happen in Hong Kong? It is very dangerous in Hong Kong nowadays.
  • They are trying to kill Hong Kong. Hong Kong is dying.
  • Why can't the police solve this problem? Because it is a political issue.
Finally, People Power is just one of many voices in Hong Kong. Others will make themselves heard as well. They can still do that in Hong Kong.



People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

Sign with photos of the five people missing from Causeway Bay Books

Signs at the People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

"Missing Impossible" sign at People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

Imitation of a street sign reading "Bookstore Five people WHERE they"

"Missing Impossible" sign hanging form the Causeway Bay Books sign

People Power demonstrator speaking to foreigners

People Power demonstrators holding signs

Speaker next to a woman holding a sign reading "Sometimes it's a short step from banning to burning" at the People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong