Tag Archives: censorship

Cambridge University Press accused of ‘selling its soul’ over Chinese censorship | World news | The Guardian

Academics and activists decry publisher’s decision to comply with a Chinese request to block more than 300 articles from leading China studies journal

Source: Cambridge University Press accused of ‘selling its soul’ over Chinese censorship | World news | The Guardian

The imperial government strikes again, and unfortunately, there’s not a lot the CUP can do about it if it wants China Quarterly to remain partly accessible in China, which is a step ahead of a complete block on the journal.

The comments in the Guardian article are from people who, it seems, should know the score. What did they expect might happen in a country with a frog-in-a-well mentality where the sky keeps getting further away as the walls rise higher and higher? What did they expect from an increasingly censorious regime?

One of the more sensible comments in the whole article is “[Andrew] Nathan said China’s list of censorship demands to the CUP appeared to have been generated “by a naive machine search of article and review titles” which had targeted key words and names deemed sensitive. He called the move “a useless overreach” by Beijing.” This tallies with my own view that Chinese censorship is cloddish, often knocking out harmless websites because on the basis of one site, the entire host is treated as if it’s tainted.

I also agree with Nathan’s subsequent comment, “What can it accomplish? I’m sorry to say that information control often works. But if you have so much money, staff, and time, that you can burrow down to the level of censoring academic publications in a foreign language that could only be used by your own academic community, then I think your censorship organs are over funded and you would do well to cut their budgets. As the saying goes, this is lifting up a stone only to drop it on one’s own foot.” Let’s not forget that the Chinese government spends more money on internal security than it does on the armed forces. Let’s also not forget the armed forces are there to defend the government first and foremost.

There’s little the CUP can do about this because even if this is a consequence of stupid AI identifying material from a niche, subscription-only (?) market, the government has a low level of tolerance for honest and open discussions and analyses of Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution, and all those other noble episodes in recent Chinese history. With behaviour like this, China will merely continue to be top in all the categories no country should be proud to be top in.

23.08.17. The CUP reversed their decision after a lot of self-righteous whining mostly from Americans, who might whine a little less if they had to endure the levels of censoriousness and thought manipulation which afflict China. On the other side of the coin is the implication that the CUP was really only thinking about its bank balance.

The truth is that no foreign company can expect to operate outside of the law in China, but the sadder truth is that the law here is so vague that the articles probably violate it in some way, or can be claimed to violate it without there being much chance of arguing the matter to the contrary, in a system where there’s no effective constraint on arbitrariness.


The ex-emperor’s dead?

And how can you tell?

I was reading a Guardian article last night about the launch of the UK edition of the Huffington Post and followed the link to the site, expecting that it would be blocked as, I believed, the American site was. I did manage to access the site, but there was a lot of white space, suggesting that things which ought to have been appearing weren’t, and I wondered whether stories linked from the main site were being blocked.

The links all ended in .co.uk and I clicked on the link to the World news section which, as it turned out, was on the American Huffington Post site. The state of the place suggested that certain things were not getting through to me because there was also too much white space, but I could read the stories.

In one case, I did not go beyond the headline, but the story was about someone’s death being censored and the only person I could think of, whose death might be censored, was that appalling old waxwork, Jιάнg Zэμиn. I thought this might be some ridiculous story of the sort which is to be found in the National Inquirer, but this morning I see there’s a story about this on the BBC.

If the old zombie really has croaked, is much pomp and circumstance going to be made about it? Jиаνg was the first “elected” emperor, unlike his two predecessors who continued the usual tradition of being Emperor Dalek for life.

My suspicion is that this is just some rumour and nothing else, but the embalming fluid is probably sitting on the bedside table. The sensible and mature thing would be to announce that the old boy is live and twitching to counter such rumours rather than to censor such stories, which, in my mind, merely fuels the rumour mill.

I was wondering the other day if Confucius based his philosophy on the misinterpretation of the behaviour of chickens. As I’ve said before, the Empire is like a big chicken coop. Whereas I would see that as a tyranny, each bird bullying the ones inferior to it, Confucius interpreted the behaviour of the chickens in the wrong direction by concluding that the inferior birds were showing respect to their superiors. (Yes, I’m just making it up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that really was the genesis of Confucianism.)

But that was banned, wasn’t it?

The mysterious case of Shanghai Baby.
I went to the Foreign Languages Bookshop after tea out of curiosity. I wasn’t planning on buying anything and, indeed, bought nothing, although I was disgusted by the price tag of ¥60 for some of the Wordsworth Classics such as a translation of Plato’s Apology and some of the dialogues. But much to my surprise, there were a couple of copies of Shanghai Baby, which I thought had been banned on the Mainland. Obviously the book is no longer proscribed. Or perhaps because YouTube is still off the menu, something had to be out back on, thus preserving the balance of the national yin and yang.
On the other hand, the nation has become unbalanced with the presence of the chunky Twilight and other volumes in Stephenie Meyer’s crypto-religious, wide-margin vampire romp. In one paragraph, his hands got to her shoulders – where they chastely stopped. All build up and no climax, methinks.
Speaking of all build up and no climax, a tale of an encounter between Sherlock Holmes and Dracula popped into my head a few weeks back. I’m sure that so many other people have thought of this one that I’m almost bound to win some sort of prize for unoriginal thought. (Indeed, Loren D. Estleman wrote Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula or The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count, which was published in 1978. In this book, Holmes was part of Stoker’s original tale, but his contribution was left on the cutting room floor. One of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories was The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, though it has nothing to do with actual vampires.)
In my story, Dracula has lost his false teeth and is now reduced to chewing impotently on the necks of the local virgins who merely end up giggling a lot. There’s only one man in Europe who can find the Count’s missing gnashers – Sherlock Holmes. It just so happens that Professor Moriarty is Dracula’s guest when Holmes and Watson arrive.
“What’s he doing here?” said Holmes regarding the Napoleon of crime with deep suspicion.
“My dear Mr Holmes,” said Dracula soothingly, “since I know you think Professor Moriarty is the most evil man in Europe, his presence here makes me look good.”
“He’s right, you know, Holmes,” I said, weighing Count Dracula against Moriarty in the scales of justice and finding the latter dragging his pan down.
“To be Moriarty is bad enough,” said Holmes, “but to be Moriarty’s willing host…” He trailed off and suddenly got that steely look in his eye. “Count Dracula, if you want your teeth back, ecce homo!”
Dracula frowned in puzzlement. “Look out for homosexuals?” He glanced nervously round the room.
“Professor Moriarty is the culprit, hired by Abraham van Helsing to incapacitate you.”
“You see, Mr Holmes” said the Count sounding vindicated by the great detective’s conclusion, “I’m really not such a bad person, am I?”

And the quake weighed in at

I learnt incidentally from an article in The Guardian that the quake the over day measured 6.1, which is much stronger than I thought it was.
The article itself is about the block on sites about events in Тиананмэн Square being raised because Western hacks here for the Olympics were whining about not being able to get onto sites they never visit and don’t even care about. Such sites will be blocked the moment the Olympics are over, and all the whining will’ve achieved nothing. [15.08.14. The reblocking of blogspot etc. wasn’t quite that instantaneous, but it did happen. Even if the Tibetan and Uighurs had rolled on their backs to let the Chinese rub their tummies, the blocks would still have been re-established.]
Out of curiosity, I’m trying to access Live Journal which (don’t even bother painting me surprised) remains blocked. If foreign hacks really wanted to be of some use, they should be complaining about common or garden sites being blocked and, if some such site has been unblocked, that it remains that way after the Olympics. About the usual topics that get Nanny flustered, I’m not that bothered if those sites disappear from the menu, but there are plenty of innocuous websites which should be viewable and are being blocked for the wrong reasons.
But your average Fleet Street dunce is looking for something a little sensational, which means that when hacks are writing about China, Тибэт, Тиананмэн Square, and Тайwан are hot topics. Does anyone in the Western media really care that much about any of these subjects? Is Δάρφυρ anything but a story to stir up some controversy about China?
Perhaps I’ve been here far too long and I’m suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. But perhaps I’ve been here long enough to know that nothing’s going to change here. The present regime is no different from any for the past 2500 years. No one is allowed to dissent; no one has any rights (except to agree with the people in charge); there’s probably never been a single change of dynasty that didn’t involve violence for lack of any other mechanism to change the government; and the new lot, having acquired power (under the flimsy guise of being the legitimate heirs to the previous rulers), then behave like the previous bunch with all the same abuses and vices.
Sad to say, it’s no different anywhere on the planet. New Labour got into power in the UK, and they behaved just like the Tories. The Tories will probably win the next election, and they’ll behave just like New Labour. And all behave with the same callous disregard for the people. “You voted us in, so this must be what you wanted,” Dave “Spliffboy” Cameron will probably say one day standing outside the door to No. 10. But the nation is a bit dim to say the least. We vote in new governments because we’re hoping for some change from the last lot, but it all ends up being the same.
I see ESWN is viewable again. Seems it wasn’t just access from Sichuan either, since Teacher D and Chris were both having problems.


Rearranging letters for fun and profit.

Yesterday’s intellectual highlight was noting that “lint is hell” is an anagram of Silent Hill. Silent Hill is one of those films like The Mummy Returns that I would’ve watched once and never watched again if it hadn’t been a popular choice among my pupils. It’s not bad as the film-of-the-game genre goes, although it doesn’t exactly have much depth. Religious fanatics in Small Town USA brutally abuse a young girl being accused of being a witch. She returns thirty years later to wreak a terrible revenge on them with barbed wire. Really, it’s nothing Itchy and Scratchy haven’t already done.

Meanwhile, what was that I espied in Ironman on the cover of the mock copy of Forbes magazine early in the film? “Tony Stark takes reigns {sic!] at 21.” Doh! I assume the real Forbes magazine would never make such an embarrassing howler. I’m guessing that in American English, sooner rather than later, the idiom is going to be written “take the reigns” instead of “take the reins”. I suppose “reign” is familiar in the modern world where “reins” is not. Also, apart from the idiom “take the reins”, I can’t really think of too many occasions when I’d have any call to use the word “reins”.

We had our last classes today, but it was another Media Studies day. If we’d tried to have normal classes (complete waste of time; a couple of classes at the eleventh hour aren’t going to help them), we would’ve found that most of them were studying for their final exams. No, no. Not our final exams, but their final school exams next week.

Thinking about a general end-of-year report, I came to the conclusion that although these kids are comparable in ability to the ones I taught in 奔牛 a couple of years ago, they lack the discipline, which is where they’ve been tiresome and annoying. That’s why, after the absolute nadir of Fuzhou, this year hasn’t been the complete tonic I was hoping for.

There goes anonymouse.

That’s the latest news from Chinese Cyberia. Good old anonymouse, which seems to have been accessible with comparative impunity for so long, has become the latest victim of Nanny and her goons from the Internet Paranoia Squad. I suppose it was always amazing that anonymouse was even tolerated. I haven’t found myself needing to use anonymouse much recently. It’s only when I’m using StumbleUpon that I’m sometimes curious to know what harmless page is being blocked for no good reason.

Even although I’m expecting controls will be relaxed during the Olympics, my prediction remains that once the last athlete has gone, the shutters will come crashing down on more than those sites which have been temporarily unblocked.

A sequel to that pile of shite?!

According to this story in The Guardian, they’re making a sequel to the Da Vinci Code. Oh, and the Catholic church is having a tantrum about it. Perhaps the sequel can’t be that bad after all.


Three minutes silence.

The news is that at 2.28 this afternoon there will be a period of three minutes silence to remember the victims of last week’s quake. Since that’ll be the same class we had at the time of the quake, I hope they’ll show the proper respect, although this week it’s my turn to take the IELTS half of the class. The flag at school is flying at half mast.

This morning, Class 16 was late because our students thought they’d still be down in their form room. They had concerns about being up in our classrooms, but I pointed out that they’d been given instructions on Friday about what to do in the event of a quake, and that the damage was slight. Mind you, this was Class 16, so apart from about five kids at the front of the class, the rest may as well not have bothered turning up.

Later. An announcement was made over the PA system at 2.28 this after­noon and we all stood in silence for three minutes as cars sounded their horns and sirens wailed in the background. One of the girls started crying and I could sense the emotional undercurrents in the class, especially afterwards.

Then the class gradually got really noisy in a good way. Perhaps it was some sort of release for them after the serious start to the lesson.[15.08.14. This was all the official remembrance anyone got. A year later, the an­ni­ver­sary passed in silence because the aftermath of the quake, the deaths of so many schoolchildren because of lax building standards, had turned this into another taboo topic.]

This evening. As I passed along the northern side of Tianfu Square late this afternoon, I saw that there were funeral rosettes around the flag pole and the shrubs were festooned with white flowers. There were banners in black and white strung across Renmin Nanlu just north of the intersection with Xin Guanghua Jie and at the southern end of Cheng Gen Nan Jie.

As I was heading home, another convoy of ambulances was heading south through the city centre.

You’ve had your fun

Foreigners are not just for Christmas.

I see from Beijing gags anti-Western online anger that Nanny is now trying to dampen down online nationalist hysteria directed against the West be­fore it perhaps spills over into reality.

Good censorship or bad censorship? It’s definitely another manifestation of the doctrine of harmony and social stability, which is really what’s driving this. But should people be prevented from expressing their grievances on line no matter how misinformed or self-deluding they might’ve been in the first place? Of course, when the hysterical reactionaries fume and rant on line here, there may be a reaction in the real world.

My feeling is that this is bad censorship (with a fairly small b), but I can understand why Nanny might be out with her Internet tippex on this part­i­cular subject this year.

Meanwhile (and tangentially related), in recent months I’ve increasingly felt that the term “the West” is empty and meaningless. It seems to be a short-hand for a set of ideas which are loosely applicable across a range of disparate countries. For example, American culture isn’t Western culture, and not really representative of it. At best, I suppose the West is a group of countries whose culture is rooted in European culture; whose governments are nominally democratic; whose media is supposedly free to say what it likes without fear of censorship or retribution. But we don’t all share the same values, and the notion that the West is somehow liberal is laughable. Westerners might have a greater licence to express themselves and criticise their governments, but their sentiments are not necessarily liberal, and their attitudes not necessarily open.

April Fool’s Day

No kidding.

I had some of the kids in Class 16 wishing me Happy Fool’s Day. It’s another one of those Western things they know of but know nothing about, although one kid had tried to play a joke on his classmates.

4xy3k0 Anyway, you’ve probably seen this infamous picture and know that the chap on the right (and indeed, probably the whole lot of them) is a ringer. The picture featured on the front page of the local paper. The first time I saw it, I doubted its authenticity. What I thought seemed wrong was the group of people in the foreground. They all look Han Chinese to me. That’s not to say that I’d win every time at Spot-the-Τιβέταν, but I see enough Тибэтанс in Chengdu to know that this lot don’t really look like them. They also often wear traditional Τιβέταν clothing and wear it properly. Even if it wasn’t know that the man with the knife is a fraud, his clothing gives him away. The only award he’d get would be for Sloppiest Dresser in Тибэт.

I also note, now that I look at the picture again, that the man burning the flag can’t be identified, and reconsidering the crowd, I observe they’re milling around. They have no particular interest in the burning of the flag. Some of them are looking one way; some are looking the other. There’s no sense of unity or focus. The whole thing is another instance of street theatre, but less entertaining because the audience is part of the performance.

In fact, the more I look at this photo, the more fake it seems, but it may have been touched up a little. The colours seem strangely vibrant. If you look too hard at it, everything starts to look superimposed.

Meanwhile, blogspot remains absolutely and utterly blocked. The work-round I’ve been using for over a year(?) seems not to be working any longer. I’ve just found that the Rutgers University website is behaving as if it’s been blocked. I can’t get onto the ROA and I’ve just tried Jack Lynch’s pages there, only to have the door slammed in my face as well. Looks like anonymouse is also being kicked in the nuts. When I tried to check the ROA via that service, it was clear there was some (deliberate) interference somewhere along the line.

I can understand why blogspot might be inaccessible, but the ROA and, it’d seem, a whole university website? It’s possible, of course, there are other things at issue which I’m unaware of, but this is really stupid.

I’m guessing that blogspot will be restored during the Olympics and then probably killed off yet again. (Considering how frequently it’s been resurrected, perhaps it should be renamed Lazarus.) Whether the work-round also ever functions again I can’t say at this time. [20.08.14. I was right about blogspot. Access was restored during the approach to the Olympics and then got killed off afterwards; that may have had less to do with Tibet than it did to do with Google refusing to censor search results.] Will access be restored to the ROA? Presumably; though why a site devoted to the distribution of papers in Optimality Theory should be blocked is, as I said above, stupid. Once more, Nanny’s idiot antics inconvenience the expats and pretty much no one else.

Danwei has an entry Why do Chinese Internet users like government controls? which is about a survey of Chinese Internet habits, usage, views of government controls etc. Interesting info, but all rather depressing. I wonder how many people answered truthfully and how many merely said what they thought the questioner was expecting to hear.

Time to stop banging my head against this brick wall. “Sensible” and “rational” are not two words that I’m likely to use in connection with this subject.

Banned on the run

Foreign cartoons? Oh the horror!

I read a story on Danwei a few days ago about more horror-related hysteria from Nanny.

The horror movie rules are intended to protect the mental health of children.

The usual nonsense in other words, because any restrictions on such films are easily circumvented by a quick trip to the DVD shop. Why not buy some porn while you’re there?

Anyway, the ban on showing foreign cartoons on telly has now been extended to 9pm (Further restrictions on foreign cartoons, and horror movies). It was previously 5pm – 8pm. Although I know that things are not the same at all high schools, several of the ones I’ve been teaching at inflict evening study on our little darlings. In other words, our kids wouldn’t have the chance to see any cartoons between 5pm and 8pm or later. About the only time they might see any would be at the weekend, probably after a trip to the DVD shop to buy horror films and porn. And cartoons.

Ironically, there’s a shop just up the street which sells comic books. If the artwork you can see at the front is anything to go by, it would seem likely that most of their merchandise is probably manga rather than 漫画 (mànhuà).[1] So much for 7:3 domestic to foreign cartoon ratio.

I’m going to guess that the local cartoon/comic industry just doesn’t cut it compared with the Japanese anime/manga behemoth. One of my pupils once lent me The Butterfly Lovers on VCD (for some reason), but the result was like soft-focus Disney in lurid pastel colours. The anime version would be more pleasing aesthetically, although Yingtai would end up with unfeasibly large boobs.

Meanwhile, Edison Chen is back in Hong Kong and, so it says over on ESWN, is going to retire permanently from the Hong Kong entertainment industry. Well, I suppose it’s better to leave on a high because he and his leading ladies are now probably better known than ever. The accompanying picture of police surrounding the car to keep the baying mob of hacks away is bad press for the use of police resources, although under the circumstances a goodly number was probably in order. I’d say from the pic that 100 is a bit beyond a goodly number.

In another ESWN story, Jolin Tsai, squawking Canto-pop princess, appears to be trying to divert attention from the Edigate scandal (in which she may have had a small part[2]) by referring to Taiwan as her country, thus causing the hysterical reactionaries on the Mainland to react, well, hysterically.

1. All right, some low linguistic comedy on my part. The word is spelt the same way in Chinese and Japanese.
2. According to that source of the pictures, there were questions about whether the shots of Jolin were really her. They don’t look like her.

The temperature’s dropping

It’s not even stopping.

This has to be the coldest day I’ve experienced in Hong Kong.If you breathe a little hard, you can see your breath. I was thinking when I went out this afternoon that I should’ve worn my gloves as well. All right, so that’s a little extreme, but it’s not far off being the sort of temperature at which you’d be wanting to wear gloves.

In unrelated news, there was an article on the back page of yesterday’s SCMP about the UN switching to simplified characters for Chinese. That small part of the Chinese-speaking world that still commonly uses traditional characters are all upset. Simplified characters are used by a far larger number of people than traditional ones, and they’re solely confined to the Mainland these days. Of course, the UN’s decision to switch doesn’t prevent people in Hong Kong or Taiwan from continuing to use traditional characters.

There have been a few times when the subs on DVDs I’ve shown have traditional characters. I’ve asked my pupils if they have any problems understanding them, but they don’t even although they are the nth gener­ation to have been taught simplified ones. Sometimes the simplified char­acter is probably obvious, and other times it can be determined from con­text. There might be a few occasions when it might not be obvious, but I don’t think traditional characters on the Mainland probably pose a sig­ni­fic­ant obstacle to the younger generation.

However, this is the modern language I’m talking about. I wonder how much Chinese from 500 or 1000 years ago, simplified characters or not, is genuinely intelligible without explanatory footnotes. Your average speaker of English would not be able to understand a text from 1008 and one from 1508 would only be partially comprehensible, although it might seem to be modern English – of a sort.

On the back page of today’s SCMP, there’s an article about that perennial pain in the posterior, Internet censorship in China. It says

Many, in fact, seem only vaguely aware that China’s internet universe is carefully pruned, and even among those who know, most hardly seem to care.

Those of you who are regular readers will recall that I and others have made the observation that Internet censorship in China is a bigger nuisance for foreigners than it is for the Chinese. And it’s not that we give that much of a damn about all those things that get Nanny hot and sweaty [I assume you aren’t referring to sex toys. –ed.], but rather that much that’s irrelevant to China gets blocked in the process (e.g. blogspot and other blog providers; harmless sites such as Omniglot).