China suppresses news of shootings at protest
Government imposes media blackout, limits Internet searches
12:00 AM CST on Saturday, December 17, 2005
By HOWARD W. FRENCH The New York Times
SHANGHAI – One week after the police violently suppressed a demonstration against the construction of a power plant in China, leaving as many as 20 people dead, an overwhelming majority of the Chinese public still knows nothing of the event.
In the wake of the biggest use of armed force against civilians since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, Chinese officials have used a variety of techniques to prevent news of the deaths from spreading. The tactics include barring reports in most newspapers outside the immediate region and banning place names and other keywords associated with the event from major Internet search engines, like Google.
Residents of Dongzhou, a village in Southern China where protestors were fatally shot last week, pass under banners reading, 'Obeying the law is every citizen's duty and responsibility
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the U.N. or another independent body should be asked to investigate the killings.
"Unfortunately, China has no record of conducting credible and transparent investigations into the actions of its security forces," the group's Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a prepared statement.
But China rejected the group's call.
"The relevant Chinese authorities will deal with this matter according to law," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday.
Beijing's handling of news about the confrontation, which was widely reported internationally, provides a revealing picture of the government's ambitions to control the flow of information to its citizens, and of the increasingly sophisticated techniques that it uses to keep people in the dark: a combination of old-fashioned authoritarian methods and the latest Internet technologies.
The government's first response was to impose a news blackout, apparently banning all Chinese news media from reporting the Dec. 6 confrontation. It was not until last Saturday, four days later, with foreign news reports proliferating, that the official New China News Agency released the first Chinese account.
According to that report, more than 300 armed villagers in the southern town of Dongzhou "assaulted the police." Only two-thirds of the way into the article did it say that three villagers were killed and eight others injured when "the police were forced to open fire in alarm."
But even that account was not widely circulated, and it was highly at odds with the stories told by villagers, who in several days of often detailed interviews insisted that 20 or more people had been killed by automatic weapons fire and that at least 40 were still missing.
The government's version, like a report the next day in which authorities announced the arrest of a commander who had been in charge of the police crackdown, was largely restricted to newspapers in Guangdong Province.
"The Central Propaganda Department must have instructed the media who can report this news and who cannot," said Yu Guoming, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University in Beijing.
The government's handling of information about the violence has drawn sharp criticism from a group of prominent intellectuals, more than 50 of whom have signed a statement condemning what they called the "crude censorship by the mainland media of any reporting of the Dongzhou incident." Word of the petition has circulated online, but it has not been published in China.
Not one among several of China's leading editors who were interviewed acknowledged receiving instructions from the government on how or whether to report on the death of protesters, but in each case their answers hinted at constraints and unease.
"We don't have this news on our Web site," said Fang Sanwen, the news director of Netease.com, one of China's three major Internet portals and news providers. "I can't speak. I hope you can understand."
Li Shanyou, editor in chief of Sohu.com, another of the leading portals, said: "I'm not the right person to answer this question. It's not very convenient to comment on this."
On Sina.com, the third of the leading portals and the only one to carry even a headline about the confrontation, a link to news from Dongzhou was a dead end, leading to a story about employment among college graduates.
Even Caijing, a magazine with a strong reputation for enterprising reporting on delicate topics, demurred. "We just had an annual meeting, and I haven't considered this subject yet," said Hu Xuli, the magazine's editor, speaking through an assistant.
Further obscuring news of the events at Dongzhou, online reports about the village confrontation carried by the New China News Agency were confined to its Guangdong provincial news page, with a result that few who did not already know of the news or were not searching determinedly would have been likely to stumble across it on China's leading official news Web site.
The government also arranged more technologically impressive measures to frustrate those who sought news of the confrontation.
Until Tuesday, Web users who turned to search engines like Google and typed in the word Shanwei, the city with jurisdiction over the village where the demonstration was put down, would find nothing about the protests or about the crackdown.
Users who continued to search found their browsers freezing. By Tuesday, links to foreign news sources appeared but were invariably inoperative.
But controls like these have spurred a lively commentary among China's fast-growing Web-logging community.
"The domestic news blocking system is really interesting," wrote one blogger. "I heard something happened in Shanwei and wanted to find out whether it was true or just the invention of a few people. So I started searching with Baidu, and Baidu went out of service at once. I could open their site, but couldn't do any searches."
Baidu is one of the country's leading search engines.
"I don't dare to talk," another blogger wrote. "There are sensitive words everywhere – our motherland is so sensitive. China's body is covered with sensitive zones."
While numerous bloggers took the chance of discussing the confrontation on their Web sites, they found that their remarks were blocked or rapidly expunged, as the government knocked out comments it found offensive or above its low threshold.
Greater China: A Little Nervous
Ironically, China's anti-Japan fervor is making citizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan less rather than more patriotic.
By George Wehrfritz and Jonathan Adams
One might expect citizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan to share the anti-Japanese fervor of their mainland brethren. But many of them find China's rage over atrocities committed by Japanese invaders more than half a century ago more than a little discomforting. Hong Kong doesn't fully embrace China's new-superpower-on-the-block assertiveness, while the Taiwanese find it downright alarming. Neither place buys Beijing's argument that Tokyo threatens stability in Asia today, whereas both see China as having that potential. The fervent nationalism now on display makes Beijing's critics particularly nervous. "Nationalism can be a powerful, sharp rapier," says pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau in Hong Kong. "I don't think [China] should try to whip up such furor."
History helps explain the divergent perspectives. In Hong Kong, for example, cynicism over China's political motives runs high because many citizens are former refugees who fled communist tyranny. In Taiwan—a Japanese colony for 50 years until Tokyo's 1945 surrender—the atrocities freshest in mind today are those committed in 1947, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Chinese Army slaughtered tens of thousands after an uprising by locals. Whereas China continues to threaten Taiwan's security (Beijing's rubber-stamp Parliament recently passed an antisecession law seen as a legal pretext for invasion), Japan would likely help defend the island from attack. Indeed, Taiwan's close ties with conservatives in Japan were recently highlighted when Su Chin-chiang, the leader of the pro- independence Taiwan Solidarity Union, made a controversial visit to Japan's Yasukuni war shrine.
Unlike the visceral anti-Japanese sentiment harbored elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan's feelings are ambivalent. Young Taiwanese have grown up steeped in Japan's fashion, pop music and consumer culture, whereas some of their elders credit colonial rule for having laid the foundation for the island's rapid industrialization after World War II. "They choose to remember the nice things, and largely that's a reaction toward domineering Beijing," says Chong-Pin Lin, president of the Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies in Taipei. Adds Chang Mau-kuei, of the Institute of Sociology at the Academia Sinica in Taipei: "We're caught between two empires. Taiwan has close ties to both, and its security depends on good will from both sides."
Nationalism is already a weapon China wields against insufficiently compliant politicians in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Late last year, China's official media branded former Hong Kong Democratic Party chief Martin Lee "unpatriotic" for challenging the official line on political reform in Hong Kong. No wonder many interpret anti-Japanese demonstrations as orchestrated political warfare. "There's always a danger that if Beijing wanted, it could use similar tactics on 'anti-China' politicians," says Liu Kin-ming, a managing editor at the Apple Daily in Hong Kong. It's hard to cheer on Chinese protesters when you might become the next target of their ire.
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
Please Tell me that is Photoshopped.
Notice the Ring on the Left Hand!
The more they change....the more they stay the same.
Just more proof that we really don't have to worry about China. Thier military is more for keeping thier own people in line than threatening others.
China Shooting it's own people and covering it up?
Yer bullshitting me!
'Fraid not. I think that she is married to some other wrestler. I'm not a WW(whatever) fan, but that quote made me think of Chyna.
This stuff has been happening all over China since Tianimen Square - with more and more frequency over the past 18 months or so.
Does anybody else hear that noise?
Sounds like a pressure cooker... a really hot one...
I ain't skeerd.
Pretty dumb subtitle. Why would the Taiwanese consider it "patriotic" to love China when they haven't been enslaved by those bastards for over one hundred and ten years?
ETA: if anything, I'm sure that the Taiwanese are becoming MORE patriotic, as they realize that if they allow themselves to be subjugated by the CCP, it could very well be them getting shot next. Maybe it'll even put some backbone in the assholes in the KMT who want to sell out Taiwan to ensure that they get a higher position in the SAR administration.
The situation in Taiwan is complicated.
(1.) There are 3 main races, the Indiginous "Mountain People" who are related to the Ainu.
(3.) Ethnic Chinese who came over, fleeing the 1949 Chinese Revolution.
For History, See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Taiwan
Mostly 3 languages are spoken in Taiwan. The "Official" Language: Mandarin, Taiwanese, and the different Dialects spoken by the Mountain People.
Politically, Taiwan falls into 3 Groups. (1.) Some people want to be reunified with China, believing that Taiwan will be treated like Hong Kong, and that the situation will gradually improve under Chicom Rule, (2.) Some People want to keep the Status Quo and not provoke an Invasion by the Chicoms. ie. be Independent except in Name, (3.) Other people want to formally declare Taiwan as an Independent and Sovereign Nation.
The Group in the 3rd Category has grown in the 10 years since the Chicoms threatened to Invade in 1996 and had shot Missiles over Taiwan.