Saturday 23 July 2011

Global Times readers respond to the bombing and shootings in Norway

"A country which is afraid of China's chaos [i.e., accuses China of being chaotic]! This person [the gunman] is excellent! Must give him a Nobel Prize!"

"the result of spamming people with peace prizes!"

"The relevant government departments should reflect deeply [apparently a reference to the Norwegian government's responsibility]"

"Awarded the Nobel Prize to the wrong person and received heaven's punishment!"

"I strongly condemn all terrorism! At the same time, I call on the Norwegian government and people not to execute Anders [the man accused of being the gunman]!! Otherwise they will violate human rights!!!"

"NATO is the real culprit of this terrorist attack!"

"The US-led western world should reflect deeply on this!"

"哈哈 烤鸽子肉 哈哈"
"Ha Ha!, Roast dove meat! Ha Ha!"

"They were able to give it [i.e., the Nobel Prize] to Obama. They really are mad dogs!"

"Western countries should reflect on their actions. Arrogant people cannot see their own snot hanging out."

And that was just the first ten comments I saw on the Huanqiu website when I opened it that weren't smilies.

Yes, it's the easiest trick in the book. When something terrible happens in a democratic country, just translate the comments about it on the Global Times (a government-owned newspaper famous for its ultra-nationalism), and hey-presto you have an instant post on government-encouraged cyber-nationalism in China, because the comments there will always be overwhelmingly devoted to gloating. Is it fair to do this? I don't know, but the comments by themselves are bad enough and worth translating for that reason.

True, the comments on Huanqiu are not representative of the entire Chinese internet (although if you look at Sina Weibo at the moment you will see more than a few similar comments) and, as certain People's Daily columnists have reminded us, the Chinese internet is not representative of the nation as a whole. However, what matters is that, whilst controls on discussing sensitive subjects like Tibet, Tiananmen, or Taiwan are very strict, discussion which goes in a direction which the government approves of (i.e., hatred of the country where the panel which awards the Nobel prize is hosted) is given free rein.

[UPDATE: as an example of what kind of discussion IS censored, see this excellent post on the high-speed railway accident at China Geeks]

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Jiang Zemin Is Dead

And if the News of the World phone-hacking story weren't enough, Hong Kong news is reporting that Jiang Zemin has died of illness, something unreported up to now. Here's a screen grab:

Here's a link to the above picture.

Although there have been false announcments that Jiang Zemin has died before, this one has the look of truth. Jiang has cut a rather pathetic figure in recent years, with his Shanghai-based coterie losing out in the contest with the Hu/Wen and their supporters, and his previously lauded leadership becoming the object of veiled criticism from many angles, but this still does come as a little bit of a shock.

As for the effect this will have on the upcoming change in leadership, my answer is: none. Jiang was already fairly marginalised and had little influence on the outcome.

I'll post more thoughts latter if and when this is properly confirmed.

[EDIT: Question - Assuming that this news is confirmed, has release of this news been delayed so as not to cast a pall over the CCP's 90th anniversary celebrations, at which Jiang was a notable no-show?]

[UPDATE: Xinhua has released an official denial. Whilst I was originally inclined to believe the initial ATV report, I now don't know what to believe. Jiang is most likely gravely ill at the very least, but besides that, nothing is known.

For anyone wondering when the last time Jiang was seen in public was, the Guardian has the answer: October 2009 at the PRC's 60th anniversary parade, and then again last year in Sichuan closely followed by medical professionals.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

A Flock Of Vampires

The tabloid newspapers in my home country are infamous for their daring, and often morally dubious reportage. Each time scandals about journalistic malpractice among the tabloids has occurred, this has brought calls for tighter controls. My instinct is always to dismiss these calls, not least because such controls will not only prevent the reporting of tittle-tattle, but also of important matters the reporting of which is in the public interest.

When the News of The World phone-hacking scandal first broke, I don't think too many people were too surprised. People are used to hearing of tabloid journalists bending the rules and even breaking the law in order to get a scoop. Even when it became known that people working for the News of the World (a News International publication) had at one point or another had been tapping the phones of most of the British cultural and political establishment, including the Prime Minister, this did not really register with the majority of readers.

However, the latest revelation that people working for the News of the World not only hacked into the voice mail account of Milly Dowler, a school girl who had gone missing, so they could record the distressed messages left by the girl's friends and family, but also deleted the messages of distress from the girl's friends and family which had filled the voice mail in-box so that more could be recorded to be used in their reporting. The girl's family were thus falsely given hope that she might still be alive, hope that was cruelly dashed when she was discovered to have been raped and murdered by a serial killer.

It is hard, after reading this, to view the staff of the News of the World involved in this affair as anything more than a criminal gang at best, and at worst as a ghoulish flock of vampires feasting on the woes of the vulnerable. Perhaps equally shocking is the failure of the authorities to have secured, other than the conviction of the private investigator who carried out the phone-taps, more than the conviction of the Royal correspondent whose too-accurate stories on Prince William helped unravel this conspiracy in the first place. This despite police reportedly being aware of being bugged at the time of the investigation into Milly Dowler's disappearance in 2002. This also despite News of the World journalists including details of Milly Dowler's voice-mail that could only have been obtained through hacking in their reporting on the case.

Equally as hard to credit is the denials of any knowledge of the phone-tapping coming from the News of the World's editorial team at the time, which in 2002 was headed by Rebekah Brooks, who went on to head up The Sun. At the very least, a chief editor who not only doesn't know that her staff are engaged in a phone-hacking campaign that must - judging by the sheer volume of taps required - have cost at least a six-figure sum to set up, or that hacked information is being included in the reporting carried in their paper, has shown very poor leadership indeed.

Back in 2002 I was living in Taiwan and marvelling over the Chu Mei-feng sex VCD scandal, where Scoop, a weekly magazine, published a illicitly filmed video showing Chu Meifeng, a minor official, having sex with a married man in a VCD carried, on their front cover. One thing I was sure of then - that kind of thing could only happen in Taiwan. Little did I know that at the same time a newspaper in the UK was doing something at least as bad, if not far worse.