Behind the bamboo curtain

I saw this report on CNN, and was intrigued:

‘Eastern Lightning’: The banned religious group that has China worried

Here’s the trigger event that brought the group into the limelight:

The group was approaching fellow diners at a McDonald’s restaurant in an eastern Chinese city on a recent Wednesday night, asking for their cellphone numbers, when one woman refused.

What happened next, captured by terrified onlookers on their cellphone cameras and later replayed in news reports, would shock the Chinese public and trigger an official crackdown on what Beijing has characterized as a dangerous doomsday “cult.”

“Go to hell, demon,” one of the accused, Zhang Lidong, yelled as he beat the woman with a steel mop handle, telling her she would “never come back in the next reincarnation.”

The poor woman was murdered.

The police arrested five people, “all members of the Church of Almighty God (“Quannengshen”), Zhaoyuan police said in a statement.”

Also known as Eastern Lightning (“Dongfang Shandian”), the group preaches that Christ has been reincarnated as a woman from central China, and that the righteous are engaged in an apocalyptic struggle against China’s Communist Party — which they refer to as the “great red dragon.”

Linked to kidnappings, violence and extortion, the group has been listed among 14 banned religious groups by China’s Ministry of Public Security since 1995.

I don’t know if the article is accurate, or is a Chinese government sponsored press release in disguise, but it is a fascinating hint about the issues lying not so far below the surface in China.

Stopping for Tiananmen

Extracted from a post at the Register:

Today, June 4th, is the 24th anniversary of what China calls the “counterrevolutionary riot” in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square .

Much of the rest of the world records the incident as a massacre, after Chinese troops ended protests in the square by dealing out lethal force.

China now represses discussion about the events of 4 June, 1989, and extends restrictions online by declaring today to be “Internet maintenance day”.

Whether sysadmins really do get the day off to install some patches and tune up their servers isn’t known, but on past June 4ths several websites in China do go down for the duration of the day. The under-maintenance sites have included blogs and sites that don’t always toe the party line.

A day or two after the anniversary has passed, the sites promptly finish their maintenance and get back to business.

China doesn’t announce which sites will be undergoing maintenance that conveniently coincides with the anniversary, so it’s not possible to know which publishers will decide to opt for a bit of downtime today.

Mr naive here, on a visit to China a few years back, sat down in his hotel room to plug in his laptop and surf the web. There were difficulties in getting on to certain sites – notably blogs – and there was a certain amount of headscratching until the penny (shekel?) dropped: the authorities were actively blocking access to these ‘undesirable’ sites.

I felt sick. I felt fear. This was the first time in my life I had come face to face with censorship on such a scale. (Co-incidentally, one of my work colleagues reminded me today that YouTube is inaccessible from mainland China unless you use a proxy server.) My freedom was being curtailed and I did not like it one bit.

This up to date representation of what the authorities in China get up to is both laughable and offensive.

Who is doing anything meaningful to change the situation?

Construction in really occupied territory

Camera has a sharp piece about Chinese construction in Tibet. (Occupied Tibet.)


…On page 17, The Times ran an article about the dozens of recent self-immolations in Tibet protesting Chinese occupation but this article does not mention the construction at all. (The newspaper did publish an op-Ed about Tibet in which the writer describes asking for directions at a construction site.) There was a Times blog post which included a number of photographs of Tibet along with text saying that the region is changing and is basically… uglier. But there is nothing in the pages of the Grey Lady about the massive Chinese construction in Tibet that comes close to the reproach reserved for proposed Israeli construction in Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s suburbs.

What about other media coverage of Chinese construction in Tibet? Virtual silence. Although Reuters reported that thousands took to the streets of New York City protesting Chinese occupation of Tibet, there was not a word about the construction.

How much construction is there? More than the 3,000 housing units contemplated for E-1? You betcha.

Concluding with this observation:

…sounds like a big story. You’d think the press would cover it. Three to four thousand migrants from China arrive every day? They must need places to live – maybe even thousands of housing units. Unfortunately for the Tibetans, those housing units and the other construction are not outside Jerusalem. If they were, you can bet the Tibetans wouldn’t have to ask… Where’s the coverage?

Where’s the coverage? Where’s the UN in action? Where’s Mr Hague’s telephone call to the ambassador?

You can read the whole thing here.