Posts tagged ‘corruption’

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Panama Papers: Invested, but not Koppied

You needn’t be there yourself, but should your money? Those places are beginning to look like those parties you simply have to get an invitation to, if you want to matter: the “havens” where (many of) the rich and beautiful put their money. The Virgin Islands, for example. Or Panama. Or Luxemburg? Not sure. Ask a bank.

Reportedly, some members of Vladimir Putin‘s tight-knit inner circle do it. Reportedly, Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) does it. So do Thais. Lots of Indians, too. And maybe many Americans, but elsewhere.

Others, also reportedly, did so in the past. One of them even says that he lost money in the game.

But not so fast. Media tend to scandalize everything, don’t they?

According to ICIJ, the documents make public the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials. The documents don’t necessarily detail anything illegal, but they do shine a light on the shadowy world of offshore finances,

National Public Radio (NPR) informs its listeners.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. The problem, either way, is that the investors’ countries’ governments can’t get a picture of what is there. And once an investor is found on a list like the “Panama Papers”, with investments or activities formerly unknown to his country’s fiscal authorities (and/or the public), he’s got something to explain.

Like Argentine president Mauricio Macri, for example.

So, it’s beautiful to have some money there.

Unless the public begins to continuously ask questions about it.

Timely Exits from Paradise

If British prime minister David Cameron is right, the money he and his wife earned from an offshore trust were taxed. His problem, then, would be the general suspicon of the business.

The Cameron couple reportedly sold their shares in question in 2010, the year he became prime minister.

“Best Effect” and “Wealth Ming” reportedly ceased operations in 2012 and/or 2013. That was when CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping took his top positions. The two companies had been run in the Virgin Islands, and Deng Jiagui (邓家贵), husband to Xi’s older sister, had been the owner, Singaporean paper Zaobao reported on Tuesday.

And then, there’s Tsai Ying-yang (蔡瀛陽), one of the 16,785 Taiwanese Mossack Fonseca customers, the law firm the “Panama Papers” were leaked from. According to his lawyer, Lien Yuen-lung (連元龍), Tsay Ying-yang terminated his Koppie Limited company as soon as in 2009, the year following its establishment, so as to cut the losses – 30 percent of the investment, according to a phone interview Lien gave Reuters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t commented herself, and maybe, she won’t any time soon. It doesn’t seem that too much pressure has mounted so far. But questions are asked all the same. On Wednesday, KMT legislators William Tseng (曾銘宗), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), and Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) told a press conference that in the “many cases” where the Tsai family had encountered controversy, Tsai Ying-yangs name had emerged, and this “gave cause for doubts” (會起人疑竇).

An Emerging KMT Opposition Pattern

William Tseng may become a regular questioner, concerning the financial affairs of Tsai’s family people. One of the “controversies” he had quoted had been the issue of a press conference on March 24. There, with different KMT colleagues,  but the same kind of artwork on the wall behind the panel, showing the suspect of the day, Tseng dealt with the issue of Academica Sinica president Wong Chi-huey‘s daughter’s role as a shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc..

KMT legislators press conference artwork

KMT representations:
Mind the guys in the background

One of his fellow legislators, Alicia Wang (王育敏), raised the issue of the company’s shareholder structure (and neatly placed Tsai’s brother there, too, maybe just to make his name available for quote by Tseng on other occasions:

“President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) brother and sister-in-law are also shareholders, and so is Wong’s daughter, Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀). Are others involved?”

Diplomatic Relations, but no Tax Treaty

The “Panama Papers”, as far as they concern Taiwanese customers, contain not only individuals, but companies, too: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (founding chairman Morris Chang, who served Taiwan as APEC representative in 2006), TransAsia Airways (more recently in the news for the tragic Flight 235 crash), Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, Wei Chuan Food Corporation (in the news since 2013), and the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund.

The Development Fund was not a taxable organization, Taiwan’s foreign broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes finance minister Chang Sheng-ford. He used the example to make the point that to suggest that some 16,000 keyword search results for Taiwan in the “Panama Papers” did not signify 16,000 cases of tax evasion. That’s just not the way to look at it.

Chang reportedly also said that while, “if necessary”, Taiwan would establish a Panama Papers working group and start investigating the most high risk people and agencies for tax evasion, the country had no tax treaty with Panama. Also, a Taiwanese anti-tax evasion law had not yet been passed.

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Related

The Panama Papers
Achselzucken schadet, Der Freitag, Apr 7, 2016
The Panama Papers, FoarP, Apr 6, 2016

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blogroll, Syria Peace Conference, Etc.

1. Blogroll

Only some of the (formerly) many links on the masthead to the right have worked in recent months. So I’ve made up my mind and built an extra page – Blogroll, see »there.

2. Syria Peace Conference

The good news is that “regime change” is not a terribly easy business anymore. In the long run, that could serve global peace rather well.

The bad news is legion.

But peace is always possible, as demonstrated in the picture underneath. (Looks kind of contrived, but whoever arranged this, it wasn’t me.)

Two bottles of Statesman

Give peace a chance – hug a Statesman

3. Else

No big blogging activities here recently, but I wrote a blog in German this weekend, about political rituals in China ahead of Spring Festival.

 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Human Rights and Economic Records: Botched Measures and Terrible Occurrences

Before the old (lunar) year leaves and a new comes in, things need to be tidied up in China. However, efforts to calm the stock markets by new management measures appear to have been unsuccessful. And in Hong Kong, where RMB trading, is unrestricted, people pay less for China’s currency, according to the New York Times.

There’s still other bad news, and the indicator in this case, too, is Hong Kong.

“Something terrible has happened. We are all afraid. We are leaving now,” an employee told me a few hours before locking the doors for the foreseeable future.

That’s how the BBC‘s correspondent in the former British colony, Juliana Liu, concluded an entry in the broadcaster’s China blog on Monday, and the topic, of course, is the case of five Hong Kong citizens, all associated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore, who have gone missing since October last year. The latest case is Paul Lee, and he went missing late in December.

Hong Kong’s SCMP, one of East Asia’s leading English-language papers, but one with an uncertain future, reported on Monday the first precept speech by a Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The guy who’s imitating the late great dictator is, of course, current party secretary general, state chairman, and the central military commissions’ (CMC) chairman Xi Jinping. The speech is seen as part of Xi’s efforts to reform China’s military, but obviously, the – probably intended – signal goes beyond the armed forces project.

Given that no other former CMC chairman, from Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, had given a military precept, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law concludes that Xi’s power and authority is even higher than them.

This may or may not be true. If  Wang Qishan, rather than Li Keqiang, ranks second in terms of power or influence within the party, the assessement may be correct. But then, maybe Deng Xiaoping, who faced open ideological competition at times by more conservative party veterans like Chen Yun, simply didn’t need to show off his autority by admonishing the military.

Back then, too, the party was corrupted. But that was at a time when – or that’s how it felt, anyway – everyone had a chance to become rich. Now, there’s a two-fold challenge of corruption and slowing growth.

This could mean that Xi has powers because potential rivals do not want to challenge him, so as not to rock the not-so-stable boat.

If China’s regime manages the switch from an export-led economy to a more services-oriented economy successfully, the doubts in Beijing’s macro-economic control of the economy won’t persist – some disappeared people, in China or elsewhere, have never been a great concern to business.

All the Xidadamania aside however, confidence in mainland China, in Hong Kong, and abroad, appears to be slipping, at least currently.

In an interview with German national radio on Thursday, Markus Taube, a professor at a university in Germany’s Ruhr region, stated “a massive loss of confidence” in China:

What we see in China at the moment, definitely, is a massive loss of confidence. All market actors can see that the CCP has clearly lost its former control capacity. Until now, the Chinese market was always a very [unreadable] […]. Now, this ability to lead isn’t in place and that the state has failed several times, on its own promises.

Das, was wir in China momentan definitiv sehen ist ein massiver Vertrauensverlust. Alle Marktakteure sehen, dass die Kommunistische Partei offensichtlich ihre frühere Steuerungskapazität verloren hat. Bislang war der chinesische Markt immer ein sehr [unreadable] … Fundamentaldaten haben da kaum eine Rolle gespielt, und es war das Vertrauen einfach da, dass die Partei, der Staat, im Endeffekt die Richtung vorgibt [unreadable]. Jetzt ist es so, dass diese Führungsfunktion fehlt und dass der Staat mehrfach versagt hat, auf seine eigenen Versprechen hin.

Not least, Taube said, the “anti-corruption campaign” has discouraged Chinese decisionmakers in charge of approving (or delaying) investment projects.

Given that Chinese control mechanisms – concerning the financial markets – are out of order, Taube, with an audible sigh, introduces an old friend from the 2009 tool cabinet:

It sounds unorthodox, but probably, in the current situation, it would be more appropriate to issue another stimulus package, in that the state, again, to a great extent, pumps money into the economy. A classical Keynesian stimulus package to create state-induced demand so as to restore the economic dynamics on a basic level.

Es klingt sehr unorthodox, aber wahrscheinlich ist es in der momentanen Situation tatsächlich eher angesagt, ein klassisches Konjunkturpaket wieder aufzusetzen, einen Stimulus, in dem der Staat einfach in großem Maße wieder Geld in die Volkswirtschaft hineinpumpt. Also ein klassisches keynesianisches Konjunkturprogramm, in dem einfach staatlich induziert Nachfrage geschaffen wird, und damit einfach die volkswirtschaftliche Dynamik auf einem grundlegenden Level wieder stabilisiert wird.

That said, Taube doesn’t judge the situation by standards of five-year plans, or by taking the long view, as recommended by the Lord of the Confucius Institutes. Taube advocates a stimulus because the methods tried more recently haven’t worked and wouldn’t turn the tide for the coming six months.

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Updates/Related

» Executives Disappearing, HP, Jan 8, 2016

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Friday, November 20, 2015

CCP commemorates 100th Anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s Birthday

The complete standing committee of the CCP’s politburo attended a symposium in commemoration of former CCP secretary general Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦). The BBC‘s Mandarin service wrote today (around 11:00 UTC) that Chinese news agency Xinhua published a curt report and a photo of the symposium in the Great Hall of the People. According to the BBC, the symposium was a smaller event than what the outside world had expected. A publication of selected works by Hu Yaobang is reportedly under preparation, including 77 written pieces by Hu Yaobang from 1952 to October 1986: articles, speeches, reports, instructions, letters und Vorwörter prefaces – some of them published for the first time. Hu Yaobang was forced to “resign” as the party’s secretary general early in 1987. However, different from his successor Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) who was deposed in the wake of the 1989 students Tian An Men Square protests, Hu retained his politburo standing committee membership until his death in April 1989 – a death that actually sparked the 1989 students movement.

Hu Yaobang is frequently described as a just political leaderwith ideals, and as careful political reformer, or as a liberal of sorts, at least by the standards of a dictatorship.

According to a (more detailed) Xinhua article published at 11:49 UTC today, party secretary general Xi Jinping (习近平) praised Hu Yaobang in the glowing terms that are usual on occasions like today’s. He described practical-mindedness and pragmatism in seeking the people’s benefit as an outstanding characteristic of the former leader, and tried to harness the remembrance for his recently launched “four comprehensives” (四个全面) project.

While liberalism was certainly no issue, Xi praised Hu’s honest, self-disciplined, sublime demeanour (廉洁自律的崇高风范), or in other words, Xi made Hu an icon for “style”, rather than for content. Hu Yaobang’s image seems to be something the current leadership does not want to do without.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Leadership Styles: No Meeting without Substance

The Taipei Times compared Pope Francis‘ and Xi Jinping‘s leadership styles: the Chinese traveller to America was outwardly strong and internally weak, while the Roman-Argentinian was the exact opposite, the paper wrote in an online article on Tuesday. As a man who kept close to the public, was met with large crowds of people wherever he went and held Mass for almost 1 million people, the Pope had been a perfect example of soft power.

That was a bit like lauding a model mineworker for churning out tons of coal every day, and criticizing a goldsmith for not doing likewise – or vice versa.

Soft power abroad? Quite a number of Chinese people – especially Chinese people with some exposure to foreign cultures and hurt feelings – may long for it, and the Economist logically threatened Xi with something worse than criticism: neglect. But the politburo could care less. As long as the results are satisfactory – and as long as people at home can be made believe that Americans (not just at Boeing) could hardly wait for the Chinese visitor, everything is staying the desirable course.

But what are the results?

The two sides reached broad consensus and achieved a number of positive results, Ta Kung Pao (Hong Kong) wrote on Sunday:

According to a list published by the Chinese ministry of commerce on September 26, the major consensus and results reached by the two sides can be counted as 49 points, fitting into five big categories. Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle and did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibet independence”, “Xinjiang independence”, and that America would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs.*)

据中国商务部26日公布的成果清单透露,双方达成的主要共识和成果可分5大类共49项。奥巴马在峰会上主动重申,美国坚持一个中国政策,不支持“台独”、“藏独”、“疆独”,也不介入香港事务。

According to Xinhua reports, Xi Jinping made important suggestions concerning the next stage of Sino-American relations, emphasizing the need to promote Sino-American relations that would always develop along the correct track. The two sides agreed to continue efforts to build Sino-American great-power relations of a new type. He [Xi] also emphasized that the Chinese nation was highly sensitive about matters concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He hoped that America would scrupulously abide by the relevant promises, not to support any action aimed at harming China’s unity and stability.

据新华社报道,习近平就下阶段中美关系发展提出重要建议,强调要推动中美关系始终沿着正确轨道向前发展。双方同意继续努力构建中美新型大国关系。他亦强调,中华民族对事关中国主权和领土完整问题高度敏感。希望美方恪守有关承诺,不支持任何旨在损害中国统一和稳定的行动。

In this regard, Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle, scrupulously abided by the principles of the three Sino-US Joint Communiqués, and that this position would not change. America did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibetan independence”, and “Xinjiang independence”, and would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs. This is the second time after denying American connection to Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central”, during the APEC summit last year, that Obama stated his position.*)

对此,奥巴马主动重申,美国坚持一个中国政策,恪守中美三个联合公报原则,这一立场不会改变。美国不支持“台独”、“藏独”、“疆独”,也不介入香港事务。这是奥巴马继去年APEC期间否认美国与香港“占中”活动有关后,再次公开对有关议题做出表态。

The 49 projects, results and consensus concern the five great fields of Sino-American great-power relations of a new type, practical bilateral cooperation, Asia-Pacific affairs, international affairs, and global challenges. Among these, nearly twenty negotiation points pertaining to financial and trade cooperation and the Sino-American Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), awaited by all circles, have made progress. The information published by the Chinese ministry of information pointed out that both the Chinese and American leader had reiterated that to reach a high-level investment agreement was “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and that both sides had agreed to strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work.

中美达成的49项目成果和共识涉及中美新型大国关系、双边务实合作、亚太地区事务、国际与地区问题、全球性挑战等五大领域,其中有近20项涉及金融和贸易合作,各界期待的中美投资协定(BIT)谈判业已取得进展。中国商务部26日公布消息指,中美两国领导人重申达成一项高水平投资协定的谈判是“两国之间最重要的经济事项”,双方同意“强力推进谈判,加快工作节奏”。

The Chinese achievement list unequivocally mentions: “The two countries’ leaders reiterate that to reach a high-level investment agreement is “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and both sides agree to “strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work, so as to reach a mutually beneficial, double-win, high-level investment agreement”.

中方成果清单中明确提到:“两国领导人重申达成一项高水平投资协定的谈判是两国之间最重要的经济事项。高水平的投资协定将反映双方对于非歧视、公平、透明度的共同成果,有效促进和确保市场准入和运营,并体现双方开放和自由的投资体制。中美两国同意强力推进谈判,加快工作节奏,以达成一项互利共赢的高水平投资协定。”

China Institute of International Studies researcher Yang Xiyu says that this position [held by] the two heads of state was of historical significance, meaning that the world’s biggest developed and the world’s biggest developing country could, as fast as possible, achieve BIT, and that the world’s two biggest economic entities achieving BIT will raise the long-awaited effects, further solidifying the foundations of mutual trust in trade.

中国国际问题研究院研究员杨希雨表示,两国元首这一表态具有历史性意义,意味着世界上最大的发达国家和最大的发展中国家或尽快达成BIT,而世界上最大的两个经济体达成BIT协议将起到引领效应,进一步夯实中美互信的经贸基础。

[…]

Within the list of achievements, several points of consensus have been reached concerning Sino-American network security cooperation, such as China and America agreeing that each country’s government must not engage in, or knowingly support, the stealing of intellectual property rights, including trade secrets, and other classified trade information. China and America committed themselves to jointly define and promote appropriate standards of international society conduct on the internet, and to establish a high-level, joint dialogue system between the two countries, to strike at cyber crime and related issues. A number of American experts said that this was an important outcome of this [Xi] visit, and that strengthening cooperation about network security was a really important field of work in Sino-American relations. Indiana University professor and high-level Council of Foreign Relations network security researcher David P. Fidler believes that the two countries’ having achieved this consensus is “of major significance, and welcome news”.

此次成果清单中,中美网络安全合作达成多项共识。如中美同意,各自国家政府均不得从事或者在知情情况下支持网络窃取知识产权,包括贸易秘密,以及其他机密商业信息;中美承诺,共同继续制定和推动国际社会网络空间合适的国家行为准则,并建立两国打击网络犯罪及相关事项高级别联合对话机制。多位美国专家对此表示,这是此访重要成果,网络安全是中美加强合作的一个非常重要的领域。印第安纳大学法学教授、美国外交学会网络安全高级研究员戴维.菲德勒认为,两国达成的这一共识“意义重大且受人欢迎”。

The two sides will also strengthen anti-corruption cooperation, strengthen high-speed rail cooperation, strengthen cultural exchange cooperation, and reach consensus in reaction to global challenges, broaden practical cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels, and manage and control differences and sensitive issues in a constructive manner, continuously achieving new positive results.

此外双方还在加强反腐败合作、加强高铁建设合作、加强文化交流合作及应对全球性挑战方面达成共识,将努力拓展双边、地区、全球层面各领域务实合作,以建设性方式管控分歧和敏感问题,不断取得新成果。

A benevolent label for these outcomes could be progress, and an accurate one would be unverifiable progress. It’s sort of obvious that Washington and Beijing wouldn’t issue a snafu statement at the end of the talks. What Beijing might consider a real achievement, however, is the prevention of an exchange of sanctions in the wake of the “network security”, i. e. hack-and-spy, controversies. That doesn’t go without saying – news coverage during late summer pointed to a chance that this could happen.

Hong Kong website Fenghuang (or Ifeng), in an article on September 22, attributed much of the success in defusing the conflicts to a visit by a delegation to Washington from September 9 to 12:

China attaches great importance to Sino-American relations and their future development, and does not ignore the concrete problems that occupy America.

中国关注中美关系大局及未来走向,并未怠慢美国关注的具体问题。

From September 9 – 12, politburo member and the central committee’s political and judicial committee secretary Meng Jianfu visited America in his capacity as Xi Jinping’s special envoy, together with [a delegation of] responsibles at offices for public security, the judiciary, network communication, etc.. He had talks with secretary of state John Kerry, homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other central [US] authorities, to exchange views about cyber crime and other outstanding problems, and to achieve important consensus. Meng Jianzhu’s trip broke with old habits. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China’s diplomacy has become more direct and more practical.

9月9日至12日,中共中央政治局委员、中央政法委书记孟建柱以 习近平特使身份,率公安、安全、司法、网信等部门有关负责人访问美国,同美国国务卿克里、国土安全部部长约翰逊、总统国家安全事务助理赖斯等核心部门举行 会谈,就共同打击网络犯罪等突出问题深入交换意见,达成重要共识。中央政法委书记作为特使,打破以往惯例,习近平治下的中国外交更加直接务实。

That, and some more soothing soundbytes from Beijing, appeared to have had their effect on Washington, suggests Fenghuang:

On September 16, Obama made remarks about cyber security again, but according to Reuters, America will not impose sanctions on so-called “cyber attacks” before Xi Jinping’s visit, and maybe not afterwards either.

16日,奥巴马再次就网络安全放话,但据路透社报道,美国不会在习近平访美之前对所谓的“网络攻击”进行制裁,之后可能也不会。

After all, the main goal of the Obama administration had been to put pressure on Beijing, and to address domestic complaints, the Fenghuang article believed.

What looks credible – because it’s said to be long-established practice anyway – is that whatever consensus was indeed there between Washington and Beijing had been reached before Xi Jinping even set foot on American soil.

When he reached the American West Coast from Beijing, he meant business, not soft power – although there’s probably something charming to a 300-aircraft order form, at least among the stakeholders. The traditional microcosms were also conscientiously cultivated, even if Winston Ross of Newsweek was not convinced:

[Xi Jinping’s] handlers, who had corralled me and the reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times for the previous hour in anticipation of this exchange, apparently assumed we all spoke Mandarin. The Times reporter shot me a bewildered look. I shrugged. Xi said something to Oregon Governor Kate Brown that she found hilarious. We asked for a transcript of his remarks. We were not given one.

That occasion, Xi’s first stop – i. e. the meeting with American governors and Chinese provincial governors -, wasn’t (much) about substance, Ross alleged. He could have known better, even without translation: maintaining contacts between many layers of business and politics – not just the top echelons – is both a Chinese move to keep contacts going even if top-level relations between China and another country should deteriorate. Besides, while Confucius Institutes and other means of  indoctrination soft power may face some scrutiny at federal or central governments of democratic countries, regional authorities may lack the resources that such scrutiny would require.

Chinese central leaders waste no time with unsubstantial meetings. They waste no time with soft-power ambitions either. It’s the technology, stupid.

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Note

*) VoA has a somewhat different take on this: according to their newsarticle on Wednesday, Obama referred to both the Three Joint Communiqués, and the Taiwan Relations Act, and that had been the only public remarks made about Taiwan during Xi’s state visit in Washington. Ta Kung Pao omitted the mention of the TRA.

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Related

» Joint Press Conference, White House, Sept 25, 2015
» Six-point proposal, Xinhua, Sept 25, 2015

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Investigations at “People’s Daily” Online: two Executives, Leading Editors “taken away”

China’s supreme procurate’s website reported on Friday that Henan procurate has opened investigations (立案侦查) concerning People’s Daily Online director and former chief editor  Liao Hong (廖玒), and board member and deputy director Chen Zhixia (陈智霞), reports the BBC Mandarin service online.

The online service should not be confused with the paper edition of People’s Daily.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), quoting a public profile, Liao was a founding member of the People’s Daily website. He had worked for the paper and its digital department for 19 years after graduating from the Beijing University of Technology. Both he and Chen had been taken away for investigation, the SCMP wrote on Thursday. The Hong Konger paper also writes that Liao had been under a lot of pressure after lending support to the publication of  “Under the Dome”, a documentary about air pollution in China, on the website.

According to the BBC, official confirmation of the investigations came after Caixin Online (财新网) and Southern Weekend (南方周末) had already quoted numerous sources saying that Kiao and Chen had been taken away for investigations.

The BBC also quotes news people who saw links between these two investigations and the case of Xu Hui (徐辉), then deputy editor in chief at People’s Daily online. Xu was put under investigation in May this year, and was reportedly accused or suspected of blackmail, and of taking bribes from people who had become subject to supervision by public opinion (舆论监督). The accusations might come across as an accusation similar to one made against former Central Military Commission vice chairman Guo Boxiong, who had been accused of 用职务便利, i. e. taking “advantage of his job”, or office. In the context of supervision by public opinion, it would refer to advantages from the job of an influential journalist. Concerning Xu Hui, Radio Free Asia (RFA) was rather specific about what accusations like these could mean, citing allegations that Xu had approached various companies and threatened to publish negative news stories about them if they didn’t buy advertising on the site.

All that said and written, the “investigations” may just as likely be mere tools in an inofficial-official campaign against critical journalism, be it in the context of the “Under the Dome” documentary, or in any other context.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Some of this Week’s Links: Heroes and Ultra-Vulgar Butchers

1. “All of them are Heroes” – a Soundbyte and its Story

A Hong Kong television station had a small scoop of sorts, or so it seems to feel to both the station, and to Xinhua. They [update: the HK tv station, that is] conducted an apparent surprise interview with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang. This is how Xinhua reported the encounter, apparently on the same day.

According to the Weibo channel of Xinhua newsagency’s Xinhua Viewpoint program, chief state councillor Li Keqiang, on a visit to the injured at Tianjin Taida Hospital, was abruptly approached by a Hong Kong journalist who, using his cell-phone camera, asked minute questions about “unlisted firefighters”. The chief state councillor interrupted his walk and said that the active-service and non-active-service rescuers had all received training, were all fully aware that the fireground was dangerous, but had all left the danger to themselves. Their sacrifices are saddening us. All of them are heroes, and there are no “unlisted” heroes!

据新华社“新华视点”微博报道,李克强总理16日在天津泰达医院看望伤者时,一名香港记者突然冲过来用手机拍摄并追问“编外消防员”问题。总理停下脚步说,参加施救的现役和非现役消防人员都受过培训,他们明知火场有危险,但把危险留给自己。他们的牺牲让我们痛心。他们都是英雄,英雄没有“编外”!

Unlisted apparently refers to contract firefighters.

The Nanfang also gave a description of the interview, and linked to the tv station’s video (edited or not, can’t judge that) of it. There seems to be nothing extraordinary about the interview by international standards, and the crucial soundbyte – that all of them are heroes, and there are no unlisted heroscomes at 1′ 14”. Li Keqiang also thanked the reporter “for asking this question and showing your concern for the injured”.

2. “Drawing Profits from selling Ranks and Titles (in Zhongmou)

Some estimates say that the number of rights lawyers has grown from just a handful to […] over a thousand, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang write in a China Change post published on Wednesday. Going through a July-19 article by China News Service (CNS, 中国新闻社), linked to from the China Change article, you might get the impressoin that corruption charges may not only be politically motivated when brought against party flies or tigers, but they are also weapons in efforts to smear dissidents’ reputation. That may look pretty obvious anyway, but I’ve only become aware of it when reading

For the foreign, language-learning reader, the profitable thing about official lampoons like the one from CNS is that they usually come with some proverbs or classical references. It makes an – otherwise possibly unpleasant – treatise catchy, and helps to create the impression that the propaganda were handed out by trustworthy people.

A short taster from the CNS article:

According to police information, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Yu and other persons formed criminal gangs with Fengrui Law Office as a platform. Since July 2012, they have plotted in more than forty cases and incidents, waving sensational flags about “rights”, “the public good”, etc., seizing the opportunity of becoming famous and of drawing profits from Zhongmou.

根据警方的通报,以北京市锋锐律师事务所为平台,周世锋、王宇等人组成的犯罪团伙,自2012年7月以来,先后组织策划40余起案事件,打着“维权”“公益”等旗号炒作,借机出名,从中牟取利益。

Liu Sixin, administrative assistant at said law office, explains that Zhou Sifeng usually likes to recruit three kinds of people: those who dare to speak out, those who dare to act, and those who dare to hype issues, like “ultra-vulgar butcher” Wu Gan and Zhou himself. The second kind is people who hail from the petitional system and from the media, such as Huang Liqun, Xie Yuandong, etc.. And then there are so-called “die-hard” lawyers like Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang who like to be defenders in sensitive incidents.

该所行政助理刘四新介绍,周世锋一般喜欢招揽3种人,第一种是敢说、敢干、敢炒作的,像“超级低俗屠夫”吴淦和他;第二种是原来在司法、信访系统以及媒体干过的人,像黄力群、谢远东等;还有就是像王宇、王全璋这种所谓的“死磕”律师,喜欢代理一些敏感事件。

The China Change post lists forteen rights lawyers and their stories.

3. Farting Snakes

And to end on a super-vulgar note today: did you know that a snake has an ass?

Now you know. Happy weekend.
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Updates/Related

» Crackdown intensifies, CS Monitor, July 13, 2015

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Former leading Tianjin Cadre: Beijing won’t cover up Causes of Disaster, because there isn’t much to Lose

Asked by the BBC‘s Mandarin service if he believes that a former member of the politburo standing committee had been a patron for Ruihai Logistics, the company on whose premises the Tianjin explosions occurred last week, Dr. Zhang Wei (张炜), an economics lecturer at Cambridge University, said that this couldn’t be ruled out, but that the lawlessness that had led to the disaster could just as well be the fault of low-ranking local “snakes” (地头蛇). Both explanations were equally likely, he suggested.

Nextmedia, a magazine published in Hong Kong and Taiwan, had allegged in an online article on Saturday that a major shareholder of Ruihai Logistics were a nephew of former permanent politburo member Li Ruihuan (李瑞環) – this name, however, wasn’t repeated or quoted in the coverage mentioned in this post. Links to any former politburo heavyweights could be touchy information, given that citizens in Tianjin are demanding answers from the authorities as to why cargo of this accident level had been stored less than one kilometer from residential areas, and in apparently illegal quantities. Laying out a possible lawless structure that would be in line with the “local” theories, Time (online) quotes Chinese magazine Caijing as suggesting that one of the Ruihai stakeholders, Dong Mengmeng (董蒙蒙) had been the son of Dong Peijun (董培军) former public security director, an allegation also addressed by Zhang Wei, as quoted by the BBC.

But even if investigations should find traces to a former member of the politburo’s standing committee, Zhang thinks it unlikely that the current central leadership in Beijing would try to cover up the truth. A former member, rather than an incumbent, wouldn’t be of great use to the current government any more, and there would be no reason to halt the investigations.

According to the BBC, Zhang once served as secretary of Tianjin’s municipal Communist Youth League committee (共青团天津市委书记), as director of Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, as director for external economic matters at Tianjin municipal government, and in other functions. Zhang’s view of Chinese economic reform in the 1980s – and the slowdown or even reversal in reform during the 1990s – also influenced Huang Yasheng as he wrote Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics.

The explosions and the authorities’ difficulties in handling communication with the public didn’t reflect a public relations crisis (公关危机), the BBC quotes Zhang, but rather a problem rooted in the CCP’s belief in propaganda. Local officials and media in Tianjin had no powers to disclose information to the local public, but had to wait until Xinhua issued an integrated story. This seriously impaired or blocked flows of information.

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