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New Rankings to Place Lawyers’ Politics Over Experience - South China Morning Post’s Nectar Gan reports on Ministry of Justice plans for a new lawyer ranking scheme to be piloted in Shanghai, Inner Mongolia, Anhui and Shaanxi, placing political loyalty ahead of professional ability and experience. Under the new system, lawyers will be classified into nine specialist areas, ranging from criminal law to intellectual property law. The system would help people seeking legal services to narrow their search, the notice said. But lawyers would have to meet four criteria to be listed, the top one being political correctness, followed by record of “integrity”, length of experience and professional skills. The political performance assessment includes supporting the Communist Party’s leadership and “socialist rule by law”, abiding by the constitution and law, and observing the legal profession’s ethics and discipline. The integrity criterion would require applicants to have a clean record on party discipline and administrative penalties, such as detention, in the past five years. [Source] Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin and Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson commented on Twitter: @bequelin .@bequelin Less a noose and more a guillotine, it now seems. — Sophie Richardson (@SophieHRW) April 14, 2017 The rankings mark a further step in the government’s refinement of the legal system as an instrument of power, rather than a shield against it. In a recent review of judicial reforms at Foreign Affairs, Rebecca Liao wrote that “Beijing’s goal is to establish a robust legal system that can effectively govern China’s political and social life without ever challenging the Communist Party’s core policies and ideology.” In August 2015, NYU law scholar Jerome Cohen warned of “a comprehensive legislative agenda designed to confirm China as a de facto garrison state,” under which “any lawyer bold enough to wage a vigorous defense in court can easily be sentenced to three years in prison, marking the end of his career.” He described the then-recent “Black Friday” or “709” crackdown on rights lawyers as “an effort to destroy any remaining possibility of waging a vigorous defense at trial or of challenging government in the broader arena of public opinion.” In a review of Sida Liu and Terence C. Halliday’s recent book “Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work” at Bloomberg Law, Gabe Friedman describes how different segments of China’s legal community have reacted to blows like the 2015 crackdown and the earlier prosecution of lawyer Li Zhuang in Chonqging: […] Whereas at one point in time only a “small network of notable activist lawyers in China” took on sensitive cases, the Li case mobilized a wider group of lawyers, including “elite members of the Chinese legal profession” to leverage greater tolerance of lawyer professionalism from the Chinese government. In July 2015, the Chinese government launched a crackdown against what the authors characterize as “die-hard” lawyers, who take on the most politically sensitive cases, such as death penalty, torture, and abortion. After one of the first lawyers was arrested, more than 100 signed a petition demanding to know her whereabouts, the authors note in an example of further mobilization. But many of the lawyers who signed were themselves arrested, some detained for 24 hours and some still in custody, according to the book. Meanwhile, China’s domestic corporate law firms have stayed silent on the sidelines, even though many of the corporate lawyers possess liberal values, because “they seem content to bury those values under their largely non-political practice,” the book states. […] Still, the authors write that “over the last 400 years … across the world,” there are multiple examples of lawyers working alone or collectively to push for greater legal freedoms “vibrant civil societies, and moderate states.” They ask: will this also happen in China? But their answer is that there is no straight line in history, and there will likely be false starts and setbacks to progress, with a detailed look at how lawyers survive in the meantime. [Source] As research from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab shows, online mobilization of the kind seen in Li Zhuang’s case has been made harder in those of the Black Friday lawyers by increasingly sophisticated filtering of related messages and images. See also Susan Finder’s analysis at her Supreme People’s Court Monitor blog of authorities’ declaration of a “decisive battle” to deepen judicial reform before the 19th Party Congress later this year, and Xinhua’s coverage (in Chinese) of propaganda chief Liu Qibao’s teleconference address this week on “blending the legal system with socialist core values.” © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Black Friday 2015, Black Friday trials, Justice System, lawyers, legal system, Li Zhuang, Ministry of Justice, rights lawyersDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 14
Why China Pretends to be a Democracy - Following the recent U.S. airstrikes on Syria, Chinese state media denounced the move by President Trump, staying true to Beijing’s commitment to non-interference. Responding to a question on whether the attack appeared to represent a U.S. policy shift towards pursuing regime change in Syria, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying responded: “We believe that the future of Syria should be left in the hands of the Syrian people themselves. We respect the Syrian people’s choice of their own leaders and development path.” At The Washington Post, Isaac Stone Fish points out the irony in this response, considering that neither Syria nor China allow the people to democratically choose their own leaders. Stone Fish continues to examine the motives behind Beijing’s “astonishingly obtuse claim” to oversee a democracy—one that Xi Jinping has been known to make even as he reinforces the authoritarianism of the country he leads: So why does China still call itself a democracy? Making this claim allows Beijing to legitimize its own actions — and, in the case of its views on the U.S. missile attacks, the Syrian government’s — as representing the will of the people. This hoodwinking and hypocrisy has served Beijing well. “Imagine calling yourself the People’s Autocracy of China, or the Glorious Autocracy of China,” said Perry Link, a professor at the University of California at Riverside who has studied China’s human rights issues for decades. Alternatively, he said, the People’s Republic of China, or, for example, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the official name of North Korea — shifts the burden of proof to the other side to show that the country is not, in fact, democratic. Yes, Beijing means something different with the word “democracy” than Americans do — and this has a lot to do with the Chinese Communist Party’s ideological origin story. Vladimir Lenin preached “democratic centralism,” a system where supposedly democratically elected officials dictated policy. Similarly, Mao called for the “people’s democratic dictatorship” — a dictatorship by the people, for the people, allegedly far superior to the “bankrupt” system of “Western bourgeois democracy,” where elites plundered the working class. In her 2015 essay “The Populist Dream of Chinese Democracy,” the Harvard University political scientist Elizabeth J. Perry contextualizes Chinese democracy as more akin to populism. She quotes Xi Zhongxun, the former propaganda chief (and the late father of China’s current leader), who once exhorted fellow party members “to put your asses on the side of the masses.” […] [Source] Late last month, on the eve of the first meeting between President Xi and President Trump, Asia Society’s Orville Schell asked if it was time to abandon expectations that China’s political system would liberalize and democratize. After acknowledging that the hopes present (if often battered) since the PRC’s reform era seem harder than ever to maintain amid steady crackdowns on the media and liberal ideology, Schell provides some historical perspective on democracy in China. Looking to the future, Schell notes that “just because prospects for another political revolution are difficult to see right now, we should not assume that China has reached an end point in its development.” From The Wall Street Journal: […S]ome historical perspective is in order—not because Mr. Xi shows any signs of relenting in his oppressive agenda but because it would be a mistake to confuse the present reality with permanence. Democratic ideals have deep roots in modern Chinese history and have surfaced again and again over the past century. This legacy should serve to remind us that not all Chinese, even in the worst of times, have been resigned to a politics of one-party rule. The idea that China would develop into a constitutional republic was first and most forcefully proposed at the beginning of the previous century by Sun Yat-sen, the so-called father of modern China. Sun had studied in Hawaii, converted to Christianity and become a medical doctor before starting his campaign against dynastic rule. When his republican government replaced the collapsed Qing Dynasty in 1912, he called for “three phases of national reconstruction,” starting with a period of martial law, followed by an interlude of “political tutelage” and culminating in constitutionalism. “Without such a process,” he insisted, “disorder will be unavoidable.” Sun’s concerns about the difficulty of even starting to implant liberal democracy in China were quickly confirmed. His presidency lasted just 41 days as the country slid into the control of regional warlords. But Sun persisted, going on to establish the Nationalist Party, whose role in promoting democratic ideals in China proved to be long and tortuous. […] Throughout his own trying decades as president of the new Republic of China in the 1930s and ’40s, Chiang Kai-shek, who succeeded Sun Yat-sen as the leader of the Nationalist Party, was no model of democratic practice, often suppressing opposition and basic civil liberties. In theory, however, he never wavered in his devotion to Sun’s road map to constitutionalism, insisting that, after the necessary period of “tutelage,” the Nationalist Party would “carry out its original purpose and return sovereign power to the people.” […] As for China itself, the ideal of a more open society governed by law would not be fanned back to life until after Mao’s death in 1976. When Deng Xiaoping issued a clarion call for a new agenda of “reform and opening” and “the liberation of thought” in 1978, many in the West were tempted to hope that China might now get back on track to evolve just as Sun had imagined. […] [Source] © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: democracy, liberalism, Orville Schell, Xi JinpingDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 13
Person of the Week: Cui Weiping - CDT is expanding its wiki beyond the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon to include short biographies of public intellectuals, cartoonists, human rights activists, and other people pushing for change in China. The wiki is a work in progress. 崔卫平 Cui Weiping. (Source: Cui Weiping believes that public intellectuals must speak about the wrongs of the past and present. She is professor emerita of the Beijing Film Academy, a cheerleader for the grass-mud horse, and one of the signatories to Charter 08, the democracy manifesto that cost author Liu Xiaobo his freedom. Born in Jiangsu Province in 1956, Cui grew up in the “muddled and obscure intellectual tradition—part Confucian and part Communist“—of the Cultural Revolution. She was among the first to attend university after that chaotic period finally came to an end. Cui studied literature at Nanjing University, from which she graduated with a master’s degree in 1984. She then went to teach at the Beijing Film Academy, where she remained until she was forced to retire after co-authoring a letter in support of the Tiananmen Mothers. Cui is part of the once-close circle of Beijing liberal intellectuals that includes Liu Xiaobo and Hu Jia. After Liu Xiaobo was charged with “subversion of state power,” Cui and Xu Youyu collected the Homo Homini Award for Charter 08 in Liu’s stead. One year after Charter 08 was first circulated, Cui collected comments on Liu Xiaobo’s conviction and imprisonment from a range of Chinese public intellectuals. Cui faced criticism for exposing them to punishment for speaking on a taboo subject, but defended her decision to publish the comments. Cui has translated works by Czech dissidents Václav Havel and Ivan Klima. Her translations cannot be published in China, but have appeared on Taiwanese bookshelves. Entry written by Anne Henochowicz. Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Charter 08, Cui Weiping, Hu Jia, Liu Xiaobo, public intellectuals, word of the week, xu youyuDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 13
WeChat Filters Keywords, Images Related to Rights Lawyer Crackdown - A new report from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab probes censorship on Tencent’s WeChat messaging service related to the July 2015 “Black Friday” or “709” crackdown, in which hundreds of rights lawyers, activists, and others were detained. While most were soon released, several have since been tried and sentenced, while others remain in custody awaiting trial or charges, or have been released pending further investigation. The Citizen Lab researchers identified 42 blocked keyword combinations related to the crackdown, nearly 90% of which referred to the name of one of the victims. While images have traditionally been viewed as resistant to automated censorship because they are harder to identify than text, the team found that dozens of images related to the crackdown are also being filtered in real time. Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert summed up the report’s findings and their implications in a separate blog post: Unfortunately, as our experiments show, a good portion of that discussion fails to reach Chinese users of WeChat and Weibo. Our research shows that certain combinations of keywords, when sent together in a text message, are censored. When sent alone, they are not. So, for example, if one were to text 中国大陆 (Mainland China) or 王全璋的妻子 (Wang Quanzhang’s Wife) or 家属的打压 (Harassment on Relatives) individually, the messages would get through. Sent together, however, the message would be censored. The Citizen Lab’s Andrew Hilt’s has created a visualization showing these keyword combinations here: In addition to a large number of censored keyword combinations our tests unearthed, we also discovered 58 images related to the 709 Crackdown that were censored on WeChat Moments for accounts registered with a mainland China phone number. (For accounts registered with a non-mainland China phone number, on the other hand, the images and keyword combinations go through fine). This is the first time we have documented censorship of images on a social media platform, and we are continuing to investigate the exact mechanism by which it takes place. […] Our report serves as a reminder that for a large portion of the world, social media act as gatekeepers of what they can read, speak, and see. When they operate in a repressive environment like China, social media can end up surreptitiously preventing important political topics from being discussed. Our finding that WeChat is now also systematically censoring images as well as text opens up the daunting prospect of multi-media censorship and surveillance on social media. [Source] The report itself includes extensive background on the crackdown and subsequent developments such as Chief Justice Zhou Qiang’s hailing of the resulting prosecutions as one of 2016’s key achievements; allegations of torture by several of the lawyers, and the official response that these were “fake news”; and the 11-nation diplomatic letter quietly sent in February to express concern at the situation. It goes on to explain research methodology, findings, and caveats, as well as the researchers’ exploration of broadly similar (but not identical) keyword censorship on Sina Weibo. It also describes the novel discovery of image censorship in WeChat’s semi-public group chat and Moments. From Lotus Ruan, Jeffrey Knockel, and Masashi Crete-Nishihata: […] In addition to blocking of keyword combinations related to crackdowns on rights defenders, we also found that WeChat filters images related to the event. Examples of blocked images include the cover of China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group’s “Report on 709 Mass Arrest,” an infographic explaining the “709 Storm,” an open letter from defenders and their relatives, profiles of convicted lawyers and activists, the twenty six rights defenders on bail while awaiting trial, and fifteen other arrest cases. […] To get a sense of the extent of image censorship related to the crackdown on WeChat, we used the term “709大追捕” (709 Crackdown) in Google Image Search and identified 575 relevant images between March 18 and 21, 2017. We went on to upload the images to group chat and to Moments for testing. Around ten percent of our sample (58 out of 575) triggered censorship on Moments, most of which are infographics related to the 709 Crackdown, profile sketches of the affected lawyers and their relatives, or images of people holding the slogan “Oppose Torture. Pay attention to Xie Yang” (“反对酷刑,关注谢阳”). All of the images we found censored WeChat Moments are available here. Our tests showed that an image on Moments is filtered according to that image’s content in a way that is robust to some modifications to the image. More work is needed to determine what kinds of modifications can be made to an image while having it still be censored by the WeChat image filter and to identify the kind of algorithm WeChat is using to detect filtered images in general. [Source] Citizen Lab’s Lotus Ruan told South China Morning Post that the image filter appears to identify specific images, rather than analyzing images’ content: “For example, while a couple of images of people holding placards saying, ‘Oppose Torture, Pay Attention to [rights lawyer] Xie Yang’ were censored, we didn’t experience censorship when we produced and submitted our own image.” The report notes signs that despite the platform’s appearance of relative privacy, WeChat is in fact actively monitored either by the authorities or on their behalf. Another such indication is the apparent role of intercepted WeChat postings in Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che’s detention last month. Lee remains missing. For more on censorship related to the crackdown, see leaked media directives published by CDT on the initial detentions, subsequent prosecutions, and other aspects of the aftermath. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Black Friday 2015, Black Friday trials, censorship, Internet censorship, rights lawyers, sina weibo, social media, WeChatDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 13
Rebel Pepper: In the Name of the People? - A new 56-episode series from Hunan Television, In the Name of the People, has become a popular favorite for its “ripped from the headlines” approach to covering dramatic stories of official corruption and deceit. But cartoonist Rebel Pepper sees the show as an effort by China’s leaders to manipulate the public, writing that, “If Xi Jinping hadn’t given his personal approval, how could this show receive such high-profile publicity? So this series is still only using the name of the people to fool the people.” In Rebel Pepper’s drawing, Xi Jinping pulls the strings on a puppet cracking down on a “tiger,” Xi’s terminology for a high-level corrupt official, while the audience cheers: The BBC has more on the show and the public response: In the show, local government leaders try to sabotage a top justice’s arrest order; laid-off workers hold violent protests against a corrupt deal between the government and a corporation; and fake police drive bulldozers into forced eviction sites. Viewers have been lapping it up. “This TV drama feels so real. It really cheers people up,” one viewer wrote on social media network Weibo. “I shed tears after watching this drama. This is the tumour of corruption that has been harming the people,” said another Weibo commenter. What makes In The Name of the People remarkable is not just how frankly it depicts the ugly side of Chinese politics, but that it also has the blessing of the country’s powerful top prosecutors’ office. [Source] Televised dramas depicting official wrongdoing and the inner workings of the government are generally censored in China. But the emergence of this show reflects a new confidence from the Xi administration, according to a report by Nector Gan of the South China Morning Post: China’s media watchdog decided to curb the genre in 2004 because it exposed excessive details of corruption, even imaginary ones, which Chinese officials thought could undermine public confidence in the ruling party. The production and broadcasting of In the Name of The People on prime-time screens, therefore, reflects Beijing’s growing confidence that it is able to control the anti-corruption narrative and convince the public that one-party rule can also be clean. […] The party’s disciplinary watchdog under Wang, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has already made two documentaries hailing the campaign. While the documentaries were eye-popping – featuring toppled provincial officials tearfully confessing in public – the powerful CCDI is trying to grab the attention of the general public, especially young people who prefer to watch TV dramas online rather than dry political documentaries on state television. [Source] The show has been popular with the TV audience, with more than 350 million views of the pilot. Yet feminists are viewing it with a critical eye due to its demeaning portrayal of women. From Lin Qiqing at Sixth Tone: The protagonists in the drama are an all-male panel of high-ranking officials, whereas the show’s female characters are all flawed women who conform to traditional gender roles: a reckless employee, an obedient housewife, and a businesswoman who sleeps her way to success. “The portrayals of female characters, especially the gender relations in the drama, are unrealistic and are full of stereotypes,” Shen Yifei, associate professor of sociology at Fudan University, wrote on her public account on messaging app WeChat on Sunday. In her article, Shen cited an example from the show: The head of Handong’s anti-corruption department, Lu Yike, frequently comes off as incompetent and is constantly quarreling with her superiors. “It’s as if all of her value lies in helping to cook,” Shen wrote, referring to a scene in which Lu is asked by her boss to prepare a meal for a visiting official. Lu is also continuously urged to get married by her mother, her boss, and even her subordinates. [Source] © Sophie Beach for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: high-level corruption, political cartoons, Rebel Pepper, Xi anti-corruption campaignDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 13
Xinjiang Official Demoted for Not Smoking Around Clerics - Following the implementation of Xinjiang’s first region-wide law banning behavior that authorities see as marks of religious extremism—including the refusal to consume state media, or wearing face veils or “abnormal” beards—an ethnic Uyghur village Party chief has reportedly been demoted for refusing to smoke in the presence of Muslim elders. The AP reports: Jelil Matniyaz, the Communist Party head of a village in Hotan prefecture, was demoted for “not daring” to smoke in front of religious figures, said the report, issued on Saturday and reproduced by official newspapers and websites. Matniyaz, identified as a member of Xinjiang’s indigenous Uygur ethnic minority, was cited by the report as not having a “resolute political stance”. […] The punishment appears to be the latest extreme measure by the authorities to exert their will in Xinjiang, particularly its southern portion including Hotan, where Uygur culture is strongest. Chinese authorities and the state-controlled media have increasingly equated religious expression with extremism in their official rhetoric, partly in response to a bloody insurgency blamed on Uygur Islamic militants. […] Although smoking is not strictly forbidden in many parts of the Muslim world, it is sometimes discouraged by the more religiously observant. Ironically, Matniyaz’s punishment comes as health officials are seeking to curb a deeply ingrained smoking culture in China, where about half of all males regularly light up. [Source] The Global Times’ coverage of the demotion quotes a Uyghur university professor and an anonymous official on the case: According to local religion customs, smoking is not allowed in front of older people or among religious people, Turgunjun Tursun, a professor with the Zhejiang Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday. However, some religious people force ordinary citizens also to comply with the requirements, a senior official who had been working in Xinjiang for years, told the Global Times on condition of anonymity. In a sense, whether officials “dare to” smoke in front of religious people reflects their commitment to secularization, the anonymous official said. The official’s demotion is an isolated case, Tursun said, adding that the local government should balance de-extremist behavior and local customs in the crackdown on extremism. [Source] Xinjiang has been the frontline of a nationwide “people’s war on terror,” launched in 2014 in response to increasing incidents of violence in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China. In addition to the new rules against “extremist behavior,” the campaign has recently included massive military rallies, a hardening of anti-terror rhetoric—including President Xi Jinping’s call for a “great wall of iron” around Xinjiang, and increased surveillance and GPS tracking measures. The South China Morning Post’s Nectar Gan last week reported that 97 Xinjiang officials had been punished for inadequately monitoring local residents. Reuters’ Phillip Wen this week reported that a Uyghur official in Kashgar published a commentary in state media to fellow Uyghur cadres urging them to reveal “two-faced people” and “clean them out”: In a commentary published by the official Xinjiang Daily on Monday, Yasin Sidik, a senior official from Kashgar city in Xinjiang, urged fellow ethnic Uighur cadres to “bravely stand at the forefront against separatism”. “We must … remember to be grateful to the party,” Yasin said. “To forget history is tantamount to betrayal.” “We must stand out and reveal ‘two-faced’ people, thoroughly seize bad elements out from the masses, clean them out,” he said. Sidik’s was at least the fourth such warning from Uighur officials in the past two weeks. Another top Kashgar official warned last week that Uighur party cadres were not pulling their weight in the region’s fight against extremism. [Source] Reuters had earlier covered another of the recent warnings from Uyghur officials. Read more on the ongoing anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang, on criticism that related policies targeting the religious and cultural practices of Uyghurs serve to exacerbate the spread of extremism and underlying ethnic tensions, or on authorities’ continued denials of religious or ethnic persecution in the region, via CDT. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Hotan, islam, religion, religious persecution, terrorism, Uyghurs, XinjiangDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 12
Yahoo Sued Over Support Fund for Dissidents - In 2007, U.S. tech company Yahoo set up a $17 million fund to support persecuted Chinese dissidents and their families following fierce congressional criticism of its surrender of user data to Chinese authorities, which aided around 60 prosecutions. Two of the most prominent cases involved democracy advocate Wang Xiaoning and journalist Shi Tao, who remained in prison until 2012 and 2013, respectively. Each of their families received $3.2 million from Yahoo under the 2007 settlement, while the larger fund was placed under the control of celebrated activist and 19-year labor camp inmate Harry Wu, who died last year. At The New York Times, Andrew Jacobs reports a newly filed lawsuit over Wu’s alleged mismanagement of the fund, and Yahoo’s failure to prevent it. A group of Chinese political activists filed a lawsuit in federal court against Yahoo on Tuesday, saying the company failed to properly oversee a $17 million fund it created a decade ago to help Chinese writers, democracy advocates and human rights lawyers persecuted for standing up to the country’s government. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Washington, accuses Yahoo senior executives of turning a blind eye as the fund’s manager, Harry Wu, illegally spent millions of dollars on high-end real estate, inflated staff salaries and a museum documenting the history of forced labor camps in China. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Wu, a veteran Chinese dissident who died last April, spent less than 4 percent of the money on humanitarian aid. The lawsuit demands that Yahoo replenish the trust, which has been significantly depleted. […] “In standing idly by while it knew the money was being squandered, Yahoo abandoned its responsibilities to the fund’s beneficiaries, who have risked their lives speaking out for political reform in China,” said Times Wang, a lawyer with the firm. [Source] The activists—Hu Depu, Yang Zili, Li Dawei, Wang Jinbo, Ouyang Yi, Xu Yonghai, and Liu Fenggang—previously made their case soon after Wu’s death in a statement published at China Change: […] Yahoo was the first Western company to provide an email service in China. From 2000 to 2004, many Chinese dissidents chose to use Yahoo email out of information security reasons, because they believed that an American company, not controlled by the Chinese government, would have high ethical standards and not provide personal information and emails to the Chinese government. But Yahoo did exactly that, providing dissidents’ information to Chinese police, leading to their arrests and prison sentences, where emails were used as criminal evidence. […] The seven of us were all Yahoo email users from 2000 to 2003, and the court decisions of six of us quoted emails as “criminal” evidence. In total, we served 38 years and all of us suffered torture and degrading treatment (see biographies at the end). […] The Yahoo Human Rights Fund was intended for the entire community of Chinese political prisoners. It is a community that has long suffered humanitarian disasters caused by cruel persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, simply for their ideals and work toward helping build a free China. They suffer enormously and are in great need of financial relief, given that their activism often costs them their only source of income. Such relief is hard to come by from inside China. That the $17 million Yahoo Human Rights Fund (it would be over $18 million if including investment revenue from interest and dividends) has been abused, misused, and even embezzled is not only shocking, but inflicts direct damage on the Chinese dissident community. [Source] The NYT’ Jacobs covered this and other aspects of Wu’s “tarnished legacy” in August last year, noting a 2011 lawsuit over Wu’s attempts to claim part of the separate payments to families, and accusations of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Jacobs quoted Morton Sklar, a lawyer for the families in 2007, on both Yahoo and Wu’s attitudes towards that year’s settlements: Mr. Sklar said Yahoo had hoped its fund would help repair its public image, but also serve as a reservoir of money for settling future claims from other Chinese dissidents — an arrangement that critics said was legally and ethically questionable. “They saw the fund as their get-out-of-jail-free card,” Mr. Sklar said. “But Harry Wu saw the money as his own personal fund, to benefit his own activities.” [Source] An obituary in The Economist in May had been more charitable, focusing on Wu’s activism and “the overwhelming hunger the laogai had left in him: hunger to play with fire, taunt the system, dig deep.” Later that month, Melissa Chan and Isaac Stone Fish described his “complicated and contradictory legacy” at Foreign Policy: That [2011] lawsuit, and the criminal accusations by other parties that followed, tarnished Wu’s legacy as a tireless advocate who revealed the atrocities inside China’s massive system of labor reform camps to the world. It also alienated many in the human rights community. Chinese activist Shi Qing, who served a seven-year prison sentence for his activities in the 1989 pro-democracy protests in China, first heard about Wu in the late 1990s. Shi and other activists “really admired him for his work exposing the horrors of the laogai to the outside world,” he told FP. “But the Harry Wu of the later years, I pity, grieve for, and even loathe.” [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Harry Wu, lawsuits, misuse of funds, Shi Tao, Wang Xiaoning, Yahoo, Yang ZiliDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 12
Amnesty Criticizes China for Secrecy Surrounding Death Penalty - Amnesty International today released its global report “Death Sentences and Executions: 2016.” While the report found a global 37% decrease in executions last year compared to 2015, it notes that “these numbers do not include the thousands of executions carried out in China, where data on the use of the death penalty remained classified as a state secret.” The international human rights organization also released a separate report, entitled “China’s Deadly Secrets,” which directly criticizes Beijing for the opacity surrounding the state use of the death penalty, and challenges authorities to prove commitment to their stated goal of reducing use of the death penalty by publishing annual figures on issued death sentences and executions carried out. From the executive summary of the latter report: The Chinese government continues to conceal the extent to which capital punishment is being used in China, despite more than four decades of requests from UN bodies and the international community and despite the Chinese authorities’ own pledges to bring about increased openness in the country’s criminal justice system. This deliberate and elaborate secrecy system, which runs counter to China’s obligations under international law, conceals the number of people sentenced to death and executed every year, both of which Amnesty International estimates run into the thousands. All statistics on the use of the death penalty in China remain classified in law as state secrets and authorities continue to evade answering questions about this systematic concealing of the death penalty system. The government has claimed that such statistics are not available or, contradictorily, that they are actually available in government work reports. The latter claim is misleading, since death sentences were deliberately lumped together with data on other sentences, with no breakdown by type of sentence, thus making it impossible to know how many death sentences were handed out each year. […] This reform [“killing fewer, killing cautiously” (少杀慎杀), launched in 2006] along with others to strengthen procedural safeguards, has been cited by experts – and sometimes the government itself – as significant factors that may have indeed led to reducing the number of death sentences and executions. Yet the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China remains almost entirely unknown. […] Put simply, the government’s claims to have reduced its use of the death penalty have not yet been supported by any concrete evidence. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the reforms adopted so far, even if they had led to a decrease in the number of executions, will prove effective in the long term or that they could not be reversed at some point in the future. Amnesty International therefore renews its challenge to the Chinese authorities to prove that they are achieving their goal of reducing the application of the death penalty by publishing annual figures to document the number of death sentences handed down and executions carried out. [Source] Despite the lack of statistics, Amnesty estimates that China carried out more executions in 2016 than all other countries combined. From an Amnesty press release: Excluding China, states around the world executed 1,032 people in 2016. China executed more than all other countries in the world put together, while the USA reached a historic low in its use of the death penalty in 2016. […] “China wants to be a leader on the world stage, but when it comes to the death penalty it is leading in the worst possible way – executing more people annually than any other country in the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. […] China’s database contains only a tiny fraction of the thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International estimates are handed out every year in China, reflecting the fact that the Chinese government continues to maintain almost total secrecy over the number of people sentenced to death and executed in the country. […] “China is a complete outlier in the world community when it comes to the death penalty, out of step with international legal standards and in contravention with repeated UN requests to report how many people it executes[,” said Shetty.] [Source] At The Guardian, Benjamin Haas reports further on Amnesty’s criticism of China’s use of the death penalty, and continued secrecy surrounding it, citing Amnesty officials on the report’s findings: Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s east Asia director, said: “It is time for China to stop being a rogue state in the international community with respect to the death penalty and finally allow the Chinese people to have a proper, informed debate about capital punishment in the country.” […] The Chinese government claims it has reduced the use of the death penalty and taken steps under a policy of “killing fewer, killing cautiously”. As part of this, the county’s top court must now approve death sentences handed out by lower courts. But without concrete statistics, activists say there is no way to verify government claims. “There is absolutely no way to tell if death sentences are going up or down in China,” Bequelin said. “Members of the international community have become very complacent on taking China’s word at face value.” For years, China has rebuffed requests by the United Nations for more data on executions and ignored UN resolutions to increase transparency. [Source] Haas’ coverage notes that Uyghurs accounted for 4% of Amnesty’s estimated executions, despite making up only .7% of China’s total population. Uyghurs’ home region of Xinjiang is currently the frontline of a nationwide “war against terrorism,” and has seen a series of “strike-hard” policies in recent years including public sentencing rallies where death penalties have been handed out. Last December, the Supreme People’s Court officially exonerated Nie Shubin, who was falsely convicted and executed over 21 years ago for rape and murder. Nie’s posthumous exoneration ushered in a host of criticism of China’s justice system. AFP quotes Chinese legal scholar Jerome Cohen, who evoked a quote from Mao Zedong on the inevitability of mistakes when implementing the death penalty: “[…C]oerced confessions are supposed to be excluded from evidence. In practise, however, the police have unchallenged discretion to…extract confessions by detaining and torturing suspects for long periods,” New York University professor Jerome Cohen told AFP. “Yet even the late Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, perhaps the greatest executioner in human history, recognised the likelihood of mistakes when imposing the death penalty,” Cohen noted. “Mao admonished his officials to bear in mind that, once someone?s head is cut off, it cannot grow back.” A 2016 report from the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said China’s average death row prisoner waits only two months for execution. [Source] The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer quotes Amnesty’s William Nee, who notes another high profile posthumous exoneration (that of Huugjilt, who was executed in 1996 and exonerated in 2014) and warns that short of greater transparency from Chinese authorities, it’s impossible to know the extent of unjust executions in China: In late 2014, another man, known as Huugjilt or Hujilit, was also cleared of rape and murder 18 years after he had been put to death as an 18-year-old. After 48 hours of interrogation, he had confessed to the crime and was executed two months later. But doubt was cast on the verdict in 2005 when an alleged serial killer confessed to murdering the woman. Both cases attracted significant public outrage against the authorities, and sympathy for the unjustly executed men. “There have been a few high-profile exonerations in recent years — of Hujilit and Nie Shubin — but without greater transparency, the Chinese public will have no idea how many cases like Nie Shubin’s there really are,” Nee said. [Source] Coverage from Quartz’ Zheping Huang notes that Amnesty’s analysis found that rural farmers and the unemployed are the most likely to be sentenced to death: Amnesty searched the database with the keyword “死刑,” the only term that Chinese courts would use for “death penalty,” and analyzed rulings by the top court, to avoid duplicate occurrences of the same case at lower court levels. Launched in 2013, China Judgements Online had made over 20 million documents public by August 2016, according to the SPC. The partial dataset showed that the majority of the people whose death sentences were confirmed were either farmers or unemployed. Farmers made up 55% of the total sentences, while 43% of China’s population is rural. Meanwhile, the unemployed formed about a quarter of the death sentences; according to official data the unemployment rate is near 4%. […T]he available data shows troubling patterns, Amnesty said. The fact that “there are so many farmers and migrant workers being sentenced to death would probably indicate that, as in line with the experience of other countries, relatively poorer people are more likely to be subjected to the death penalty, or are perhaps less able to afford adequate and effective legal representation,” said Nee. [Source] Last November, China carried out the highly controversial death penalty of farmer Jia Jinglong, who in 2015 killed a village official who had ordered his home demolished. Jia’s sentence triggered a national conversation about both social injustice and the death penalty. The New York Times’ Chris Buckley covers Amnesty’s criticism in the context of Jia Jinglong’s unpopular execution: Court verdicts for Mr. Jia, the executed farmer, are among those that do appear in the open court records. One of his lawyers, Gan Yuanchun, said he had noticed a drop in death sentences in recent years and had successfully pleaded for reducing death sentences to prison terms in dozens of cases. “There’s been an improvement in transparency in enforcement of the death penalty, but total numbers are still not disclosed,” Mr. Gan said by telephone. But Mr. Jia’s case showed Chinese courts still lacked accountability, he said. The courts had ignored the evidence that Mr. Jia had been wronged by the official, who did not give him due compensation for his demolished home, Mr. Gan said. (The Supreme People’s Court publicly defended its decision to approve the execution.) “Of course, that’s not an excuse to kill someone,” Mr. Gan said. “But in using the death penalty, you should consider the misdeeds of the victim.” [Source] © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Amnesty International, death penalty, nie shubin, state secrets, transparencyDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 11
Beijing Offers Cash Rewards for Outing Foreign Spies - Reuters’ Christian Shepherd reports that the Beijing City National Security Bureau has ramped up an ongoing campaign against espionage by offering cash rewards of 10,000 to 500,000 yuan ($1,500 to $73,000) for information resulting in the exposure of a foreign spy: The “pressing” need for new measures to guard against foreign spies is an unfortunate side-effect of China’s reform and opening up to the world, the official Beijing Daily newspaper said. “Foreign intelligence organs and other hostile forces have also seized the opportunity to sabotage our country through political infiltration, division and subversion, stealing secrets and collusion,” it added. […] Working with employees of state organizations to harm China’s national interests, encouraging defection and buying state secrets are potential spy behaviors that could be reported, the paper said. Discovering espionage equipment, such as recording and monitoring devices, could bring extra rewards. […] People exploiting the new measures to frame rivals will be held accountable, the paper warned, but good faith errors will attract no reprisals. [Source] The Beijing City National Security Bureau also posted a cartoon video on instructing residents on what to be on guard for, the latest in a series of animated propaganda videos to come in recent years. The cash offer for Beijingers who aid in foiling foreign spies comes after controversial national security and counter-terrorism laws were passed in 2015. The two pieces of legislation were criticized for their wide breadth and potential to be used against those expressing reasonable dissent. The Global Times coverage of the newly announced Beijing initiative quoted a Central Party School professor who said that the West is “overly concerned,” and that “provid[ing] information about spies […] is the legal responsibility of every Chinese citizen.” The cautionary language warning of “foreign hostility” comes as authorities are engaged in a crackdown on “foreign hostile forces,” a term often used by the government to point blame for domestic unrest somewhere other than on state policies. In late 2015, authorities in Jilin launched a hotline for the reporting of suspected espionage. Last year, posters were reportedly hung around Beijing warning young women to beware of “handsome, romantic, talented foreign boyfriends” posing as lovers in effort to steal state secrets. Cash rewards were reportedly also used to gather information about foreign journalists attempting to cover protests in Wukan last year, another situation that authorities claimed was stoked by “foreign forces.” The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer notes that the reward offer came as presidents Xi and Trump were agreeing to strengthen cross-Pacific social and cultural exchanges, citing concern that the campaign could counter those efforts: Li Fan, founder of the private think tank World and China Institute, noted that the new rules were issued just days after President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had vowed to strengthen social and cultural exchanges between their two countries. “This is absolutely inexplicable and absurd,” Li said. “I don’t know what the government is thinking about.” […] Li said the new rules could fuel mistrust toward foreigners in Beijing, including journalists. […] “How can foreign media report here?” he asked. “If you take a photo on the street, somebody will report you as a hostile foreign spy. People will be more cautious to talk to foreign media.” Li said the instructions reminded him of the Cultural Revolution, a tumultuous decade in the history of Communist China when husbands, wives and children were encouraged to denounce one another. [Source] The use of cash incentives to solicit security information from citizens has been used extensively in the violence-prone Xinjiang region, which is currently the frontline of a long-running nationwide crackdown on terrorism. The Washington Post’s Denyer also noted that the Beijing bureau explained the reward campaign as part of the national security apparatus’ decision to “gradually build up a steel Great Wall against spies and espionage,” which resembles rhetoric used recently by Xi Jinping, who called for a “great wall of iron” around Xinjiang. The South China Morning Post’s Kristin Huang quotes security experts on the capital city’s cash reward offer: Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said these kinds of offerings were meant to rally the public and grab attention. “Clearly China wants to be alert to spies, but this also gives the public the sense of having threats from outside that they need to mobilise against,” Pantucci said. “This will give them the sense that the government needs to be there to be their great protector, but also will focus attention away from other domestic concerns. It also helps justify an increasing security effort at home.” […] Veerle Nouwens, a research analyst also from the Royal United Services Institute, said the move pointed to official distrust of foreign entities on the mainland. Nouwens said overseas intelligence services were likely to be most interested in information on the government, the party, military reform and security policies. [Source] © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: espionage, foreign hostile forces, national security, propagandaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 10
Badiucao: Travel Ban on Wife of Detained Taiwan Activist - CDT cartoonist Badiucao continues his series of portraits of political detainees in China with one of Taiwanese NGO worker activist Lee Ming-che, who went missing after entering China from Macau on March 19. Mainland authorities have offered little explanation of his situation beyond an eventual acknowledgement that he was being held on suspicion of endangering national security. Lee’s online discussions of Taiwanese democracy with mainland friends and distribution of political books to them may have been a factor. The case, which prompted protest from activists and NGOs, has widely been seen as a reflection of the chilled climate for civil society under China’s recently implemented foreign NGO management law. Officials’ near silence on the case prompted Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, to announce that she would travel to Beijing in search of answers. She was due to leave on Monday, but as Chris Horton reports at The New York Times, the trip was blocked: The wife, Lee Ching-yu, said at a news conference at Taoyuan International Airport, in northern Taiwan, that her mainland travel permit had been canceled by China, making her ineligible to board her Monday afternoon flight to seek answers about the whereabouts and status of her husband, Lee Ming-cheh. […] It appears that China may have contacted Ms. Lee through unofficial channels in an attempt to silence her. Ms. Lee said an unofficial “fixer” presented her with a photocopied letter on Friday that seemed to have been written by her husband. Claiming that he had written the letter against his will, Ms. Lee said she would not accept any letter or statement by her husband until she had seen him. Ms. Lee said the fixer told her that if she ceased her public campaign to highlight Mr. Lee’s plight, he would then be released, but if she persisted, a Guangdong television station would broadcast a confession made by Mr. Lee. Coerced televised confessions have become common under China’s president, Xi Jinping. “I ask you this,” Ms. Lee said at the airport while holding the photocopied letter, “If this isn’t a threat, what is?” [Source] Taiwanese authorities have protested the travel ban. Read more on the rise in televised confessions via CDT. Hong Kong’s Apple Daily published the fixer’s account of their meeting, which was partially translated by Emily Y. Wu on Twitter. “To help Mr. Lee,” he reportedly explained, “a positive negotiation environment must be established. Some of the oppositional activities must stop. Only then can negotiations continue.” He added that “since my identity has been exposed, I must excuse myself from the effort.” Taiwan’s relative freedom was highlighted last week by Reporters Without Borders’ decision to locate its new Asian bureau there instead of in Hong Kong, where Beijing’s increasingly assertive influence has fueled mounting concern. On Sunday, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je commented that Hong Kong “is not only small, but it also does not have democratic elections. What is there to envy in Hong Kong? It doesn’t even have a soul that is free.” Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong warned in response that “Hong Kong is tomorrow’s Taiwan. […] when it comes to the China factor, it is necessary for Hongkongers and Taiwanese to join hands.” Meanwhile, a Taipei court jailed 11 on Monday over the occupation of Taiwan’s legislative chamber in 2014. Twenty-two others were acquitted last month. The occupation was part of the student-led Sunflower Movement, which arose from suspicion of economic integration between Taiwan and China. CNN’s James Griffiths profiled Badiucao last week, describing his background and new life in Australia, and presenting a selection of his cartoons, installations, and performance art. You can support Badiucao by buying ”Watching Big Brother: Political Cartoons by Badiucao,” available in EPUB and PDF formats. The book covers the early years of Xi’s presidency, from December 2013 to January 2016. No contribution is required, but all donations will go to Badiucao to support his artwork. CDT is also selling merchandise featuring Badiucao’s work in our Zazzle store, with all profits again going to the artist. See also interviews with the artist by CDT, PRI’s The World and Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s RN. Many of his earlier cartoons are available via CDT. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: badiucao, civil society, foreign ngos, lee ming-che, NGOs, Taiwan democracy, Taiwan protests 2014, Taiwan relations, travel to china, WeChatDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 10
U.S. Views of China Improve as Economic Concerns Ease - The Pew Research Center has released new survey results showing that Americans’ perception of China has improved in recent years. The overall increase in favorable views is due in part to diminishing concerns about economic threats from China as the U.S. trade deficit with the country narrows. Catherine Wong at South China Morning Post reports: The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Centre between February and March, shows that some 44 per cent of Americans have a favourable opinion of China, up from 37 per cent a year ago. “The growth in positive ratings for China may be due in part to declining concerns about economic threats from China,” said the report. For example, only 44 per cent of respondents in this year’s poll saw the US trade deficit as a very serious problem, compared to 61 per cent in 2012. The latest figures from the US Commerce Department show that the US trade deficit declined sharply in February, as imports from China fell by a record amount and American exports rose for a third straight month. […] The Pew survey showed that concerns about “the loss of US jobs to China” and “the large amount of American debt that is held by China” have also witnessed a significant decline, although these issues remain among the top five concerns. [Source] Gallup also reports that Americans’ views of China is at its most positive in three decades. The polling firm found a noticeable difference in perception by political affiliation, with Democrats viewing China more favorably than Republicans. From Lydia Saad at Gallup: Since settling into favorable ratings near 40% in 2001, China’s image has generally improved among Democrats and — to a lesser extent — political independents, while it has sagged among Republicans. Partisan divergence has been especially wide since 2011, when Democrats’ favorability toward China first crossed the 50% mark; during the same period, Republicans’ has been no higher than 40%. Although President Donald Trump is known for his tough stance toward China on trade, Republican skepticism about China clearly predates Trump’s rise in the Republican Party after he announced his candidacy for president in 2015. Today, 58% of Democrats and 53% of independents view China favorably, well exceeding the 38% of Republicans with this perspective. However, the six-percentage-point rise in China’s overall favorability in the past year, from 44% to 50%, is explained by increases among both Democrats and Republicans. [Source] In a separate survey of 16 countries, the Pew Research Center found that China is no longer perceived as the world’s economic superpower, with the U.S. now taking the lead. From David Yanofsky at Quartz: Of eight countries asked this question every year since 2008, only the French still see China as the world’s most powerful economy. Just four years ago, in 2013, respondents in six of those eight countries were more likely to pick China over the US. Even Americans picked China over their homeland in that year. By contrast, in the most recent release of the survey, only three of 16 countries picked China over the US: France, Canada, and Australia. In the results of another Pew survey announced today, the US is more concerned with China’s economic strength (52% of respondents) than its military strength (36%.) 89% of Americans think that the amount of US debt owned by China is “somewhat serious” or “very serious.” 81% were worried about the US’s trade deficit with China and 84% were concerned for the loss of US jobs to China. [Source] Despite this change in the public’s perception of China’s relative economic strength, the country’s economic miracle continues to draw countries to emulate its model of success. In an interview with Ian Johnson at The New York Times, China scholar Sebastian Heilmann discusses the link between China’s economic success and its political system and whether it can serve as a viable model for other countries. A key question you pose is how much of China’s success can be ascribed to this political system. What’s the answer? There are several important elements. One is the party successfully sets long-term political goals, such as the modernization of industry or technology, or infrastructure planning. As Deng Xiaoping made clear in the 1980s, it can concentrate resources in priority areas. I see this as a strength in the initial phase of development, from say the 1980s to the mid-2000s. Another crucial element is experimentation. This is something we ignore in the West — how unexpectedly flexible China’s deeply bureaucratic system can be. This flexibility has been demonstrated in the ability to set up pilot projects in special economic zones, in local tests — such as for housing reform or bankruptcy in state enterprises. Very difficult measures were regularly tested in pilot projects for several years before national laws were enacted. […] Ironically, it’s only now that some countries are looking at China as a model. Can it be a model? For many years I would have said no, but many countries are struggling with how to deal with pressing basic problems like maintaining internal security, building physical infrastructure and providing jobs. These are the basis of populist movements around the world. China is a point of orientation. It can’t be duplicated because these other countries don’t have a Communist Party with the special history and features of China’s. But in terms of considering illiberal, state-directed solutions, China is often cited as an example of how an authoritarian government can deal with things differently. China’s experience is thus a permanent question mark for the world when they ask if the Western model is the best. [Source] At Bloomberg View, Tyler Cowen looks at how China’s success creates an allure for authoritarianism and why we should not underestimate the pull of governing ideologies and the human desire to mimic even when the system under question is flawed. If I look back at the 20th century, I am struck by the pull exerted by powerful governing ideologies, even when those systems were evil or failing. Thousands of intellectuals endorsed Stalinism, even after many of its worst practices came to light. Marxism in its broader forms had more adherents yet. Extreme right-wing ideologies exercised a strong pull as well, at least until they became America’s outright enemies as the Second World War approached. Mussolini’s fascism was quite popular with many Americans, including New Deal intellectuals and leaders. You can scold the sympathizers for their naivete or illiberal tendencies, but there is a deeper truth. Individuals have a mimetic desire to copy or praise or affiliate what is perceived as successful, and a lot of our metrics of success have to do with power rather than freedom or prosperity. So if there is a powerful system on the world stage, many of us will be drawn to it and seek to emulate it, without always being conscious of the reasons for those attractions. […] Of course, outright ideological admiration for the Chinese system is pretty hard to come by in the U.S., unlike the kinds of affection formerly expressed for Soviet communism. Nonetheless general praise for the Chinese miracle is pretty common. And the successes of foreign authoritarianism may be an underappreciated factor inducing the U.S., the U.K., Turkey, Hungary and Poland to come up with their own home brews of the ideas. It might be that the current incarnation of the Chinese Communist Party is too nationalistic, and too atheoretical, to inspire much direct loyalty. Nonetheless the economic successes of China and some other countries may have helped create an underlying crisis of confidence in liberal ideas and values. In Africa, for instance, Ethiopia and Rwanda have been improving living standards fairly rapidly, but they too have moved toward authoritarianism systems. [Source] © cindyliuwenxin for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: gallup, Pew Global Attitudes Survey, polls, public opinion, U.S. China business competition, U.S. economy, views of ChinaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 9
Dalai Lama’s Tawang Visit Rekindles Reincarnation Debate - The 14th Dalai Lama today reached Tawang, a small Himalayan district which while historically part of Tibet, is today administered by Arunachal Pradesh, India, a border region largely claimed by Beijing. In recent months, Beijing has been increasingly vocal in its opposition to the ongoing trip—the Dalai Lama’s first since 2009 to the region where he rested after fleeing China in 1959. This week, China Daily published an editorial urging “Beijing […] not [to] hesitate to answer blows with blows” for New Delhi allowing the Dalai Lama to “visit Southern Tibet, a historical Chinese territory India has illicitly occupied.” The region has also long been considered a candidate for the birthplace of the next Dalai Lama, an eventuality that in recent years has become increasingly uncertain. Since 2014, the aging Dalai Lama has repeatedly suggested that he could be the last incarnation in a centuries old political and spiritual tradition; Beijing has countered by asserting its right to name his successor. At The New York Times, Ellen Barry reports on Tawang’s historic relevance to Tibetan Buddhism, on the Dalai Lama’s ongoing visit to the region, and on the political motives that an expert sees in the trip: At stake on this journey, scholars said, is the monumental question of who will emerge as the Dalai Lama’s successor — and whether that successor, typically a baby identified as the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, will live inside or outside China’s zone of influence. […] Tawang is home to the Monpa people, who practice Tibetan Buddhism and once paid tribute to rulers in Lhasa, 316 miles to the north. Though the town’s population is about 11,000, officials said they were expecting as many as 60,000 to gather for the Dalai Lama’s appearances at Tawang’s monastery this weekend. […] The most treasured lore among the Monpa surrounds Tsangyang Gyatso, who in 1682 became the sixth Dalai Lama. People here make pilgrimages to his childhood home, where a stone is displayed with a faint footprint said to be his, and speak longingly of the possibility that it could happen again. “That is the dream of many people here, that the next Dalai Lama should be born in Tawang,” said Sang Phuntsok, Tawang’s deputy commissioner. […] […] Aging Tibetan Buddhist lamas have, in some cases, visited places where they would later be reincarnated as babies, and the Dalai Lama’s visits to Tawang and Mongolia seemed to fall into that pattern, said Robert J. Barnett, a historian of modern Tibet at Columbia University. “This is a way of getting under the skin of the Chinese, of probing them, and reminding them that they have no control over where the next reincarnation occurs,” he said. [Source] If “getting under the skin” of Beijing was the Dalai Lama’s main objective, he appears to have succeeded. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying fielded several questions about the visit in her April 6 regular press conference. After a first question regarding Beijing’s plan to protest New Delhi’s invite (protest has been formally lodged, she said), Hua explained how Beijing views the situation as a questioning of the “one-China policy”: […] Q: Is China’s objection to Dalai Lama’s visit to the “Arunachal Pradesh” driven by the view that India is questioning the one-China principle by inviting the Dalai Lama? A: I want to stress once again that on major issues concerning China’s territorial sovereignty and national security, China’s position is consistent. The boundary question and Tibet-related issues bear on China’s core interests. By extending an invitation to the Dalai Lama and approving his activities in the disputed eastern section of the China-India boundary, the Indian side has breached its commitment on Tibet-related issues, further escalated the boundary dispute, and undermined mutual trust and relations between China and India. The Chinese side opposes the Dalai Lama’s visit to the disputed area and any country’s provision of venues for his anti-China separatist activities. As I have said, the Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the Indian side in Beijing and New Delhi respectively. We urge the Indian side to stop its erroneous act of using the Dalai Lama to harm China’s interests. […] Q: You just said that other countries should respect China’s core interests. Media reports say that the reason why India invited the Dalai Lama to the “Arunachal Pradesh” was because China did not respect India’s core interests in issues such as joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). What is your comment on that? A: We have unequivocally expressed our opposition to India’s approval of Dalai Lama’s activities in the disputed eastern section of the China-India boundary. We will not speculate about India’s motive. What I want to stress is that India has violated its commitment on Tibet-related issues, fueled boundary dispute and hurt China’s interests and China-India relations by arranging Dalai Lama’s activities in the disputed eastern section of the China-India boundary in disregard of China’s concerns. The Chinese side is firmly against that. Mutual respect and mutual accommodation of each other’s core interests and major concerns serves as a foundation for the steady growth of China-India relations. The Indian side should honor its commitment, match its words with actions, stop its wrong moves and do more to increase mutual trust with China and safeguard the overall interests of China-India relations with concrete actions. As for India’s application for the NSG membership, the Chinese side has elaborated on its position many times. It is a multilateral issue that should be resolved by all NSG members through consultation. The Chinese side supports NSG members in working out, on the basis of thorough discussion, a non-discriminatory solution that is applicable to all non-NPT states through open and transparent inter-governmental procedures. [Source] For its part, New Delhi has denied that the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh is politically significant. The Hindu notes that China Daily’s editorial also evoked the one-China policy, drawing a parallel between Tibet and Taiwan, and also quoted from a Reuters interview with a top Arunachal Pradesh official sure to raise hackles in Beijing: “New Delhi not only allowed the 14th Dalai Lama to visit Southern Tibet, a historical Chinese territory India has illicitly occupied and refers to as ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, but the spiritual leader of ‘Tibetan independence’ was also escorted on the trip by India’s junior minister of home affairs. To Beijing, that is a double affront,” the [China Daily] edit[orial] said. […] The daily took exception to remarks by the Minister of State for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju that, “China should not object to the Dalai Lama’s visit and interfere in India’s internal affairs.”“(Mr.) Rijiju might think himself cute in borrowing a line from Beijing’s diplomatic representations, but he has ignored the fundamental distinction here: Like Taiwan and any other part of China, Tibet is a part of Chinese territory no matter whether New Delhi agrees or not. Southern Tibet, on the other hand, was stolen from China by his country’s former colonial master taking advantage of China’s internal strife.” Earlier in an interview with Reuters, Pema Khandu, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh was quoted as saying that ,“As far as the boundary issue is concerned, I have also maintained that we don’t share our boundary with China, but we share our boundary with Tibet”. Analysts say that the statement can be interpreted as questioning the “One-China” principle. [Source] Recently, Beijing has been situating its controversial choice for the Panchen Lama—the second highest cleric in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism overseen by the Dalai Lama—into a higher profile. Last summer, the controversial young cleric oversaw a Kalachakra initiation ceremony in Shigatse, marking the first time the tantric ritual had been held in Tibet since the Dalai Lama left in 1959. More recently, Beijing’s Panchen Lama urged monastic Tibetans to “love the Party.” The boy that the Dalai Lama identified as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 disappeared, and Beijing installed its own choice. While Chinese authorities claim that the disappeared Panchen Lama is “living a normal life and wishes not to be disturbed,” calls for the disclosure of his whereabouts  continue to resound. Beijing’s intervention in Tibetan Buddhist affairs—a right it claims to have inherited from its imperial predecessors—reflects an assertive attitude that critics see as exacerbating tensions with ethnic and religious minorities, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Arunachal Pradesh, border disputes, Dalai Lama, diplomacy, India border, India relations, one-China policy, reincarnation, TibetDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 7
Charting the Rise of a Global Information Power: An Interview with Shanthi Kalathil - Over the past few years, the view that China has become a more sophisticated wielder of soft power has gained traction. Specialists focusing on Chinese efforts to influence foreign journalists and media outlets, international internet governance forums, and Hollywood productions have separately documented the ways that these avenues of control have developed to align with the state’s goals. Through a recent report with the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy, “Beyond the Great Firewall: How China Became a Global Information Power,” Director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies Shanthi Kalathil has been the first to analyze all three of these spheres of influence in tandem, arguing that they signify a long-term vision for expanding Chinese soft power. Kalathil has discussed findings from the report with CDT: China Digital Times: How would you define the term “information power”? Shanthi Kalathil: I think I put the term out there partly to be a little bit provocative. There are more ways to become a great power than simply to rely on hard power. In the report, I talk about how China has focused specifically on marshaling information resources as a comprehensive form of power it’s trying to define for itself. What’s fascinating to me is that I think China is really an innovator in this space, in seeing power in this way. While it’s ongoing, and it’s not something that’s clearly laid out—although you see references to this kind of approach in a variety of Chinese documents—it’s quite an interesting way of conceptualizing power in the modern age. What I tried to do in this report is just pick off one slice of that. CDT: Your research traces how the Chinese government and private sector have cooperatively strategized to gain control over international news media, the global internet, and Hollywood. Could you explain how you came to choose these three spheres of influence, and what the tactics deployed in each are? SK: I had been tracking a lot of these issues for a number of years, starting with primarily looking at how China manages information domestically. Some of the ways I saw come up most often were in these three areas. There’s a certain subset of groups that look specifically at China’s influence over media, looking at both China’s state-owned media organs and state-affiliated media presence. There’s others that track foreign journalists. Then there’s a different set of people and analyses around China and development of the internet, and its cyber policies and internet governance. And then I separately started to see a lot being written looking at China’s cultural influence, soft power, the emergence of Confucius Institutes and other initiatives. Specifically in the U.S. trade press, I started looking at how Chinese companies are partnering up with Hollywood companies. What really piqued my interest is that I started to see it in some of the movies I was watching on my own free time. Because I was already attuned to this issue I started noticing that a lot of blockbusters portray China in a positive light, and it seemed to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Certainly in movies within the past five years, I would say, it seemed to become more prominent. In a lot of the really big movies I would see similar themes come up, and I thought it would be interesting to try to not just look at these issues separately, because so far they’ve been somewhat compartmentalized, but to look at them together—to look at them as a unified Chinese influence strategy. There’s been a lot of coverage of the media space. Press freedom organizations would talk about how foreign journalists were harassed in China, how China is trying to influence foreign coverage. That’s certainly not a new thing but since Xi Jinping came to power, we’ve seen that intensify. And I think one relatively new aspect that has become more overt is the extent to which China tries to apply market-based pressure to curtail reporting that’s critical of the Chinese government. They recently re-branded CCTV, and are calling it CGTN. They’ve rebranded CCTV over the years a number of times, but they do seem to be putting additional resources behind it. What’s interesting to me is that I think I remember about ten years ago maybe, there was a lot of talk about trying to make these big state organs more competitive [in the market], and I don’t really hear that much anymore. It’s almost as if they’ve walked back from that approach. They’re willing to pour more money into making these state-based media companies successful. I don’t know how they define success, but I think that there’s an increased realization on their part that maybe when you let [the media outlets] become too dependent on being competitive in the market, they start to veer into ideologically dangerous territory. So now they’re really focusing on beefing up the overseas media presence, on trying to use different channels to promote state-based or state-affiliated media. Some of them are still pretty clunky—the English-language feeds of the Chinese state media online, People’s Daily, China Daily—I don’t think they’re really there yet in terms of sophistication. Some of the newer efforts, like Sixth Tone, are really interesting. They’re trying to push the envelope and appeal to a younger, hipper audience and present stories that are much more complex about China, especially going to a foreign audience. You’ll see stories that’ll appear especially on Sixth Tone that try to present a more nuanced, in-depth look at issues happening in China, but they always stop short of directly touching any of these sensitive topics. I think one of the more interesting aspects of the internet space is the extent to which China is slowly trying to become more involved in internet governance, influencing the norms that govern the global internet as well as the actual policies that are emerging. They’ve been active diplomatically in some of these forums, they’re trying to become increasingly involved in shaping how the internet is going to evolve. They see it as this platform that they need to control, as something they have a stake in. I think you also see this in industrial policy. I think China is really looking ahead to the emerging Internet of Things, how data is used to connect objects. That’s where you see the tie-in between these overarching emphases on information, data, and promotion of certain industrial policies that seek to be the market movers in this space. China’s investing a lot into capabilities to take advantage of this emerging data-enabled white goods space, trying to set the standards by being the first to market in many of these areas. Hollywood was fascinating, because what they’ve done there is used the tactic they’ve long used domestically, which is to co-opt the private sector by offering up tremendous rewards. You have the ability to tap huge domestic markets if you play by the rules. Currently foreign films are restricted in a number of ways from entering the Chinese market. Right now there are only 34 films that are allowed in under the revenue-sharing model, but there is an unlimited amount through Chinese co-production. If you’re a Hollywood studio and trying to get into the Chinese market, there’s a large incentive to partner with Chinese companies to make sure there are few barriers to entry. Of course, a significant potential barrier is the state censor, which is ultimately under the jurisdiction of the State Council. They’re proactively going through and making sure that from the moment that a film is conceived, from the screenwriter all the way through production, there aren’t any elements that will stop films from being a success in China and that they’re more likely to penetrate that market. It’s really a market-driven decision, it’s not that U.S. companies have any innate desire to promote these positive messages of China. It’s something that’s happening by default due to restrictions and because the Chinese market is now increasingly huge and important. One interesting thing that happened after I finished the report was finally looking at how this big new joint venture, The Great Wall fared. It really didn’t fare that well. China’s been using its market to power a lot of these policies that sometimes don’t work the way they want it to. The Great Wall was supposed to be the big test of the U.S.-China film production model. CDT: What are some of the long-term implications you foresee arising as a result of these actions? SK: I think a long-term implication is enshrinement of these authoritarian norms. When you see this management of information on such a large scale that penetrates a wide variety of fields, I think it’s quite concerning. There aren’t any efforts to look at a wide range of these efforts, because as I said before, the communities of people that tend to focus on these issues are quite fragmented. Without the whole picture, you’re not really able to grasp the full implications. CDT: In your report you discuss the Chinese government’s “Internet power” (网络强国, wangluo qiangguo) phrase, which has appeared in numerous policy documents and speeches over the past few years. Could you describe how it originated and the significance it now holds? I first saw it in the run-up to the Five Year Plan and I think the concept is still at the heart of the 13th Five-Year Plan. I think they’ve kept it deliberately somewhat vague. It does draw on a number of existing and previous policies on ensuring domestic innovation in the internet and technology space. Part of it is what they call “Internet Plus,” which is essentially the Internet of Things, I just think they’re calling it something different—basically trying to weave corporate big data into manufacturing. I think you could wrap the Made in China 2025 effort into that. There’s also encouraging these domestic homegrown Chinese internet giants to expand overseas. In essence it’s a sort of classic strategy of eliminating foreign competition during the incubation stage, Tencent, Alibaba, and Sina Weibo, all these things that were allowed to flourish in the absence of international competitors in the Chinese market are now big and have a lot of power. I think that’s all part of the internet power strategy and a lot of that is market-based. The Five-Year plan is not really an exact blueprint for how this will play out but there’s been a signal that these are the industries, this is the area that should be promoted going forward. CDT: At one point you note that China’s current censorship techniques are not limited to the conventional understanding of the term. What has changed? SK: For that I’d go back to some of my original research on this topic. Back in 2000 and 2001 I started researching some of these issues, and of course the internet looked really different then. People would use the term censorship then to refer to when you couldn’t get to a website, but really there’s this tremendously dynamic Chinese internet space now. Since the years when I did my original research on a book that I coauthored on China, Cuba, and other authoritarian regimes, there’s been a huge evolution and quality shift. Now, not only their content, but also their huge companies that are powering all this, are incredibly sophisticated. I think a lot of Chinese internet users know they’re not getting the access necessarily to the global internet but that matters less now because there’s such a variety of things you can do just using Chinese apps and messaging. And so, certainly there’s censorship but it’s become much more fine-grained. I think it was easier to make this case before Xi Jinping tightened media controls, you did see a lot of boundary-pushing in that space, and sort of a broad emphasis on censoring only the most sensitive topics. Now I think things have chilled more, but you still see a lot of dynamism in that space. CDT: What kinds of reactions have you seen coming out of China in response to the information control tactics you have identified? SK: The Chinese netizens know what their internet looks like and I think there’s a high degree of that sort of self-awareness and ability to mock these things. Chinese internet users are making fun of the product placement of Chinese products in Hollywood films. There’s a real self-awareness there and there are memes that are spread around even though they get censored. Some of them are really fascinating and they resemble the global meme culture. I think Chinese internet users are quite sophisticated despite not gaining access to the global internet. CDT: Do you have suggestions for how policymakers, media corporations, internet companies, or other actors can respond to the troubling soft power developments you document in this report, and in particular to the “authoritarian information age” you allude to in your conclusion? SK: I didn’t focus on policy recommendations in the report. I honestly feel like that’s a whole other report to explore. I do think that democracies have to do a better job of recognizing this is happening and drawing upon their core strengths to respond. One of these strengths is the ability to promote free expression and diversity, to actively counter some of these measures to try to chill these global platforms’ speech and expression. For instance, I think a lot of what’s happening in the internet governance forums is known to people deeply engaged in that space and not necessarily to the broader community. Just making some of these issues more well-known is helpful. Looking at how different companies, not just internet but other media companies, behave in the global space, and examining their policies—basically providing some transparency and accountability would be helpful because you can really see to what extent they are pressured by authoritarian governments to adjust their policies. There are several initiatives that are already looking at aspects of this, such as the Global Network Initiative, and Ranking Digital Rights at New America. They just came out with a really interesting report that included two Russian and two Chinese companies. I think on a global scale it’s really important to look at those companies and platforms, also including just for comparison’s sake some of these emerging and really big companies. Baidu and Tencent are huge companies, so including them in some of these ranking efforts to promote transparency, is also really important because it puts them in the global context in which they compete.     © anminda for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: exporting censorship, external propaganda, foreign media, hollywood, information control, Internet governance, soft power, state mediaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 7
Concerns Mount Over Press Freedom in Hong Kong - Concerns over the erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong have grown in recent years, bolstered by a brutal attack on an editor of Ming Pao newspaper and the firing of another, threats against Sing Pao Daily News, and the sale of the South China Morning Post to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. According to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, perceptions of press freedom in the territory have risen very slightly over the past year, while 72% of media workers feel press freedom conditions have worsened in that time. From Jeffie Lam at the South China Morning Post: The annual Press Freedom Index for journalists rose 1.2 points to 39.4 out of 100, while the index for the general public increased slightly by 0.6 points to 48. The index measures a group’s perception of media freedom in their society. The positive development however came despite 72 per cent of media workers surveyed in the poll saying that they felt overall press freedom in Hong Kong had worsened in the past year. “I believe one of the factors behind the mild increase is the rise of online media last year, which has diversified news coverage and the angles of reportage,” association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said on Thursday. [Source] Financial difficulties are now threatening some of the new online media, which had helped to diversify Hong Kong’s media environment. Initium, a Chinese-language website that focuses on longform writing, is facing major cutbacks due to a lack of funding. i-Cable, a 24-hour Cantonese-language news network which has an investigative team in China, has also been threatened with closure after losing its funding. As a result of concerns over the status of the media and, more generally, encroaching Chinese political control, in Hong Kong, the French press freedom organization Reporters without Borders has announced that it will open its first Asia bureau in Taipei instead of Hong Kong as planned. Chris Horton at The New York Times reports: Mr. Deloire said that the Paris-based organization, also known as Reporters Sans Frontières, decided against Hong Kong because of “a lack of legal certainty for our entity and activities.” He also cited the possibility that staff members would be put under surveillance. The announcement is a reversal of fortune for both Hong Kong and Taiwan. When Reporters Without Borders was founded in 1985, Hong Kong was a British colony with a high degree of press freedom, while Taiwan was at the tail end of four decades of martial law. “I don’t blame Reporters Without Borders for jilting Hong Kong,” said Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong legislator who was a journalist before entering government. Ms. Mo said that before returning to Chinese control in 1997, Hong Kong had led Asia in press freedom, but that under Chinese sovereignty, “it’s been going downhill.” [Source] © Sophie Beach for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Hong Kong media, press freedom, RSF, Taiwan mediaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 6
Minitrue: Delete Information on Sichuan Student’s Death - The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source. All websites, immediately delete information related to the death of a student in Taifu, Lu County. Only official reports may be published. (April 2) [Chinese] Zhao Xin, a 14-year-old middle school student, was found dead outside his middle school in Taifu, Sichuan on Saturday. Police claimed that evidence ruled out homicide, but rumors suggested that Zhao had been bullied to death by five classmates including children of powerful local figures, and that the bullying had previously been reported to police, who did nothing. The contradiction sparked protests by hundreds of local residents. The police’s alleged negligence has prompted comparisons with the similarly controversial case of Yu Huan, a 23-year-old Shandong man who killed a loan shark threatening his mother after police failed to intervene. Yu was given a life sentence which is now under review following a public outcry. Local authorities have taken a number of aggressive measures, in addition to the city-level directive above, to contain the unrest and stop it spreading. Radio Free Asia’s Chinese service cited a local source who said that Zhao’s relatives are under house arrest; that special police are stationed at the protest site in Lu County on high alert, frequently taking away protesters; and that local authorities are clamping down on news and social media. According to South China Morning Post, a local woman claimed that “local party officials had offered us 50 yuan each to become witnesses saying the boy had committed suicide.” Global Times reports that Lu County police are holding four people for “inciting the public and severely disturbing public order” by spreading “fake information” about the case. An update published by the prefectural public security bureau on Wednesday promised an investigation and autopsy, but also warned of a further crackdown on starting or spreading rumors, according to RFA. The network also highlighted what appears to be a leaked memo from the public security bureau in nearby Nanchong prefecture. The notice described an online call for further protests in Nanchong on April 15 under the slogan “Give justice back to the student, give rule-of-law society back to Sichuan, and stop corruption.” Two people named in the memo as the author and a respondent could not be reached by RFA, and are believed to have been detained. The two documents, RFA reports, sparked a fresh wave of protest online. Radio France Internationale’s Chinese service summed up some online reactions to the case in general: As public indignation mounted and the truth remained unclear, some people posted on Weibo: “The crucial thing is to dig out the truth of the matter, not to spend money blockading and pushing back public anger.” @Guohongkuidaoyan wrote, “He took a steel pipe to strike himself, beat himself half to death, then leapt to his death from a building. The news reports have already said that the public security organs have evidence to rule out murder. Stick with the Party, no matter what. Love the Party, support the Party; don’t believe, spread, or start rumors; listen to the Party and walk with the Party. If the Party says he fell to his death, he fell to his death. The unruly people shouldn’t bring trouble to the nation.” @Zhoupenshizhoulaoshi said: “The mass protests in Luzhou are not because of the death, but because of your approach to handling the case, joining forces with the school to cover it up … All the rumors were forced out by your information blockade. Temporarily withholding the cause of death and then suppressing us with police is also admirable … the reason the people don’t believe you is that you never planned to let us know about the school death at all.” Other users feel that the way to dampen public anger is with timely information transparency and news reports, and that blockading information and deleting and suppressing discussion inevitably breeds all kinds of rumors. To then round up the people who started and spread the rumors makes it suppression from start to finish. According to some analyses, if the authorities had released information from the beginning instead of resorting to pressure, intimidation, and censorship, things would never have got to this point. In another analysis, the relevant authorities’ credibility deficit, as in many similar cases, turned an ordinary case into a big one, and a local case into a national one. [Chinese] Even state media have been sharply critical of the local authorities. A Xinhua reporter claimed to have encountered the sort of obstruction more usually described by foreign media in China, and accused local officials of failing to fight rumors with facts and of violating the spirit of Xi Jinping’s landmark February 19, 2016 speech on the role of the news media: Upon arriving in Luzhou to investigate, this reporter realized that the case had gradually developed from its beginnings in the normal judicial channels into the current public assembly, police road blockade, and turbulent popular sentiment. Rumors arise on all sides, but the local authorities have not produced facts to dispel them. This makes me deeply anxious: how long will the people’s fear of the unknown continue? What difficult truths are being held back? These questions require clear-cut answers from the relevant local authorities. […] The explanation for the case still not having been filed for investigation has changed from “there is evidence that rules out homicide” to “there is no evidence to prove homicide.” This reporter feels that the change from “evidence” to “no evidence” places considerably less blame on local authorities. [… The local authorities’] close monitoring made me feel an intangible pressure: wherever I went, someone would “accompany” me. When I, as a journalist, proposed an interview with the victim’s mother, the county Political and Legal Committee secretary Li Chengchun said that she could not be found. When I asked for her telephone number, he said he didn’t have it; when I asked for her address, he mumbled in reply. When on April 4, this reporter broke with great difficulty through these restrictions to run more than 20km along country roads and interview the grandparents and classmates of the deceased, he attracted a “tail” of local cadres following him with all sorts of suggestions, threats, and other interference, leaving interviewees reluctant to tell the truth. The various kinds of harassment by telephone from local parties were even more intolerable. A source tells me that the police are actively working on the victim’s mother to inconvenience journalists, and perhaps for some other hidden reason. […] The words of General Secretary Xi’s February 19 speech are still fresh in the mind, emphasizing the successful completion of the Party’s news and public opinion work, and adherence to news and propaganda rules. First among these is to let the facts speak, let the details speak, and let the people have trust. But in this case, that’s all been completely disregarded. Do the local authorities think that this speech was aimed only at the media, and has nothing to do with them? I look forward to their proper recognition as soon as possible that they should take the initiative in cooperating with reporters to find out the truth of this situation. Only when the facts are allowed to speak will turbulent public feelings subside. [Chinese] Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: censorship, house arrest, Internet control, journalism, media conditions, police, protests, rumors, Sichuan, state media, XinhuaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 6
Person of the Week: Wang Wusi - CDT is expanding its wiki beyond the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon to include short biographies of public intellectuals, cartoonists, human rights activists, and other people pushing for change in China. The wiki is a work in progress. 王五四 Wang Wusi. (Source: I don’t need to wake anyone up. Everyone’s already awake. They just don’t want to get out of bed. —Wang Wusi Wang Yongzhi (王永智) posts social commentary on his public WeChat account under the pen name Wang Wusi. Beloved by readers as much for his modesty as his savvy, internet censors are less enamored of him. His posts often vanish hours after they are first published, and he has been forced to reincarnate his account so often that one fan has dubbed him “the man most deeply hurt by WeChat” (被微信伤害最深的男人). Wang was born in Yantai, Shandong in 1982, and attended Shandong University. Upon graduation in 2005, he took a marketing job in Shenzhen, but left for Hangzhou just six months later to pursue his college girlfriend, and has stayed there ever since. He has been a screenwriter for a Hangzhou animation company and a media manager for Tencent and Phoenix Media. He is now COO of the produce delivery start-up Variety Market (花样菜场), which he also co-founded. While working full-time, Wang launched his first public WeChat account in 2014. He has since attracted hundreds of thousands of loyal followers, who have learned to scavenge for his essays and save what they can find. Wang’s work has even popped up on the adult forum Caoliu. Wang does not shy away from politically sensitive topics—usually, he rushes for them head-on. When a couple copied China’s constitution on their wedding night in 2016, Wang joked that “hostile foreign forces will certainly exploit this” and cautioned Communist Party members to “take a stand.” In a critique of the 2017 CCTV Spring Festival Gala, Wang began, “As I was writing this, I knew it would not be able to evade deletion, because they aren’t allowing any criticism of this year’s Gala. But I still had to write it. It is my destiny.” Wang started writing about social issues on his university BBS forum, where he went by his video game user name, Wang Xiaosan (王小三). Once xiaosan 小三, or “little third,” began to take on a less savory meaning, Wang renamed himself after the two numbers above three, five and four (wusi 五四), as he told Global People in October 2016. But “Five-four” also alludes to the May Fourth Movement, a time of radical political and cultural thought that began with a student protest in Beijing on May 4, 1919. Entry written by Anne Henochowicz. Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Big V, bloggers, Wang Wusi, WeChat, word of the weekDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 6
Trump Urged to Press Xi on Rights, but Credibility Questioned - Activists and others have urged U.S. President Donald Trump to raise human rights issues with China’s Xi Jinping during a two-day meeting this week, but some argue that he lacks credibility to do so. Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson surveyed the rights context of the summit at USA Today on Wednesday: Xi has overseen China’s worst rights rollback since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Peaceful protesters, from feminists raising awareness about sexual harassment to the Tiananmen Mothers, have been met with detention and house arrest. When some Communist Party members wrote to Chinese leaders criticizing their authoritarian tendencies and urging that they resign, authorities responded by detaining 20 people thought to have been involved. Human rights lawyers taking politically sensitive cases to court have not only been blocked from doing so — they’ve also disappeared and been tortured. People campaigning independently, even on topics the authorities say they support, such as anti-corruption or inter-ethnic dialogue, now find themselves rewarded with life sentences. […] Despite talking tough on contentious questions such as Taiwan, trade and the South China Sea, when it comes to human rights, Trump administration officials have seemed unwilling to confront their Chinese counterparts. On his first trip to Beijing as secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said human rights are “embedded in everything we do,” but there was no concrete evidence that they were reflected in anything he did or said. The administration’s unwillingness to sign a letter to Beijing with 11 other countries condemning the torture of Chinese human rights lawyers suggests future timidity rather than toughness. And the similarity of views between U.S. and Chinese officials on human rights touchstones such as treatment of Muslims and press freedom is worrying. [Source] Human Rights Watch also offered a brief overview of rights abuses ahead of the summit on its own site, while the University of Notre Dame’s Michel Hockx further explored similarities between Trump and Xi in an op-ed at CNN on Wednesday. Read more on the 11-country letter, America’s non-participation, and its fueling of existing fears about the Trump administration’s human rights stance via CDT; and on the “extraordinary” reaction by “seriously rattled” Chinese authorities at China Change. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed the latest apparent development in that response on Thursday: the abrupt cancellation two weeks ago of a planned visit to China by members of the federal parliament’s Law Enforcement Committee. Freedom House’s Michael J. Abramowitz encouraged Trump to take three concrete steps during the summit: meetings with representatives of Chinese civil society, condemnation of increased repression under Xi, and naming specific figures of concern, including detained lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Wang Quanzhang, and citizen journalist Huang Qi. The last U.S. administration played down human rights from its first encounters with Beijing and focused primarily on security and economic concerns. But public U.S. support for human rights in China actually protects America’s economic, political, and security interests. Chinese government restrictions on basic freedoms, such as Beijing’s policies of internet censorship and a recently adopted law restricting foreign non-governmental organizations, directly harm U.S. companies and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year. The law was passed over strong objections from U.S. businesses. These same policies constrain ordinary Chinese citizens’ freedom of expression, access to information, and understanding of the United States. […] U.S. leadership on human rights issues is critical to protecting vital interests of the United States. The strongest bilateral relationships are the ones in which leaders can speak honestly and openly with one another. Speaking the truth is an asset to U.S. diplomatic relations and to freedom around the world. A government in China that respects the inherent rights and fundamental freedoms of all people will foster a sincerely cooperative U.S.-China relationship that benefits the people of both countries. Your ability to clearly and publicly communicate this message to President Xi will set the course for a new, more constructive bilateral relationship and stronger partnership between the American and Chinese people. [Source] At South China Morning Post, Orville Schell and Susan Shirk placed a selection of rights issues alongside North Korea, maritime disputes, trade, and climate change as the five priorities Trump should pursue: Trump needs to make clear that the harassment of foreign journalists, blockage of foreign media websites and the denial of visas to foreign correspondents and scholars; restrictions on US think tank activity; constriction of the activities of non-governmental organisations working in China; and the inability of US internet and IT companies to operate normally in China (while their Chinese counterparts operate with complete freedom in the US) are now drastically compromising the ability of China and the US to maintain a healthy relationship. […] What gets written on this blank sheet of paper of the Trump-Xi era when these two leaders meet at Mar-a-Lago will set the course for relations between these two powerful nations. Because there is no good alternative to the US and China working together, it is critical that Trump, even as he pushes back, which in many areas is now called for, must move deliberately, respectfully, and systematically to try to right the relationship and put it on a steady course. [Source] Following a similar call last month, the U.S. government’s Congressional-Executive Committee on China also sought to direct Trump’s attention towards rights issues in a statement on Monday: “As President Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi to Florida, we cannot forget the men and women who languish unjustly in prison, the family members who do not know the fate of their loved ones, and the professionals who have disappeared for simply doing their job,” said CECC Chair Marco Rubio. “These people are not statistics, they are booksellers and pastors, writers and Nobel Laureates, lawyers and rights defenders. While recognizing the broad scope of U.S.-China bilateral relations, it is unacceptable for President Xi to get a pass on human rights. Not only is there a moral imperative to press for dissidents’ immediate and unconditional release, it also aligns with our national interests. No nation that flouts the rule of law at home and disregards the basic rights and inherent dignity of its own citizens can be trusted to be a responsible stakeholder on economic and security issues.” “President Xi has overseen one of the most repressive periods in the post-Mao era. The men and women highlighted here are the human face of this repression. We too easily forget that behind the trade deficits and security concerns, real people pay a huge price for standing up for freedom. For this they are heroes and their unconditional release should be a prominent part of this week’s summit,” said CECC Cochair Chris Smith. “The President has the historic opportunity to change the failed policy assumptions of the past, increased trade and prosperity have not brought political liberalization to China. He should be consistent and strong on human rights protections and rule of law development because China’s failures in these areas critically impact economic relations and regional security. U.S. foreign policy must ensure that China plays by international rules so that our workers can compete on a level playing field; our food, investments, and cyberspace are safe and secure, and the men and women who suffer for freedom in China are protected.” [Source] The CECC’s database of Chinese political prisoners, and the shifting sensitivities it reveals, were the focus of a recent report by The World Post’s Peter Mellgard. At The Guardian, Tom Phillips reported on doubts that the U.S. can now act as a credible rights advocate: Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia director, said Trump’s open contempt for the judiciary and support for policies “in absolute and complete contradiction of human rights obligations under international law”, such as his travel ban, meant the days when Washington could effectively lecture countries like China on human rights were over. “When a repressive government chooses to send someone to jail … they make political calculations about the benefits and costs of putting that person away,” he said. “The fact that the US seems to be abandoning any kind of role in maintaining a consistent message on human rights and protesting human rights violations affects the calculations of these governments. They are just going to think there is no price to pay for political repression. So it will embolden them and at the end of the line human rights defenders in China will pay a heavier price … It is not going to be pretty.” Bequelin said that with Trump in the White House, Beijing would feel “relief that there is no strong moral authority coming from the US anymore”. [Source] The New York Times’ Peter Baker wrote that Trump in any case shows little inclination towards public rights support. His administration has claimed to favor private talks, an approach towards which many activists and others are deeply skeptical. Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His “America First” approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States. The past week has showcased the emerging philosophy. Even before Tuesday’s brutal chemical weapons attack in Syria, the Trump administration had said that pushing out Mr. Assad, Syria’s president, was not a priority, reversing Mr. Obama’s position. On Monday, Mr. Trump welcomed Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to the White House with no public mention of the thousands of political opponents imprisoned there. […] […] Aides said human rights remained a concern for Mr. Trump. But, they added, he believes he will be more effective raising the issue in private. A senior White House official previewing this week’s visit of Mr. Xi of China on the condition of anonymity told reporters on Tuesday that human rights were integral to American foreign policy and would be brought up in the Chinese-American relationship. […] “While there have been strong statements made by senior people in the administration, we haven’t heard that echoed at the top, and that creates confusion about human rights and its place on the president’s foreign policy agenda,” said David J. Kramer, an assistant secretary of state for human rights under Mr. Bush and now a scholar at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Amnesty International, CECC, diplomacy, donald Trump, human rights policy, human rights watch, Rex Tillerson, Xi JinpingDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 5
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Four Big Critiques - In June 2014, a senior inspector from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (the Party’s top graft watchdog) warned that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) (an influential government think tank) had been “infiltrated” by “foreign forces.” This accusation came as two hallmark campaigns of the Xi Jinping administration were gaining momentum: Xi’s ongoing Party corruption cleanup, and a drive to enforce ideological orthodoxy throughout both the Party and society. The warning of infiltration at CASS came after a leaked internal Party memo known as “Document No. 9” exposed Xi’s ideological priorities: to resist “false ideological trends, positions, and activities,” including “Western constitutional democracy,” “universal values,” “Western ideas of journalism,” and “historical nihilism.” (Journalist Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2015 for allegedly leaking the document, but has since been granted medical release to serve the remainder of a reduced sentence under house arrest.) Earlier, as he was in the middle of his gradual accession to top Party and State leader, Xi had warned that a primary reason for the collapse of the USSR was due to “their ideals and beliefs having been shaken.” Since the revelation of Document No. 9, Xi has overseen many related campaigns aimed at preserving Party ideas and beliefs. Xi has reinforced Mao-era Party views on the role of the media, cracked down on liberal microbloggers, and subjected Chinese reporters to mandatory training in the “Marxist view of journalism.” Meanwhile, the nation’s institutes of higher learning have seen a campaign against “Western values,” and a series of legislation has been passed in effort to maintain “ideological security.” Since CASS saw its ranks questioned, the think tank has been hard at work promoting the ideological orthodoxy that Xi’s policies have aimed at. On Weibo last month, user @TongZongjin (@仝宗锦) shared images and prefaces to CASS essay anthologies rallying against some of the undesirable ideological trends outlined in Document No. 9. The first CASS volume, published in December 2015, focuses on essays critiquing “historical nihilism.” The term, which came into favor in China after the pro-democracy movement of 1989, essentially means any telling of history that could challenge the “inevitability” of Chinese socialism or China’s correct place along that trajectory. CDT has translated the preface: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Critical Essays on Historical Nihilism Edited by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Chinese Social Science Press Preface The leadership of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) places the highest degree of importance on the analysis, research, and critique of the current intellectual trend towards historical nihilism, and strives to actively engage in an unyielding struggle against this mistaken historical nihilist trend. Every year, in dealing with the problem of mistaken historical nihilism, my department takes the initiative on official media channels to make use of our willingness to speak out, and our aptitude for speaking out. At the same time, we make use of our full array of theoretical academic publishing and broadcasting platforms (newspapers, journals, websites, conferences and roundtables) to continue to put out a series of critical theoretical essays: This year alone we have completed more than one hundred works on this topic, setting the stage for a large-scale and influential public debate, and confirming our unequivocal opposition to mistaken historical nihilism. Using a critical approach, we have systematically exposed and profoundly explicated the fundamental character, danger, and means of expressing of historical nihilism, while establishing correct historical perspectives and ceaselessly strengthening the freedom of expression and freedom of influence of Marxist ideology and philosophy within the sphere of social science research. We have firmly asserted our right not only to engage in ideological work, but to manage and speak out on the work of others. These efforts have been met with widespread support from academic circles and individuals high and low, earning the overwhelming approval and praise of cadres of every rank. In the struggle against historical nihilism and many other mistaken intellectual trends, the leadership of my department places the highest degree of importance on the cultivation of Marxist ideology for our leading cadres, in addition to the political studies and theoretical ideological education for our researchers and staff. To this end, we have organized annual book clubs for local leading cadres; implemented education courses for management level and above cadres; required ideological studies and Marxist theory composition courses for our entire staff; ideological research think tanks; and Marxist internet armies. These efforts form the basis of a nascent vanguard of Marxist and Party ideological workers. Many of the essays in this collection were written and published by comrades from our organization or professional scholars from affiliated work units; others were composed by external scholars. Our goal in editing this book was to help strengthen our cadres’ grasp of historical materialism and make clear the fundamental character and danger of the intellectual trend, dispelling doubts and explaining away confusion, sorting sources, unifying our thinking, and improving our cognitive goals. End of preface.   [Name Unclear] Director and Party Secretary, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences December 8, 2015 [Chinese] A prominent development in the Party’s campaign against historical nihilism was the takeover last summer of the traditionally liberal journal Yanhuang Chunqiu. A former editor of the journal was also found guilty of defamation for questioning the orthodox account of one episode of revolutionary martyrdom, while blogger Sun Jie (aka Zuoyeben) was ordered to apologize and pay a symbolic one yuan in compensation for mocking two others. In February, two men were sentenced to three-and-a-half and five years in prison for distributing banned books including a history of the Party’s rise to power. The landmark unified civil code whose preamble was a centerpiece of last month’s National People’s Congress gathering seems set to institutionalize the war on historical nihilism: one controversial clause makes it a civil offense to harm “the name, likeness, reputation or glory of heroes and martyrs.” The three volumes “Critical Essays on Neoliberalism,” “Critical Essays on the Theory of ‘Universal Values’,” and “Critical Essays on the Concept of Western Constitutional Democracy,”  were each published in June 2016 with the identical preface, translated below: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Critical Essays on Neoliberalism/Critical Essays on the Theory of “Universal Values”/Critical Essays on the Concept of Western Constitutional Democracy Preface The actual progress of world history demonstrates that the eventual fate of a given nation or people is largely decided by whatever guiding ideology, social system, or path to development is chosen. Facing a new situation wherein our cultural ideology is undergoing a process of exchange, blending, and confrontation, the paramount task facing the frontlines of philosophical social science is not only to persist in upholding Marxism as our guiding ideology, but to engage in meaningful critiques of “universal values,” the concept of “constitutional democracy,” neoliberalism, historical nihilism, democratic socialism, and other mistaken ideologies from this position.  We must place unfailing faith in the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, matched with an equal degree of faith in our theories, and faith in our systems. After the Cold War ended, operating under the aegis of what the West calls “universal values,” one country after another was toyed with and torn apart, some falling into the flames of war, others to everyday chaos: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen are all classic examples. What is clear is that what the system of Western capitalist values brought to these countries was not the “gospel” or “salvation” but instead unmitigated unrest and disaster.  The cruel lesson learned by these countries and regions demonstrates that there are no such thing as eternal values which can be universally applied to all societies, all countries, and all peoples. Values have always been a product of the historical conditions of a specific social, economic, and political realities; and every value is specific, historical, transformative, and inseparable from certain socio-economic and political relationships. So-called abstract “universal values,” superseding social class and history alike, cannot independently exist in the real world.  The “universal values” advocated by certain individuals contain an implicit political position and definite attempt: they are an ideological trap, aimed at our nation, with the goal of destroying the status of Marxism and replacing it with the ideology of the Western bourgeoisie. They are a fundamental negation of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a negation of the guiding status of Marxism, a negation of the state system of the people’s democratic dictatorship, and a negation of the socialist system. In recent years, “constitutional democracy” has emerged in the ideological circles of our nation as another mistaken intellectual trend. Against the backdrop of the Party Central Committee’s comprehensive deployment of its rule by law strategy, certain individuals have seized this opportunity to intentionally confuse “rule by law,” “rule by constitution,” and “constitutional power” with the fundamentally different Western concept of “constitutional democracy.” The development of the political ideal of “constitutional democracy” accompanied the emergence of Western capitalism, gradually developing into the mainstream political and systematic position of the Western bourgeoisie class. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it defines the national ideology, political mode, and institutional design of Western bourgeoisie. But the “constitutional democracy” they advocate for in reality completely negates our nation’s socialist rule by law, our socialist system, our national system of a people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the CCP, and replaces it with Western capitalist concepts and methods of rule by law, enacting a “tripartite separation of powers,” a “multiparty system,” and a “parliamentary system.” In other words, a capitalist system with a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. “Constitutional democracy” clearly does not represent some form of “universal democracy” or even a “universal value” because it cannot be used as the system of rule in every county. Our nation is a socialist nation with a specific history and unique realities. What system or methods are appropriate for our nation should be decided by the national circumstances of our nation. Simply copying the political system or political methods of another country would be pointless, and might even have dire consequences for the future of our nation. China is a socialist nation and a developing superpower. We must make use of the beneficial aspects of foreign political civilizations, but never at the cost of abandoning the fundamental political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The intellectual trend of neo-liberalism entered our nation during the reform and opening period [of the 1980s]. At its most essential, neo-liberalism is the ideological position of the Western bourgeoisie, representing the core concerns and values of the global economic monopoly of capital. By advocating for complete privatization, total marketization, absolute liberalization, and global unification, it establishes a global arena of an international economic monopoly of capital headed by America. After economists in the Western economic capital monopolies of England and America were won over to neo-liberalism, what was once a purely economic system began to adopt a whole series of policies and behaviors advocating for specific ideological positions, concurrent with the rapid spread of neoliberalism across Latin America, Asia and Africa, and Eastern Europe. In the early 90s, the “side-effects” of neoliberalism first started to become apparent: serious harm was done to the economies of a series of neo-liberal countries, leading to social unrest and unspeakable hardship for the common people.  In 2007, the subprime mortgage crisis exploded in America, eventually cascading into a global economic crisis. For the past decade, wanting to kick start their economies while avoiding the developmental difficulties tied to economic deflation, major Western countries beginning with America have found themselves forced to approve ever larger government stimulus packages, infrastructure investments, and other interventionist policies. One might say that the global economic crisis, having its origin in America’s “economic disaster,” announced the complete bankruptcy of neoliberalism. This bankruptcy demonstrates that contemporary capitalism has not fundamentally solved the inherent contradiction which exists between socialized and private production. Periodic economic crises are an unavoidable product of this fundamental contradiction of capitalism. It is precisely because socialist market economics employs a different model, wherein the means of production are held communally, that economic crises are not only avoidable, but also predictable. The success of socialism with Chinese characteristics tells us that it is only the close integration of an allocation system based on communal ownership with market economics, making good use of the “visible hand” and “invisible hand,” that can express the true superiority of the socialist system. [Chinese] Translation by Nick. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, democracy, document 9, historical nihilism, ideology, neoliberalism, universal values, Western valuesDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 5
Detained Taiwanese Activist’s Wife to Seek Answers in Beijing - On March 19, Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che went missing after traveling to China via Macau. Some ten days later, a Chinese official confirmed his “understanding” that Lee had been detained on suspicion of endangering national security. The accusations against him may have involve his WeC postings to mainland friends on Taiwanese democracy, or his distribution of political books. On the other hand, his wife Lee Ching-yu has reportedly received unconfirmed word of potential charges involving Xinjiang separatism, terrorism, and seeking prostitutes. Lee’s whereabouts remain unknown. On Sunday, Chen Wei-han reports at the Taipei Times, a group of prominent Hong Kong and Taiwanese activists gathered in Taipei to highlight his case: New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and former Sunflower movement leaders Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) took part in a Taipei news conference where they condemned Lee’s detention and urged other nations, especially the US, to pay closer attention to China’s human rights violations. Their appeal came ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) scheduled meeting on Thursday with US President Donald Trump. […] Wong said that Lee’s detention and the Trump-Xi meeting were behind his decision to call yesterday’s news conference, because he fears that human rights issues might be pushed aside in the trade-focused talks. […] “The Lee Ming-che case is a touchstone of Beijing’s attitude toward [NGO] activities in China ahead of the Trump-Xi talks. It is yet to be seen whether China will continue to suppress such activities,” Lin said. “The US cannot excuse itself from China’s human rights violations if it wants to reassure its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.” [Source] Rights groups Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, and the U.S. government’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China, have also been among those calling on Trump to press Xi on human rights, but others argue that he lacks much credibility to do so. Further doubt surrounds Trump’s commitment to Taiwan after initial moves variously seen as either bold or reckless. Meanwhile, Lee Ching-yu has arranged to travel to China on April 10 with representatives of the Straits Exchange Foundation to seek information on her husband’s case. Lee says she reluctantly delayed the trip until after the Trump-Xi summit to avoid any “unnecessary associations and confusion.” China Change translated her announcement of the journey: I’ve been a historian of Taiwan’s period of political violence, the “White Terror,” for many years. Now that my own my loved one is detained, terror grips my heart. I’ve tried so hard to calm myself, to carefully compose my thoughts. I know from the history of the White Terror in Taiwan that when a country’s system of rule of law hasn’t risen to international standards, all attempts to offer defenses according to the law are useless. We can only offer a defense of humanity and human rights — but the legal systems in such countries aren’t built upon universal conceptions of human rights. It’s for this reason that I make this considered announcement: I am not going to hire a lawyer and thus engage in pointless legal wrangling. [Source] In comments translated by Oiwan Lam at Global Voices, Taiwanese media worker Tsai Yu-Ching asked what the situation says about current cross-strait relations, which have deteriorated sharply since the election of the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen last year. Lee Ming-cheh’s wife Lee Ching-Yu has given up assigning a lawyer and traveled to Beijing to rescue her husband. This shows that the communication between the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Mainland Affairs Council, and between the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC has been totally cut. There is no official channel to settle the incident, which is why Lee’s family has to give up on official channels and travel to Beijing to find another means to communicate… if the Taiwanese government does not have an effective strategy and continues to handle the case in a bureaucratic manner […] the DPP will not only miss the opportunity to save Lee Ming-cheh — people will lose confidence in the government’s ability to handle cross-strait relations. [Source] At The Los Angeles Times, Ralph Jennings also reported on the detention’s broader cross-strait context: A Taiwanese person gets detained in China less than once a year for political reasons, Straits Exchange Foundation Deputy Secretary-General Lee Li-chen said. But Lee Ming-che is the first case involving a Taiwanese human rights activist, she said. An unknown number of other Taiwanese do human rights work in China without incident, she said. “We feel pretty nervous now,” the foundation official said, adding that her organization had sent three letters and made calls to its counterpart foundation in China for more information. “If they can tell us what laws they’re using and the location of the arrest, we or the [Taiwan] government or his family members can do follow-up.” […] “This case might worsen the relations between the Taipei and Beijing governments,” said Wu Chung-li, a political science research fellow at Academia Sinica, a university in Taipei. “It’s a challenge to both governments: How can they both rationally deal with this case? And I’d say that’s pretty important.” [Source] A DPP statement last week said that “[Lee] Ming-che’s case is not a one-off. Similar events have been endless in formal cross-strait exchanges to date. For China to detain Taiwanese people based on the reason of national security will only increase doubts for Taiwanese people traveling to China and affect normal exchanges between people of both sides.” On Monday, the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union called for legislation to formalize responses to arbitrary arrests and other rights violations. Lee’s case has been widely linked to the new foreign NGO management law that took effect in January. Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin said in a statement last week that “Lee Ming-cheh’s detention on vague national security grounds will alarm all those that work with NGOs in China. […] The unchecked powers the authorities now have to target NGOs and their partners are frightening.” Amnesty’s Patrick Poon commented that Lee’s case “will have a chilling effect on other foreign NGO workers working with partners in China,” while Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang noted that this chill would also extend to organizations in Hong Kong or Taiwan that work on China-related issues. Global Voices’ Oiwan Lam also translated a relevant comment from 1989 student protest leader Wang Dan: Based on all the available information, it is most likely that the arrest of Lee Ming-cheh by CCP’s security department is related to the foreign NGO management law passed in China last year. The law restricts NGOs activities with stipulations such as “cannot violate the country’s interest”. Those who have basic knowledge of China’s government know that such a framework can be used to restrict all kinds of activities. The [Chinese] government can assign the label “harmful to state interests” to anyone that it does not like. Lee Ming-cheh has followed China’s human rights closely and expressed his view on democracy and freedom openly on WeChat. All these activities can be viewed as “harmful to the the interest of the state” by the CCP. [Source] Last Thursday, a large group of NGOs including China Labour Bulletin, Human Rights in China, the International Campaign for Tibet, and a number of Taiwanese organizations issued a joint statement calling for Lee’s freedom: We believe that the arrest and detention of Li Ming-Che by the PRC government is not legitimate. Li Ming-Che, as an NGO worker, merely shared Taiwan’s experience of democratizationhis with his Chinese friends, who he met online in recent years. When his online Chinese friends were interested in knowing more about human rights issues or modern history, Li sent them books. In early 2016, Li urged his online Chinese friends to donate and to support the family of Chinese human rights activists, who have been detained by the PRC government. We believe that no one should be arrested and detained because of sharing ideas on the internet. Li simply exercised his freedom of speech, which is protected by international human rights laws. His actions have also facilitated mutual understandings between Taiwan and China. The PRC government has no legitimate causes to arrest and detain him. We are sorry to see that the PRC government is getting more and more hostile to foreign human rights activists. For example, it arrested and deported Swedish human rights worker Peter Dahlin in 2016. The renowned Chinese scholar Feng Chongyi, a permanent resident of Australia, was denied to leave China. China also repeatedly criminalizes regular civil activities as “color revolution” on national security grounds. The litigation and detention procedures are flawed, and violate fundamental human rights standards and principles. [Source] Read more on Feng’s case, including his return to Australia on Sunday, via CDT. © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: civil society, donald Trump, foreign ngos, lee ming-che, NGOs, Taiwan democracy, Taiwan relations, Xi JinpingDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 5
Professor Returns to Australia, Warns Chinese Lawyers at Risk - On Sunday, Sydney-based professor Feng Chongyi returned to Australia after a more than week-long confinement to China during which he was relentlessly questioned, though not detained. Feng, a Chinese citizen and Australian permanent resident, has been a vocal critic of China’s growing influence in Australia, and was in the country to conduct research on human rights lawyers. The obstruction of his return prompted intensive media coverage and a call for his release by more than 150 scholars around the world, and contributed to the mounting parliamentary opposition that derailed a vote on the ratification of a decade-old extradition treaty between Australia and China. Reuters’ Philip Wen reports: “If they wanted to scare me they failed miserably,” Feng, a well-known China Studies expert at the University of Technology Sydney, told Reuters via telephone. […] Feng said his case, as well as interviews he conducted before being interrupted, showed the space for government criticism or dissent had been tightened further. He said he had been unmolested when he met with what he described as “sensitive contacts” on a trip to China a year ago. “In terms of rule of law and human rights it’s getting worse and worse. It’s clear their control of Chinese citizens [has] become harder and harder,” he said. […] Feng said he was informed on Saturday morning by the state security officers who had been questioning him daily that he was free to leave. He was made to sign a statement pledging not to divulge details of his interrogation sessions as a condition of his release. [Source] UTS associate professor Chongyi Feng reunioned with his daughter Yunsi Feng at home in Sydney suburb this morning. — chen yonglin (@chen_yonglin) April 2, 2017 Though Feng has talked widely to the press, he has said little about his questioning, except that it was so wide-ranging that he was unable to determine its objectives beyond possible intimidation of himself and others, and that “I got bored. I hope they got bored, as well.” His compliance with the non-disclosure agreement is likely motivated by his hopes of returning to China to continue his research, but also by his concern for the Chinese lawyers who helped him pursue an official explanation for his treatment. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Andrew Greene reports: After arriving in Sydney, Dr Feng said he was not told why he was permitted to leave China, but acknowledged he was concerned about what might happen to the lawyers who had helped him there. “I did not do anything illegal, and the lawyers only performed their duty,” he told the ABC. International law expert Don Rothwell from ANU says whatever agreement Dr Feng signed as a condition of being allowed to leave China, it would not be enforceable before an Australian court, due to “principles of private international law and the doctrine of ‘foreign governmental interests’.” […] However he warns there remains a threat to Professor Feng’s legal team, his family, friends, and associates if he speaks in detail about his recent ordeal. [Source]’s Malcolm Farr attributed the release to “backroom maneuvering” by former foreign minister Bob Carr, who was in China last week and reportedly pressed officials on Feng’s case. “Certainly it was a long and undeserved week of harassment for Professor Feng,” Farr concluded, “but it might have lasted longer if protests had been louder.” Feng has acknowledged the role of the government’s work on his behalf, constrained though it was by his lack of Australian citizenship, but also gave credit to the media which threw a global spotlight on his case. From Damien Cave at The New York Times: “Until I got on the plane and got past border control, I was not sure it was real,” Professor Feng said in an interview on Sunday 20 minutes after his overnight flight landed. “The authorities yielded to international pressure — including yours, the media. The media played an essential role in pushing them across the line.” […] Professor Feng added that despite his confinement, he did not intend to stop traveling to China. “I’m free to come and go, and I will return,” he said. “As I said to my friends — I shall return.” Still he warned that the impact of his release should be seen as narrow in scope, as there are many others who are not as well known, and are more vulnerable to China’s restrictions and aggressive tactics. “For anyone who gets in trouble in China, the support of the international community, especially the international media, is essential,” he said. “That is the only thing that will make them care.” [Source] Feng has also welcomed the Australian government’s decision to postpone the vote on the extradition treaty. From The Australian’s Primrose Riordan: Speaking to The Australian back at home in Sydney with his daughter, Yunsi, Dr Feng said he was “absolutely” pleased the Turnbull government had withdrawn an instrument to ratify a China-Australia extradition treaty from parliament. He said cases such as his — he was interrogated, charged without any paperwork with “endangering state security” and pun­ished with a travel ban — showed the dangers of such a deal. “It would be a fatal mistake because­ it would give an excuse to the Chinese authorities to get anyone,” he said. “They can make up a charge to suit their purposes: ratifying the treaty would be a terribl­e, terrible thing to do.” In light of opposition from Labor, the crossbench and several Coalition MPs, Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said they would halt attempts to ratify the deal for now, suggesting they would bring it back when they had rebuilt support­. [Source] China has also pursued an extradition treaty with New Zealand, whose Prime Minister John Key expressed openness towards the idea last year. (Canada is also considering an agreement.) While no such deal is yet in place, the country’s High Court is currently deliberating its first ad hoc extradition to China, that of a South Korean national accused of a 2009 murder in Shanghai. Minister of Justice Amy Adams first approved his extradition in November 2015, but was rebuffed by the High Court last July, before repeating her original decision in September. From Radio New Zealand: In the second judicial review over the extradition, at the High Court in Wellington yesterday, Mr Kim’s lawyer Tony Ellis said recent comments by China’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang showed his client would not be guaranteed a fair trial. He said Mr Zhou had argued that judicial independence was a western concept which did not apply in China. [See more via CDT.] “You can’t have a fair trial while that’s continuing in China,” Dr Elllis said. […] He also doubted New Zealand officials in China would be capable of monitoring whether or not Mr Kim had been tortured. […] Crown prosector Austin Powell told the court there would, however, be immediate consequences if China were to breach an assurance – something it had never done before. “It would be very difficult for China to extradite anyone from anywhere ever again,” he said. [Source] At The Australian, meanwhile, Alan Dupont wrote that the treaty’s rejection by a diverse coalition “should be a reality check for proponents of closer ties with a country that shares few of our core values”: Pragmatists assert that we have to look beyond this democratic deficit because we live in a China world, and shaping that world to our advantage ought to be a foreign policy priority. Australia’s first ambassador to China, Stephen Fitzgerald, in his recent Whitlam Oration assumes that getting closer to China would give us more influence over its policies, but that’s a dubious assumption. There are obvious limits to the influence a country of Australia’s small population and modest strategic weight can have on a state of almost 1.4 billion people, particularly one imbued with the notion of its own greatness and manifest destiny. Moving closer to China could have the reverse effect of limiting our independence of action and making us more ­susceptible to the kind of economic pressure recently applied to South Korea for daring to host a US anti-missile system in opposition to China’s wishes. Fitzgerald’s more telling point, on which China hawks and doves can surely agree, is that our knowledge of the Middle Kingdom is unacceptably poor for a nation that trumpets its Asia literacy. As ties deepen, and become more complex, we need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of China and how it leverages statecraft to advance its national interests. [Source] © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Australia relations, extradition, Feng Chongyi, foreign media, New Zealand, rights lawyersDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 3
Open Letter in Support of Feng Chongyi - The following open letter, signed by 156 scholars from around the world, was sent in response to Sydney-based professor Feng Chongyi’s week-long confinement to China and repeated questioning by security officials. Feng, who had been in China to conduct research on the country’s rights lawyers, returned to Australia on April 2. The organizers have requested that the letter be posted here with the full list of signatures “to make our position clear,” and “as a testament to the collective pressure to release Feng.” Dear President Xi and Prime Minister Li, We the undersigned are members of the global China Studies community. We are deeply concerned by the travel restrictions recently placed upon Professor Feng Chongyi of the University of Technology Sydney, which have prevented him from departing the People’s Republic of China and returning to his workplace and family in Sydney since last week. Professor Feng is an internationally respected scholar of intellectual and political developments in modern and contemporary China. He is the author of a number of groundbreaking books, and a frequent commentator on issues of importance in the Australian media. He is, furthermore, a vital contributor to the global China Studies community, and his presence in Australia has significantly enhanced its learning and research environments in Chinese Studies. We are disturbed that a fellow researcher, who has dedicated himself to promote the understanding of and interest in China, has been prevented from returning to his home and workplace for no reason other than his conscientious work as a China Studies scholar. Such actions make it difficult for the rest of us to be confident in the research environment in China today, and do not contribute positively to the continued construction of open and productive higher education collaboration between China and the rest of the world. In light of China’s commitment to expanding international scholarly engagements, we respectfully request that Professor Feng be released and permitted to return to his workplace and home in Sydney. Oscar Almén, Uppsala University Ross Anthony, Stellenbosch University Geremie R Barmé, Australian National University Robert Barnett, Columbia University Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia Jean-Philippe Béja, CERI-Sciences-Po Jonathan Benney, Monash University Gregor Benton, Cardiff University Chris Berry, King’s College London Gill Boehringer, Macquarie University Michel Bonnin, École des hautes études en sciences sociales Anne-Marie Brady, University of Canterbury David Brophy, University of Sydney Kerry Brown, King’s College, London Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Hong Kong Baptist University William A. Callahan, London School of Economics Duncan Campbell (retired), Australian National University Kevin Carrico, Macquarie University Carolyn Cartier, University of Technology Sydney Anita Chan, Australian National University Lai-Ha Chan, University of Technology Sydney Vivien Wai-wan Chan, University of Technology Sydney Timothy Cheek, University of British Columbia Gordon Chang, Independent scholar Jie Chen, University of Western Australia Minglu Chen, University of Sydney Alvin Y.H. Cheung, New York University Jocelyn Chey, Western Sydney University Josephine Chiu-Duke, University of British Columbia Andrew Chubb, University of Western Australia John Clark, University of Sydney Michael Clarke, Australian National University Tom Cliff, Australian National University Maggie Clinton, Middlebury College Jerome Cohen, New York University J. Michael Cole, University of Nottingham, CPI Alison W. Conner, University of Hawai`i at Manoa Christen Cornell, University of Sydney Anders Corr, U.S. Naval Institute Gloria Davies, Monash University Michael C. Davis, University of Hong Kong Bonnie Dawson, University of New South Wales Kirk A. Denton, Ohio State University Frank Dikötter, University of Hong Kong Clayton Dube, University of Southern California Helen Dunstan, University of Sydney Richard Louis Edmonds, Retired Louise Edwards, University of New South Wales Mary S. Erbaugh, University of Oregon Joseph W. Esherick, University of California, San Diego Joseph Fewsmith, Professor, Boston University Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne Lucy Fiske, University of Technology Sydney John Fitzgerald, Swinburne University of Technology Caroline Fleay, Curtin University Ivan Franceschini, Australian National University Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin, Madison Hualing Fu, University of Hong Kong Gerry Groot, University of Adelaide Terence Halliday, Australian National University Mark Harrison, University of Tasmania Jonathan Hassid, Iowa State University Colin Hawes, University of Technology Sydney Baogang He, Deakin University Emily M. Hill, Queen’s University Christina Ho, University of Technology Sydney Charles Horner, Hudson Institute Zejia Hu (MA, University of Technology Sydney) Judy Huo, Artist Christopher R. Hughes, London School of Economics Victoria Hui, University of Notre Dame J. Bruce Jacobs, Monash University Andrea Janku, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Ronald R. Janssen, Hofstra University Nicholas Jose, University of Adelaide Ellen R. Judd, University of Manitoba Rebecca E. Karl, New York University Carolin Kautz, Goettingen University Marja Kaikkonen, Stockholm University John Keane, University of Sydney and WZB Berlin Pauline Keating, Victoria University of Wellington Katrin Kinzelbach, Central European University Andrew Kipnis, Australian National University Lucas Klein, University of Hong Kong Jon Eugene von Kowallis, University of New South Wales Uganda Sze Pui Kwan, Nanyang Technological University Mabel Lee, University of Sydney Pak K. Lee, University of Kent Seong-Hyon Lee, Sejong Institute James Leibold, La Trobe University Perry Link, University of California, Riverside Jake Lynch, University of Sydney John Makeham, La Trobe University Ryan Manuel, Australian National University Brian G. Martin, Australian National University Lewis Mayo, University of Melbourne Anne McLaren, University of Melbourne Barrett L. McCormick, Marquette University Kevin McCready, Chinese Translator, Auckland Rory Medcalf, Australian National University Georgia Mickey, California State Polytechnic University Alice Lyman Miller, Hoover Institution, Stanford University Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University Elisa Nesossi, Australian National University Heidi Norman, University of Technology Sydney Tim Oakes, University of Colorado Andrew O’Neil, Griffith University Eva Pils, Kings College London Pitman Potter, University of British Columbia John Pretty, University of New South Wales Stein Ringen, University of Oxford Andres Rodriguez, University of Sydney Claire Roberts, University of Melbourne Sally Sargeson, Australian National University David C. Schak, Griffith University Jonathan Schwartz, State University of New York, New Paltz Orville Schell, Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society Mark Selden, Cornell University Victor Shih, University of California, San Diego Fred Smith, Macquarie University Alvin Y. So, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Dorothy Solinger, University of California, Irivine Yongyi Song, California State University, Los Angeles Kristin Stapleton, University at Buffalo, SUNY Chloe Starr, Yale University Warren Sun, Monash University Susan Tan, Australian National University Frederick Teiwes, University of Sydney Biao Teng, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Paul Theirs, Washington State University Stig Thøgersen, Aarhus University Rey Tiquia, University of Melbourne Luigi Tomba, University of Sydney Sue Trevaskes, Griffith University Steve Tsang, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Jonathan Unger, Australian National University Carsten Vala, Loyola University Maryland Peter Van Ness, Australian National University Kristof Van den Troost, Chinese University of Hong Kong Arthur Waldron, University of Pennsylvania Yiyan Wang, Victoria University of Wellington Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine Gerda Wielander, University of Westminster Martin Whyte, Harvard University Martin Williams (PhD, University of Technology Sydney, 2005) Teresa Wright, California State University, Long Beach Guoguang Wu, University of Victoria Ming Xia, City University of New York Yeliang Xia, CATO Institute Haiqing Yu, University of New South Wales Zaijun Yuan (PhD, Monash University, 2011) Jinjiang Zhong, Australian Values Alliance Wensheng Zhu (Jinsheng), Author Peter Zarrow, University of Connecticut Jian Zhang, University of New South Wales David Zweig, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology © Samuel Wade for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: academic freedom, Australia relations, Feng ChongyiDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 3
Surveillance Cameras Installed in Churches - Churches in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, a heavily Christian area, have been required to install surveillance cameras in- and outside their buildings. Alice Yan at The South China Morning Post reports: An official notice circulated widely among church members at the end of last year said that all churches would have to install the cameras, Christians said. One churchgoer said officials had installed the cameras one by one but they had yet to be set up in his place of worship. “I don’t support the government’s decision and I hope they will not put monitoring equipment inside our church,” the churchgoer said. “We Christians do good deeds and we don’t do anything to ­endanger the public. I don’t understand why the government wants to monitor us. [Source] Wenzhou was the epicenter of a government campaign in 2013-2015 to remove crosses from churches and in some cases to demolish the buildings themselves. Several Christians activists and lawyers were detained for protesting the action, including rights lawyer Zhang Kai, who was held for several months after offering legal aid to protesters. In a news release, U.S.-based China Aid linked the recent order to previous resistance to the cross removals and to the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign: At the beginning of March, authorities in Zhejiang demanded that Three-Self Churches install surveillance cameras and have been dispatching officials to forcibly set up the devices if the order meets with refusal. Officially, the reasoning for the cameras are “safety” and “anti-terrorism” precautions. They also said they would take into account whether or not the church had previously resisted cross demolitions during a province-wide campaign and would send more agents to the site if it had. From March 21-24, hundreds of police officers converged on Changlin Church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, in order to carry out this task, beating any Christians who resisted their efforts. A local Christian said the church members questioned why they needed additional surveillance since Three-Self Churches are already heavily monitored and policed by the government. Some Christian women stationed themselves outside the church, fearing a possible church demolition, and were seized for their resistance, then released once the cameras were set up. Officials also destroyed the church’s reception desk and other parts of the building, including the church’s gate in order to get in. [Source] The tightening restrictions in Wenzhou come amid a crackdown on religious behavior in Xinjiang, where authorities passed the first region-wide measure limiting behaviors that they view as evidence of “religious extremism,” including growing beards, wearing veils, and refusing to watch state TV broadcasts. In Sichuan, authorities are carrying out the demolition and evacuation of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, one of the largest such institutions for Tibetan Buddhism in the world. Last April, Xi Jinping warned of foreign infiltration through religion, saying China must, “resolutely resist overseas infiltration through religious means.” © Sophie Beach for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: Christianity, church destruction, religious freedom, religious persecution, wenzhouDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 3
Minitrue: Control Commentary on Xiong’an New Area - The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source. All websites take note to control negative commentary related to the establishment of the Hebei Xiong’an New District. Add related keywords for filtering in the backend, and delete malicious comments. (April 3, 2017) [Chinese] On Saturday, Xi Jinping was quoted by state media announcing that an economic backwater in northern Hebei Province  would be developed into the Xiong’an New Area, a special economic zone in the style of those established under the rules of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. The South China Morning Post’s Zhou Xin reports on state media’s coverage of the announcement: The new district, initially covering an area of 100 sq km but expanding to 2,000 sq km later, would play a central role in Xi’s plan to integrate the development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, Xinhua said. The special zone was expected to house many non-government facilities, including markets, schools, research institutions and hospitals, that would be relocated from Beijing, Xinhua added. The district covers three counties in a rural area around Baiyangdian Lake. According to local government data, the combined gross domestic product of the three counties – Anxin, Rongcheng and Xiongxian – was about 20 billion yuan last year, or less than 1 per cent of Beijing’s GDP. […] Xi said the new district should be an “internationally first-class, green, modern and smart city”, and set an example of good public services and economic openness. […] The Xiongan district plan marks the first time the idea for a new zone came directly from Xi. [Source] The announcement reportedly sparked a speculative real estate bubble which officials are scrambling to cool. The New York Times’ Ailin Tang reports: Local Chinese officials have moved to freeze purchases and make other moves to cool the local market, according to local real estate agents and news media reports. Chinese social media showed photos of new property developments and real-estate offices with signs saying they had been temporarily closed. In the town of Baigou, about 12 miles north of Xiongxian, prices for an apartment jumped to 12,000 renminbi per square meter — or more than $160 per square foot — from 8,750 renminbi within hours after the announcement, according to Wen Yunlong, a local real estate agency. On Sunday, it rose by another 3,000 renminbi, he said. “Prices have gone up every day,” Mr. Wen said. [Source] More on the real estate scramble and speculation freeze from the South China Morning Post’s Mimi Lau: Home prices in Xiong county, an economic backwater, soared overnight from 10,000 yuan (US$1,450) per square metre to 17,000 yuan per square metre, mainland media reported. Shanghai-based news portal reported that would-be buyers were lined up outside real estate offices. “We don’t normally have many visitors and there isn’t any industry here either but my housing estate was packed with so many outsiders all of a sudden. They arrived in fancy cars like BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rovers,” one resident was quoted as saying. [Source] Censors have in the past targeted online information that could affect the property market: for example, deleting social media accounts that spread “rumors” on real estate regulations; forbidding negative commentary on news of the expected scrapping of property purchasing limits; and cooling down rapid investment in 3D-printed housing by ordering all related financial news offline. Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011. © josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: censorship, Directives from the Ministry of Truth, hebei, real estate, real estate bubble, special economic zones, Xiong'an New AreaDownload Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 3
Activists Convicted in Guangdong and Chengdu - On Friday, the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong convicted Chinese activists Su Changlan and Chen Qitang–both of whom voiced support for the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong–on subversion charges and sentenced them to three and four-and-a-half years in jail, respectively. Although Su and Chen’s verdicts were silent on the issue of Hong Kong, their earlier detentions were known to be linked to their activism. Venus Wu and Katy Wong at Reuters report: At least four other Chinese activists…have been put behind bars for supporting Hong Kong’s large pro-democracy, “umbrella movement” protests in 2014. At least 100 people in China had been detained for voicing support for the demonstrations, according to Amnesty International. […] Su, a prominent women’s rights advocate in Southern China, had been taken into police custody by Guangzhou police in late 2014 for expressing support on social media for the Hong Kong protests. Su suffered from a thyroid ailment and had been denied multiple requests for bail on medical grounds. Chen, meanwhile, had posted articles in support of human rights and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, according to Amnesty International. [Source] Catherine Lai at Hong Kong Free Press has more on Su’s case: “An extremely absurd verdict,” her lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said on his Twitter account. “When announcing the judgement, they only read the prosecution’s allegations and the court’s decision, and didn’t mention the defence lawyer’s arguments. After the verdict, they didn’t ask Su Changlan whether she would appeal before banging the gavel and saying that the adjudication was over.” […] The court’s verdicts, photos of which Liu uploaded to Twitter, said that Su, by fabricating rumours and slander, submitted articles and commentary on online media many times, which “created an influence, attacking the socialist system, [and] inciting others to subvert state power.” It mentioned articles she submitted to overseas websites such as, and the Women’s Rights in China website. Chen’s verdict said he was guilty of similar actions, citing articles he submitted to overseas site Aboluowang. The titles of the articles cited did not refer to Occupy. According to the parts of the verdict that Liu posted online, Su’s defence lawyers argued that she lacked an objective intent to incite subversion. She said in her own defence that she did not personally post the content online and that she was only recording factual events, not fabricating them. [Source] The duo’s convictions come amid a broader crackdown in Hong Kong on the activists of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests. Several protest leaders were charged with public nuisance just days after Hong Kong’s chief executive elections last Sunday. More than 200 scholars from local and overseas universities have since signed a joint statement denouncing the prosecution of these activists. Su and Chen’s heavy sentences are also seen as part of an ongoing crackdown on civil society in mainland China that began after President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. Scores of human rights lawyers and activists were arrested in a nationwide raid in 2015. A number of them have since been charged while others remain in detention. More recently, Australia-based Chinese academic Feng Chongyi was blocked from boarding a flight home from Guangzhou and questioned after meeting with Chinese liberal intellectuals and rights lawyers for his research. He was allowed to return to Australia on Sunday. Human Rights Watch reports that another activist was also convicted on Friday by a court in Chengdu, Sichuan. Artist Chen Yunfei was sentenced to four years in prison for commemorating the Tiananmen massacre. […] The Wuhou District People’s Court in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, convicted Chen Yunfei, 49, an artist who is not related to Chen Qitang, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and sentenced him to four years in prison. […] The conviction of Chen Yunfei related to tweets critical of the Chinese government and his various performance art projects, including one in which Chen Yunfei called the police to report an “illegal gathering,” which turned out to be a government conference. Police had detained Chen Yunfei in March 2015, after he organized a memorial service for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. The prosecutions of the three activists were marred by multiple procedural violations and irregularities. The authorities denied the three access to their lawyers, subjected them to secret and prolonged pretrial detention, and denied Su adequate medical care. [Source] Meanwhile, a court in Taipei has acquitted 22 Sunflower Student Movement protesters over the 2014 occupation of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Those who were cleared of their charges include protest leaders Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting, who have shared their views on the work that remains to be done. From Brian Hioe at The News Lens: Chen said that though the issue of the 318 Legislative Yuan occupation seems to have been settled, one cannot forget that the cases for the “324” attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan or the “411” demonstration surrounding Zhongzheng First Police Precinct are still ongoing. He also said that it has been one year since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office, and since then Taiwan has witnessed the backsliding of the DPP on its commitment key demands called for by the Sunflower Movement, such as the cross-Straits oversight bill intended to monitor future cross-Strait agreements between Taiwan and China. With the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China slated to take place this year, pressure on Taiwan is expected to increase and a meeting is scheduled to take place between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). While this would suggest the cross-Straits oversight law being more important than ever, the DPP has backed away from the notion for fear of worsening relations with China. Lin echoed Chen’s comments, stating that if participants of the 318 Legislative Yuan occupation had been found guilty, it should also be the same with participants of 324 and 411. Lin also reiterated the pressing need for judicial reform in Taiwan and that he hoped the results of today’s trial was a sign of progress in judicial reform. He said that whether or not Taiwan has accomplished demands made during the Sunflower Movement, it can be seen as a sign of Taiwan’s progress along the road of democracy and this is the means by which Taiwan should defend itself from China’s attempts to encroach on its sovereignty. Lin said the Sunflower Movement was not over as long as democracy in Taiwan still needs safeguarding. [Source] © cindyliuwenxin for China Digital Times (CDT), get_post_time('Y'). | Permalink | No comment | Add to Post tags: activists, democracy activist, Guangdong, Hong Kong democracy, hong kong protests 2014, jail sentence, political prisoners, protesters, Taiwan protests 2014Download Tools to Circumvent the Great FirewallApr 1


Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: We are at DistractCon 3 - Today is Easter Sunday, a day in which millions of Christians celebrate the central mystery and miracle of the faith. It’s easy to find analogies between the events in that two thousand-year-old story and occurrences in the past year. Moments of triumph and joy. Betrayals and defeats. Deception and loss.  But that’s only because these are universal stories; themes that repeat and echo in small ways and large, in the stories of individuals and the sagas of nations. Right now, there are Christians in Syria, Russia—and very likely North Korea—who see these stories unfolding in the events around them. I can guarantee you that there are Americans who see them in the victory of Donald Trump. And, of course, it’s not just a Christian thing, that hero’s journey. The Golden Bough. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s a story both older and newer than Christianity. One that’s been picked up, turned over, stretched, and turned inside out. One from which every theme and variation has seemingly been rung … until someone discovers the next.  Look there. The outcast enters. The underdog, fighting against the power and wealth and weight of the world with nothing but a new view of old ideas. First there’s scorn. Then interest. There’s a moment of celebration, a testing, and a sense that triumph is at hand. But … first treachery, then defeat. Only the defeat is itself a deception. This story … isn’t over. It never is. Whether you do it in a pew, on a porch, or on a nice hike through the spring woods, this is a good day to ponder comebacks, second acts, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.Then go out and make them happen. Someone has to roll those stones away. It might as well be you. But first, let’s check in on the pundits. 5:00 AM
Open thread for Saturday night owls: Trump's 'permanent uncertainty' is causing lasting damage - At the New Republic, Brian Beutler writes—Trump’s Chaos Is Causing Lasting Damage—The terrifying impact of the president's permanent uncertainty: The consolidation of Republican power in Washington was supposed to create huge dividends for every kind of interest group by eliminating legislative gridlock and brinkmanship and giving a single party power to set policy. By the same telling, this was supposed to be a particular boon for business owners (and, downstream, for workers), who would welcome a climate of lower taxes, laxer regulation, and greater certainty with new investment, and thus more jobs. The concept of “certainty” was one Republicans in Congress wielded as a brickbat against President Obama for eight years only to abandon it when President Donald Trump, through a mix of incompetence and malevolence, turned uncertainty into a weapon. In the realms of health, immigration, and foreign policy, Trump has managed to leave stakeholders on all sides of issues—consumers, providers, civilians, enforcers, diplomats, and entire countries—completely befuddled in ways that threaten to cause great harm. The question is whether people around Trump can convince him that the policy environment he has created needs to change, or, more ominously, whether he has convinced himself that chaos gives him the upper hand. Trump is certainly capable of such delusion. Since Congress failed to pass Trumpcare, the president has threatened to use policy levers at his disposal to disintegrate the individual insurance markets, on the presumption that it will force Democrats in Congress to vote for a more systematic dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. In reality, it would create a long and indefinite suffering for which, polling suggests, the public would hold him and Republicans accountable. We will find out soon whether Trump is serious or bluffing (or whether he simply needs someone to spend 10 minutes explaining reality to him). • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION “In 1906 I indulged my temper by hurling invectives at Neo-Darwinians in the following terms. “I really do not wish to be abusive [to Neo-Darwinians]; but when I think of these poor little dullards, with their precarious hold of just that corner of evolution that a blackbeetle can understand—with their retinue of twopenny-halfpenny Torquemadas wallowing in the infamies of the vivisector’s laboratory, and solemnly offering us as epoch-making discoveries their demonstrations that dogs get weaker and die if you give them no food; that intense pain makes mice sweat; and that if you cut off a dog’s leg the three-legged dog will have a four-legged puppy, I ask myself what spell has fallen on intelligent and humane men that they allow themselves to be imposed on by this rabble of dolts, blackguards, imposters, quacks, liars, and, worst of all, credulous conscientious fools.”                    ~George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methusaleh: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921) TWEET OF THE DAY xNew stunning video surfaces of run-in with Georgia officer. reports.— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) April 15, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2011—Paul Ryan's 'welfare state,' everything but tax cuts for the rich: Here's a snippet of Rep. Paul Ryan's closing remarks during the debate on his budget plan: We don't want a welfare system that encourages people to stay on welfare. We want them to get back on their feet and lead flourishing, self-sufficient lives. So let's reform welfare for people who need it, and end it for corporate welfare for people who don't need it. Number four. Let's do the work of lifting this crushing burden of debt from our children. And there you have it. While you thought welfare was reformed two decades ago and no longer exists for Republicans to beat up on, you were wrong. Basically, everything but tax breaks to the wealthy is welfare. Any domestic spending, welfare. Let's look at what Ryan is actually slashing, here, what he calls welfare. LINK TO THE DAILY KOS STORE Apr 15
Montana inches closer to law that allows charging doctors who perform abortions with homicide - Republicans in Montana want to make abortion a homicide,and they are close to getting their wish. According to bill S.B. 282, a fetus is viable at 24 weeks and abortions would be illegal after that point—even in cases of medical emergencies. Under this proposed law, a doctor who provides an abortion past this point could be charged with homicide. The bill is on its way to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, having passed both the House and Senate earlier this month. It was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Theresa Manzella who believes it is the state’s responsibility to provide protection for all human beings and viable human life. Of course, Manzella does not believe that this same right of protection extends to adult women who can and should be able to make medical decisions for themselves without the interference of the state. Somehow grown women with decision-making autonomy get left out of this whole equation. Imagine that.  Manzella and her conservative colleagues are leveraging S.B. 282 to advocate for questionably viable fetuses at the expense of (undeniably viable) pregnant women. Most people who have later term abortions do so out of necessity, not flippancy. Discounting this reality oversimplifies the complexities of such a situation and infantilizes people by confiscating their bodily autonomy. What’s more, forcing a patient to undergo a major surgical procedure like a C-section out of political ideology — not medical necessity — is dangerous and unethical. Though this is scary and wildly inappropriate, it is not guaranteed to become law. While Montana lawmakers seem to have a history of trying to reduce women’s access to choice, they have not been successful in the past.  Apr 15
Nuts & Bolts: a guide to Democratic campaigns—they should be fun! - Welcome back, Saturday Campaign D-I-Y’ers! For those who tune in, welcome to the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. Each week we discuss issues that help drive successful campaigns. If you’ve missed prior diaries, please visit our group or follow Nuts & Bolts Guide. This week, I want to take a look at a function that anyone who has ever worked in corporate management knows quite well: organizational morale. If you’ve ever been through a corporate performance review, you’ve heard the talk more than once that happy employees work harder, make fewer mistakes and better represent a company than miserable ones. The same thing is true for campaigns.  Campaigns, like businesses, work hard to make sure staff and volunteers represent the effort in a positive way. It doesn’t take more than a picture of a campaign—like Ossoff above—to show you that the goal is a happy campaign that works hard to accomplish its goal. Whenever you read a campaign has “grim determination” or is in a “bunker mentality,” it is a quick tip off that there is likely something wrong, beyond whatever outside influences they may have run into on the trail. This week, we’re talking about how to keep a campaign fun for those involved, to get the best performance of the members. Before we begin, I’m also going to give the standard caveat I’ve received over the years in corporate management training programs about a fun workplace: trying to keep a work environment rewarding and positive isn’t accomplished by lowering expectations of everyone involved or getting less work done. People can like challenges and rise to them. They can feel better fulfilled if they know there is an effort to reward those who do well and recognize the accomplishments. Don’t focus on making things easier, focus on making things more rewarding. Apr 15
This week in science: terminal reef - Coral reefs are a lot like the old growth forests of the sea. They offer a robust biological infrastructure for all manner of creatures to inhabit. Coral bleaching caused by climate change is like a forest fire to those trees. A forest can survive a fire, even a bad one. Root systems and seeds of all kinds, safe in the ground or carried in from elsewhere, will sprout and, over time, rebuild the forest. But if that same forest were swept by fire year after year, eventually it would never recover on time scales human can wrap our primate brains around. And a similar fate may consume the world’s greatest reefs if climate change is not halted: Scientists with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies last week completed aerial surveys of the world’s largest living structure, scoring bleaching at 800 individual coral reefs across 8,000km. The results show the two consecutive mass bleaching events have affected a 1,500km stretch, leaving only the reef’s southern third unscathed. Where last year’s bleaching was concentrated in the reef’s northern third, the 2017 event spread further south, and was most intense in the middle section of the Great Barrier Reef. This year’s mass bleaching, second in severity only to 2016, has occurred even in the absence of an El Niño event. Astronomers have directly imaged the Milky Way galaxy’s supermassive black-hole using radio waves for the first time. Not to be outdone, exotic cosmologists and physicists are doing the same for dark matter. On an Easter Sunday many moons ago we discussed the lovable, adorable, bunny rabbit. Tomorrow on Sunday Kos, we’ll be looking at the incredible, edible, Easter egg. Looks like the Times has hired Bret Stephens to help finish off the great reefs and undercut anyone who objects: Here’s a taste of what we can look forward to from him: For the anti-Semite, the problems of the world can invariably be ascribed to the Jews; for the Communist, to the capitalists. And as the list above suggests, global warming has become the fill-in-the-blank explanation for whatever happens to be the problem. Apr 15
This week gave us a textbook example of why the corporate media are next to useless - Go back a moment to the lesson that Trump is apt to learn from events of the past week. Would it be wrong to reduce it to the following? “You can make some highly respectable new friends by throwing missiles at an obnoxious foreign power. It works like a dream so long as you do it fast and give it a humanitarian gloss.” In the sheer quantity of the attention paid, and the narrowness of the attention, something terrible about our political culture has come to light. David Bromwich is the Sterling Professor of English at Yale University. He wrote the paragraph quoted above this past Monday in an essay titled “Bomb First,” which appeared in the NYR Daily Section of the New York Review of Books. His intent at the time was to turn a skeptical eye on the near-gleeful reaction by the U.S. media to Trump’s use of Tomahawk missiles against Syrian targets in purported “response” to that country’s apparent gassing of civilians. His conclusion: For an American president, bombing is easier than thinking. For an American lawmaker or opinion-maker, it costs nothing to celebrate the resolve of a president who bombs. Bromwich’s main point is that nearly all reporting on military strikes is fundamentally passive, consisting mostly of media outlets being spoon-fed pre-ordained conclusions, all while minimizing context or any need for further investigation or inquiry. He is harshly critical of what he sees as the major media’s reflexive reaction to the Syrian attacks, and singles out the reaction of The New York Times, which on April 7 featured no less than 19 stories about the missile strike, all cast in headlines (listed by Bromwich) fairly lauding Trump’s “decisive” performance of an act that required virtually no effort on his part and probably even less time actually contemplating its probable outcome: The headlines are a shade less redundant than the stories themselves; but the words that inevitably stand out are attack, strike, decision, action, Syria, Syrians, and (most of all) Trump. ...[T]he overall message is never in doubt. The newspaper of record is telling a president whose legitimacy it has challenged ever since the election—a president who craves approval almost as much as he loves attention—“Now you have made yourself important in a good way.” Bromwich also skewers fawning pundits like Fareed Zakaria, who declared “Donald Trump became President” by bombing as well as the applauding response of Democrats too eager to show their purported military bona fides. Meanwhile, increasingly serious and alarming questions about the extent of Trump’s corrupt and possibly treasonous collaboration with the Russian government in influencing this country’s election took an immediate back seat to the wonderment generated by his willingness to blow up things in a grandiose fashion. An attention-craving spoiled child was showered with attention for dropping bombs. What lesson indeed would we expect him to draw from this? Well, we found out in short order as we were treated in a matter of days to what shows all signs of being a new, “trending” feature of this administration, dragged out whenever less flattering news appears looming and needs to be drowned out: The US military on Friday defended its decision to drop its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on ISIS positions in Afghanistan, describing it as a "tactical" move. And like drooling lemmings, the cable news networks leapt to celebrate the wonderful new explosion with mind-numbing, wall-to-wall coverage of the MOAB bomb, CNN’s the most disgraceful of all:  After the U.S. military dropped the most powerful conventional weapon in its arsenal, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on an Islamic State complex in eastern Afghanistan, cable news networks responded with almost continuous coverage of the event, but the visuals in the networks’ coverage varied widely. Fox News spent about 21 minutes airing video footage from a 2003 test of the bomb, MSNBC barely used video footage at all, and CNN played and replayed the bomb test footage for a staggering almost 54 minutes in just six hours. [H/T Media Matters.] That means CNN spent/ wasted one entire hour out of six playing the same “bomb test” footage again, and again, and again. Nothing else mattered to that cable network except the power of this particular bomb. Not the defunding of Planned Parenthood, with its negative impact on the lives of millions of American women. Not the disgraceful appointments being made by administration officials equally likely to harm Americans. Not the fact that Trump has now arbitrarily decided to hide from the American people the names of “visitors” (i.e, corporate lobbyists) to his White House. Not the fact that his attorney general is intent on turning this country into a xenophobic police state. No. Bomb First. There is no better example why our traditional corporate media failed as an institution to prevent the election of someone as malevolent and incompetent as Trump in the first place than its pathetic, Pavlovian response to the purposeful distraction of military fireworks.  After all, media that have trained themselves to roll over and play dead whenever they hears a “bang” can’t be expected to do much in the way of protecting the American Republic from more insidious forms of violence. Apr 15
Trump: Exposing the Shadow - Back in the 1970s, economically developing countries were looked upon as nests of corruption. . . The United States, on the other hand, was considered to be – and for the most part was – above such massive corruption. That has totally changed. Drastically. Activities that would have been viewed as immoral, unacceptable, and illegal in the United States in my EHM days are now standard practice. They may be covered in a patina of oblique rhetoric, but beneath that surface, the same old tools are applied at the highest levels of business and government. – The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, p 265 I published The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man last year, twelve years after the original, because things had gotten so much worse. The tools we EHMs used in developing countries – the corruption, the deceptions, the debt, the threats, the fear, and the false stories – had come back to haunt the US, Europe and the rest of the so-called developed world. In addition to updating the original book, I added fifteen new chapters to describe the ways contemporary EHMs have created a global Death Economy that is failing us – and also to provide a strategy each of us can use for turning that Death Economy into a Life Economy. The “patina of oblique rhetoric” I wrote about a year ago has been ripped off. During the first months of the Trump administration, corruption, deceptions, debt, threats, fear, and false stories have become overt. Over the years, I’ve often condemned the “revolving door” that’s been part of American politics. There is nothing new about presidents with close ties to Big Oil, like the Bushes and to Wall Street, like Clinton and Obama. There is nothing new about cabinet members and heads of agencies who hail from and return to the very businesses they are supposed to regulate. There is nothing new about elected officials who earn millions of dollars as lobbyists after leaving public office. There is nothing new about laws and court decisions, like Citizens United, that give increasing power to corporations – and legalize what once was considered as corruption and bribery. These things are wrong. They are contrary to the principles of a democracy. They should be changed. But they are not new in America. What is new is a president who makes no attempt to hide his immense personal commercial interests in businesses that are known to be hotbeds of corruption, such as casinos, and where US foreign policy is jeopardized, such as in dealings with Russia. What is new are the many politicians in our national and state capitols who openly advocate bigotry and policies that favor the rich at the expense of all the rest of us. What is new is the overt declaration that the US is an imperial power that needs to increase its already huge, offensive, and budget-breaking military presence around the world. What is new is the lack of even an attempt to sound as though our country wants to defend equality, fairness, and the democratic principles that most of us were raised to champion. Perhaps the great gift of the Trump administration is that it has ripped off the patina. Those who claimed that US business and politics were essentially “transparent,” those who argued that the US was a true democracy and that our political system “might not be perfect, but it is the best in the world,” those who sneered at the under-the-table dealings in “banana republics” and held the US out as a shining example of how to do it right – all of those people, all of us, have been forced to look at the dark shadow that lurked beneath that patina. How do you remove a shadow? You walk under the light. Now that the patina has been removed, we in the US can walk under the light. We can expose ourselves to the true weaknesses – and strengths – of who we are. By being forced to look at our shadow, we have been liberated from the platitudes that have blanketed us in self-deception. We are free to admit to our liabilities and assets. That is the first step to change. It is a step forward into revitalization – and along the path to realizing our true potential. Upcoming Events:  April 11, 2017Sounds True: Year of Ceremony Become a part of an online monthly shamanic group that brings together leading shamanic teachers and practitioners. May 30-June 20, 20174-Session Writer’s Webinar: How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises Join a small community of writers who intend to use their medium to accelerate change. Spots are limited to 24 and are filling up quickly. Book yours today. October 12-13, 2017The Love Summit 2017 LPK Brand Innovation Center, Cincinnati, OH Join me and my nonprofit organization, Dream Change, for our 2nd Love Summit business conference: a cutting-edge event designed to demonstrate how #BottomLineLove business practices can solve the most pressing social, environmental and economic issues of our time. Request an invite, here.Apr 4
You As Creator - Join me this spring for my 4-session live webinar series for writers. More information at the bottom of this email. The power of our perceptions to alter reality is a theme that runs through lectures I’ve given at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and more than 50 other universities and to over 3,000 executives at various conferences and summits, ranging from investment bankers and CEOs of communications conglomerates to heads of human resource departments. Religion, culture, legal and economic systems, countries, and corporations are determined by perceived reality. When enough people accept these perceptions or when they are codified into laws, they have immense impact on objective reality. Breakthroughs in modern science indicate that changes in human perceptions not only govern human behavior; they govern – everything. This past month (February) I was teaching at Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. My time there overlapped with two highly respected scientists who had just published a book about the powers of perception. Dr. Deepak Chopra is a cardiologist by training who has gained world-wide fame as a deep thinker, philosopher, and advocate of new ways to look at medicine and the world. Dr. Menas Kafatas is a physicist who specializes in cosmology (the science of the origin and development of the universe), quantum mechanics, and climate change. As we sat at meals together, we had many fascinating discussions about the impact of human consciousness on economics, politics, life in general – and the entire universe. In my lectures at the ashram, I discussed the relationship between perceived and objective realities and the idea that consciousness involves an awareness of the ways these impact each other, all of us, and our entire planet. Deepak and Menas gave lectures that were based on their newly released book You Are the Universe. They explored the idea that the very universe itself is a function of human perceptions. In the Preface to their book, they state: The most distant star, billions of light-years away, has no reality without you, because everything that makes a star real – its heat, light, and mass, its position in space and the velocity that carries it away at enormous speed – requires a human observer with a human nervous system. If no one existed to experience heat, light, mass, and so on, nothing could be real as we know it . . . [T]his is a participatory universe that depends for its very existence on human beings. There is a growing body of cosmologists – the scientists who explain the origin of the cosmos – developing theories of a completely new universe, one that is living, conscious, and evolving. Such a universe fits no existing standard model. A conscious universe responds to how we think and feel. It gains its shape, color, sound, and texture from us. Therefore, we feel the best name for it is the human universe, and it is the real universe, the only one we have. As pointed out in their book, scientists have discovered that when photons, electrons, and other sub-atomic particles are not observed by humans they act like waves that are constantly moving. However, once they are observed, they act like particles in a pinpointed location. This phenomenon, known as the “observer effect,” which seems to defy common sense suggests that the tiniest particles respond to human observation. In other words, those particles have consciousness about what is happening around them. You Are the Universe takes this idea to another level. It says that the entire universe responds to – in fact is created through – consciousness. Whether or not human consciousness creates the universe, there is no doubt that it has created the current crises that threaten life as we know it on this planet. Or that we humans are waking up to the realization that, in order to survive, we must rise to a higher level of consciousness. As I’ve written many times in previous newsletters, we are at the frontier of a revolution that may turn out to be the most important one in our species’ history – a Consciousness Revolution that will redefine relationships between perceived and objective reality and the impact we humans have on both. By way of example: As most of you know by now, one of the nonprofits I founded, Dream Change organizes “Love Summits”. These are – perhaps to your surprise – conferences aimed at instilling in business leaders the need to change their perception of what it means to be successful. The goal of the Love Summit is to bring to light why love is good business—how acting from a place of compassion not only benefits society and the environment, but also our businesses and other institutions. Love can be the motivation behind business planning and work relationships, instead of fear and scarcity, the current underpinnings of a suffering economy and environment. The Love Summit demonstrates how we can: Build purposeful, heart-centered business models that contribute to the greatest interest of people and the planet. Use individual and collective action to transform our economic system into one that is based on a life economy instead of a death economy. Inspire a global culture of love in business and throughout the world. The Love Summit is just one example of actions we can take to change reality by altering perceptions. Whether or not you help create the universe, there is no doubt that you create your universe, your life and you play a big role in creating the world we will pass on to future generations. Upcoming Event: May 30 – June 20, 2017 How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises: Using the Power of Story to Accelerate Change If you are a writer, you have an incredible opportunity to spread important messages, share thought-provoking ideas, and inspire revolutionary change through the power of story. Join me this spring in my exclusive 4-session webinar for writers, where I will help you improve your skills, get published and reach large audiences. Limited to just 24 participants, this webinar will be both intimate and participatory. Secure your spot today. Mar 2
This Spring: A Special Webinar for Writers - How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises: Using the Power of Story to Accelerate Change By John Perkins We’ve entered the greatest revolution in history: The Consciousness Revolution. People around the world are waking up to the fact that we are facing huge crises. We must change. What is your role in this revolution? If you are a writer, you have an incredible opportunity to spread important messages, share thought-provoking ideas, and inspire revolutionary change through the power of story. Fiction and non-fiction. In addition to doing my own writing, I decided to create a small community of writers who intend to use their medium to accelerate change. We will come together in this Spring’s webinar: How to Write a Bestseller in Times of Crises: Using the Power of Story to Accelerate Change. Limited to just 2 dozen participants, this course is uniquely designed to help you hone your skills through writing exercises and discussions in an intimate salon. As a New York Times bestselling author, I will share my experiences of decades of writing bestsellers to help you improve your skills, get published, and reach large audiences. The webinar will take place every Tuesday evening over the course of one month, making it easy for you to journey into this portal of writing your bestseller. You will learn how to: Hone your skills to inspire, entertain, and motivate audiences; Open your heart and soul to the muses of writing; Utilize effective techniques to captivate audiences – as well as agents and publishers; Learn the pros and cons of marketing tools, including the use of publicists and social networking; Work with an intimate salon of talented writers; and Much more. You will have the option of breaking into smaller groups to discuss and critique each other’s work and spend an additional hour-long session with me. At the end of the course, you will also have the opportunity to arrange to join me in private mentoring sessions. Session Dates & Times: Session 1: Tuesday May 30 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST Session 2: Tuesday June 6 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST Session 3: Tuesday June 13 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST Session 4: Tuesday June 20 – 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM EST This webinar is for people who want to be part of a powerful salon of writers and who intend to channel their passions and skills into articles, books, and blogs that will inspire transformation. If you are such a person, please sign up now. Space is limited. Cost:  $780 for all 4 sessions. To see the course syllabus and purchase your tickets, click here.Feb 9
How to Be a Democracy Under Trump - I watched President Trump’s inauguration from an airport TV in Guatemala. I’d just finished leading 22 people on a pilgrimage to live, study and participate in ceremonies with Mayan shamans at sacred sites. For me, it was the first leg of a two-month working-journey. I am still in Latin America, teaching and speaking at a variety of venues. In the days since that inauguration, I, like so many, have felt the horror of the emerging Trump policies. Latin Americans cannot understand why so few of us voted in the last election and why so many who did, voted for Trump. A larger percentage of people vote in most Latin American countries than in the US; in several countries, voter turnout exceeds 90%. Many of these countries have a history of brutal dictatorships. Once free of these dictatorships, they revel in their rights to hold democratic elections; they see their ability to vote for their leaders as both a responsibility and a privilege. They wonder why such a relatively small percentage of voters would elect a potential dictator. And moreover, why those non-voters did not vote against him. The participants on the Guatemala trip ranged from successful business executives to community organizers and healers – with lots of other professions in between. They came from Canada, Ecuador, England, France, Indonesia, Italy, the United States, and Guatemala. Many – especially those from the US – arrived in Guatemala feeling disenfranchised, disempowered, depressed, and – yes, horrified – by the election. However, as we moved through the shamanic ceremonies, they grew increasingly convinced that the election is a wakeup call for Americans. We have been lethargic and allowed our country to continue with policies that hurt so many people and destroy environments around the world (including Washington’s involvement in the genocidal Guatemalan Civil War against the Mayas that raged for more than three decades). This election exposed a shadow side. It stepped us out of the closet. Many people expressed the realization that Americans had failed to demand that President Obama fight harder to end the wars in the Middle East, vacate Guantánamo, reign in Wall Street, confront a global economic system where eight men have as much wealth as half the world’s population, and honor so many of the other promises he had made. They recognized that he was up against strong Republican opposition and yet it was he who continued to send more troops and mercenaries to the Middle East and Africa, brought Wall Street insiders into his inner circle, and failed to inspire his party to rally voters to defeat Trump and what is now a Republican majority in both houses. We talked about how throughout the world, the US is seen as history’s first truly global empire. Scholars point out that it meets the basic definition of empire: a nation 1) whose currency reigns supreme, 2) whose language is the language of diplomacy and commerce everywhere, 3) whose economic expansions and values are enforced through military actions or threats of action, and 4) whose armies are stationed in many nations. The message became clear: we must end this radical form of global feudalism and imperialism. Those who had arrived in Guatemala disillusioned and depressed now found themselves committed to transforming their sense of disempowerment into actions. At the end of WWII, Prime Minister Churchill told his people that England could choose the course of empire or democracy, but not both.  We in the US are at such a crossroads today. For far too long we have allowed our leaders to take us down the path of empire. President Franklin Roosevelt ended a meeting with union leaders by telling them that now they knew he agreed with them, it was their job to get their members to force him to do the right thing. FDR understood that democracy depends on We the People insisting that our leaders do what they promise to do. We failed with our last president. Let’s not repeat that mistake with the new one. It is extremely important that We the People force Trump and his band of corporatocracy henchmen to keep the promises we heard in his inaugural address.  Let us hear “making America great” as “making America a true democracy!”  Let us hear “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People” and “we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow” as an echo of Prime Minister Churchill’s contention that a country cannot be both a democracy and an empire. It is up to us to insist upon democracy. It is essential that we continue to demonstrate and march, to bombard Trump and our other elected officials with tweets, posts, phone calls, and emails; to rally, clamor, and shout; and in every way to get out the word that we must end the wars, feudalism, economic and social inequality, and environmental destruction; we must become the model democracy the world expects of us. When General George Washington was hunkered down with extremely depressed troops at Valley Forge in the bleak winter of 1777, he ordered that an essay by Thomas Paine be read to all his men. Some of the most famous lines are as applicable today as they were then: These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  .  . A generous parent should say, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace” . . .I love the man who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.  By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious future. We have arrived at such a time again. We must each do our part. Let’s here and now commit to taking positive actions. I commit to writing and speaking out at a wide variety of venues. I commit to supporting the Love Summit business conference, a powerful event that is committed to bringing love and compassion into business and politics, to transforming a Death Economy into a Life (Love) Economy. What are your commitments? We have arrived at a time that tries our souls. We must gather strength from distress, grow brave by reflection, and know that by perseverance and fortitude we can achieve a glorious future. Let’s make sure that the combined legacies of Presidents Obama and Trump will create the opportunity – indeed the mandate – to show the world how a country can be a true democracy. These are the times. . . Featured Event: Writing a Bestseller: How to Tell & Sell Your Story with John Perkins 4 Sessions | May 30-June 20, 2017 | Limited to 24 Participants | Register HereJan 31

National Post

Muslim Lives Matter - Hey, Donald, the safe zone’s supposed to be in place BEFORE you lob the missiles. It seems, as TS Eliot put it, that Trump has committed, "The greatest treason / To do the right deed for the wrong reason." Meanwhile, some opposing safe-zones in Syria say we should just increase refugee immigration. In other words, let’s empty out Syria, assist Assad in ethnically cleansing Shia Muslims. And, without a no-fly zone, you’re asking Syrians to flee without any protection from barrel bombs and mass slaughter. And sorry, Donald, but it was the REPUBLICANS who voted down Obama’s request for power to take out Assad’s air bases in 2013. If GOP paper warriors like Marco Rubio hadn’t stopped Obama, those Syrian kids would be alive today.   Trump is taking out one airfield. That’s like taking out Mar-al-Lago and leaving Trump Tower. Hillary says, take’m ALL out. Never thought I’d say this until today: Damn, I miss that woman. For years, too many of my progressive comrades have simply denied the slow-motion holocaust in Syria. When we talk about woman’s rights, how about the right not to see your child vomit out their intestines? * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Stay informed, rent or buy the film on Amazon or get the signed DVD, a signed copy of the book companion or better still - get the Book & DVD combo. Visit the Palast Investigative Fund store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!  Or support the The Palast Investigative Fund (a project of The Sustainable Markets Foundation) by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Palast Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info. The post Muslim Lives Matter appeared first on Greg Palast.Apr 7
Watch The Best Democracy… Movie Right now! - Right now, this minute, you can watch The Best Democracy Money Can Buy on Amazon from $2.99, or if you prefer get a lifetime stream from Vimeo. Or better yet, get a signed copy for a tax-deductible donation. See the Film that Jesse Jackson is bringing to 200 churches before election day. “Hilarious and heartbreaking. The most important movie — and the most entertaining. Standing ovation!” - John Perkins, author, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man Follow me as I bust the New Klux Klan – the billionaire bandits that are behind a scheme to purge one million voters of color on election day. The Hysteria Factory is in full effect. Trump says a million "aliens" are swimming the Rio Grande to vote for Hillary. Fox News —even NPR— are peddling stories about dead voters, ghost voters, double voters and other berserk claims of fraudulent voting. But it’s just the cover to STEAL THIS ELECTION, to swipe the Senate. Watch the Hysteria Factory Clip from the Movie  With the help of Willie Nelson, Rosario Dawson, and detectives Ice-T and Richard Belzer, I track down the secret billionaires behind Donald Trump and the guys who are gaming our voter rolls and funding this voter fraud Hysteria Factory. * * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Donate to the Palast Investigative Fund and get the signed DVD. Download the FREE Movie Comic Book. Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Check for Movie Screenings in your area. Visit the Palast Investigative Fund store or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive! Or support the The Palast Investigative Fund (a project of The Sustainable Markets Foundation) by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Palast Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info. The post Watch The Best Democracy… Movie Right now! appeared first on Greg Palast.Mar 20
March 15 Fundraiserto support Greg Palast’s new investigation of Trump’s Billionaires - Join Jackson Browne to honor Greg Palast and his team’s new investigations of Trump’s billionaires and the plan to fix the vote of 2018 With discussion of the attack on voting rights by Joy Reid of MSNBC and the need for investigative reporting    WHEN: Wednesday, March 15 at  6:00pm PTWHERE:  Santa Monica, CA Wine and Buffet Performance by Jackson BrowneRock & Roll Hall of Fame "Lives in the Balance" | "Running on Empty" We are facing a democratic emergency: Our purpose is to expose and prevent the theft of the election of 2018—and the billionaires who have turned The White House into a profit center.  $100 per person or $175 per couple Very limited space. Get your TICKETS now. All proceeds are tax-deductible and benefit the Palast Investigative Fund (checks and credit cards accepted) If you are unable to attend but wish to support our work, and have your support acknowledged by Greg and Jackson, you can donate here. Trump has claimed that millions of Americans vote illegally.  The Palast team's investigation for Rolling Stone, Al Jazeera, and BBC TV proved that this claim was the excuse for "anti-fraud" measures that, in fact, blocked 1.1 million citizens of color from casting their votes in the swing states of Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida in the last election. No, Trump did not win – and Palast has showed how, in cruel detail. Palast says, "While our work has been lauded and applauded for exposing mass vote suppression, our goal now is to expand our research and investigations while also coordinating with the Civil Rights Law Center of Washington to insure that this information is in the hands of voting rights litigators, progressive legislators, church and front-line organizations to prevent the theft of the 2018 election.'' Our film on the suppression of the vote in 2016 The Best Democracy Money Can Buy has been viewed by more than one million Americans and has become the source of fighting facts from People For the American Way to Rainbow-PUSH Coalition to the Potomac Coalition. "What Greg Palast has done is heroic, invaluable, and must be seen by every voting rights advocate in America." - Voting rights attorney Barbara Arnwine Help us win this next battle for democracy * * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Rent or buy the film from Amazon Vimeo. Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive. Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction!More info. The post March 15 Fundraiserto support Greg Palast’s new investigation of Trump’s Billionaires appeared first on Greg Palast.Mar 7
Millions of fraudulent voters, my a**! Palast follows The Donald’s money - A Facebook Event  Get the non-fake info with investigative reporter Greg Palast. Palast says, "It’s no joke—and it’s far more sinister than a mere "lie." "The US press has done a good job exposing President Trump’s looney-toons claim that millions of votes were cast against him. "But what’s missing is what’s behind Trump’s claim — and it’s not just his cranky, whining ego looking to erase the embarrassment of losing the popular vote. "We are witnessing the crafting of a systematic plan to steal the 2018 midterm election." And that’s not all: Did anyone notice that in the middle of Trump’s psycho-drama of a press conference, he said, "…I want to thank Paul Singer for being here and coming up to the Oval Office." Those are the most dangerous words Trump has uttered since Inauguration Day. Get the facts (and watch the cartoon!) during this special Facebook Live event. And Palast lets you in on the follow-up to his Rolling Stone investigation. He’s digging, and the worms are crawling up the shovel. And we’ll talk about how YOU can take part in the investigation. We have a lot to talk about, and a lot to expose. * * * * * * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie. Rent or buy the film from Amazon Vimeo. Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive. Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction!More info. The post Millions of fraudulent voters, my a**! Palast follows The Donald’s money appeared first on Greg Palast.Feb 22
Join NAACP Voter Fund for Facebook LIVE broadcast of my film on How Trump Stole It - I have a simple request. I’m asking that, this Thursday, at 8pm ET/5pm PT, you join the NAACP-National Voter Fund, Rainbow/PUSH, Josh Fox of Climate Revolution and many, many more–and “share” the Facebook LIVE broadcast of my documentary–the film that exposes exactly how Trump and his cronies attacked the voting rights of a million minority voters to steal the White House. That’s all we are asking: Between 8pm and 9pm Eastern, on Inauguration Eve, you “share” the live-stream with your Facebook followers. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, follows my crew’s undercover investigations for Rolling Stone and BBC-TV. "...Mainstream journalism has often struggled to cover the manipulation of data and the distortion of reality driven by billionaires like the Koch brothers or even Donald Trump... Palast slices through all the B.S.”- The Village Voice Pass this on to your friends, your organizations, and anyone who wants to get un-stupid about the theft of the 2016 election. I’ll be leading an online discussion right after the broadcast: What do we do now? Starting now you can share the trailer on Facebook: And share the trailer on Twitter simply by retweeting this tweet: Please also indicate that you are "going" to our virtual event on Facebook — and share it with your friends: On Thursday, January 19 at 8pm ET, go to (If you’re late, you can scroll back to the beginning.) The film (with the help of my friends Rosario Dawson, Shailene Woodley Ice-T, Willie Nelson and more), tells the story of the GOP’s weapon of mass vote destruction – and exposes the billionaires behind Trump and the vote trickery. The film was updated just this week. I guarantee: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll get revved up to resist. Trump didn’t win––his billionaire backers swiped it. We can take it back. Will you join me? - Greg Palast and the investigations team Make a tax-deductible donation to our Stolen Election Investigation *  *  *  *  * Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie.Rent or buy the film from Amazon or Vimeo. Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive. Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile.AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info. The post Join NAACP Voter Fund for Facebook LIVE broadcast of my film on How Trump Stole It appeared first on Greg Palast.Jan 17
Restricted U.S. Army Special Forces Guide to Information Operations - This TC serves as a guide to describe the fundamentals of how to incorporate IO at the tactical and operational level. Appendixes A through F offer tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) Special Forces (SF) Soldiers can use to analyze and plan information operations. This TC implements Army and joint IO doctrine established in FM 3-13, Inform and Influence Activities, and Joint Publication (JP) 3-13, Information Operations. This TC reinforces the definition of IO used by Army forces: IO employs the core capabilities of electronic warfare (EW), computer network operations (CNO), Military Information Support operations (MISO), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to affect or defend information and information systems and to influence decisionmaking. This TC is specifically targeted for SF; however, it is also useful to Army special operations forces (ARSOF) and the Army in understanding how SF employs IO. … IO should be viewed as an element of combat power, focused when and where it best supports the operation. As with other elements of combat power, there is no universal formula for the application of IO. Mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available-time available, and civil considerations are the major determinants. The purpose of IO is to achieve and maintain information superiority or advantage over the adversary at a particular time and place. To achieve an information advantage, an SF unit must understand the characteristics of the information environment in its operational area. The unit must also understand how adversary and third-party organizations use information to achieve their objectives. … INFORMATION SUPERIORITY 1-9. Information superiority is the purpose of IO. It is also the reason why a commander allocates resources to IO. Information superiority should not be treated as a doctrinal catch-phrase. Just as each mission’s end state is different, so is information superiority. For example, during combat operations, information superiority can be gaining surprise over the enemy or preventing the enemy from employing its reserve forces. During counterinsurgency operations, information superiority can be gaining populace support for friendly operations or preventing enemy freedom of flow. In each case, information superiority is defined specifically for the mission in terms of what advantage is sought for the friendly force. 1-10. To achieve information superiority, an SF unit uses information to actively attack the adversary and to shape the information environment to the force’s own advantage. This duality of operations—attacking the adversary and shaping the information environment—is analogous to “fires and maneuvers,” where fires equate to attacking the adversary’s ability to use information, and maneuvers are actions to seize and retain information nodes to gain a positional advantage in the information environment. To be effective, an information operation balances lethal and nonlethal activities to attack the adversary with those that shape the information environment. Through a combination of both, an SF unit seeks information superiority over its opponent. 1-11. An SF unit will rarely achieve absolute and universal information superiority. The actions of opposing forces, as well as the information content and flow in the operational area, are not static. Therefore, information superiority is a localized and transitory condition over the adversary. SF units seek information superiority at certain times and places, usually at or before the decisive point of the operation. Chapter 3 provides additional information. … … MILITARY DECEPTION 2-11. JP 1-02 defines MILDEC as actions executed to deliberately mislead adversary military decision makers as to friendly military capabilities, intentions, and operations, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions (or inactions) that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly mission. 2-12. MILDEC is more of a process or way of thinking than a capability with tangible assets and resources. It may be executed using a unit’s own troops and equipment. An effective deception does not have to be elaborate or complex; however, any time deception is part of an operation, it is the main effort for the information operation and should be included in the defined operational advantage (information superiority) provided for the mission. 2-13. MILDEC is a method, not a result. MILDEC is not conducted merely to deceive an adversary. Deception is used only to support the mission. Figure 2-5 shows ways to employ MILDEC. 2-14. MILDEC actively targets adversary leaders and decisionmakers in support of specific battles and engagements. It creates an exploitable advantage by misleading or confusing the adversary’s decisionmaker. Distorting, concealing, or falsifying indicators of friendly intentions, capabilities, or dispositions that the adversary will see and collect can mislead or confuse the adversary. MILDEC is conducted at all levels—strategic, operational, and tactical—and must be carefully coordinated to deconflict operations between the HQ and subordinate units. 2-15. Deception in support of OPSEC is conducted to reinforce unit OPSEC and is planned using the OPSEC plan as the basis for the deception. A deception in support of OPSEC uses false information about friendly forces’ intentions, capabilities, or vulnerabilities to shape the adversary’s perceptions. It targets the adversary’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance abilities to distract the adversary’s intelligence collection away from, or provide cover for, unit operations. A deception in support of OPSEC is a relatively easy form of deception to use and is very appropriate for use at battalion-level and below. To be successful, a balance must be achieved between OPSEC and MILDEC requirements. 2-16. Camouflage, concealment, and decoys are normally individual or unit responsibilities and governed by SOP. These actions may be taken for their own ends. They can also play a role in a larger MILDEC or deception in support of OPSEC operations where camouflage, concealment, and decoys comprise just a few of many elements that mislead the adversary’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance abilities. Merely hiding forces may not be adequate, as the adversary may need to “see” these forces elsewhere. In such cases, cover and concealment can hide the presence of friendly forces, but decoy placement should be coordinated as part of the deception in support of OPSEC. 2-17. The uncertainties of combat make decisionmakers susceptible to deception. The basic mechanism for any deception is either to increase or decrease the level of uncertainty (commonly referred to as ambiguity) in the mind of the deception target. Both MILDEC and deception in support of OPSEC present false information to the adversary’s decisionmaker to manipulate their uncertainty. Deception may be used in the following ways: Ambiguity-decreasing deception. This type of deception presents false information that shapes the adversary decisionmaker’s thinking so he makes and executes a specific decision that can be exploited by friendly forces. This deception reduces uncertainty and normally confirms the adversary decisionmaker’s preconceived beliefs so the decisionmaker becomes very certain about his COA. By making the wrong decision, which is the deception objective, the adversary could misemploy forces and provide friendly forces an operational advantage. For example, ambiguity-decreasing deceptions can present supporting elements of information concerning a specific adversary’s COA. These deceptions are complex to plan and execute, but the potential rewards are often worth the increased effort and resources. Ambiguity-increasing deception. This deception presents false information aimed to confuse the adversary decisionmaker, thereby increasing the decisionmaker’s uncertainty. This confusion can produce different results. Ambiguity-increasing deceptions can challenge the enemy’s preconceived beliefs, draw enemy attention from one set of activities to another, create the illusion of strength where weakness exists, create the illusion of weakness where strength exists, and accustom the adversary to particular patterns of activity that are exploitable at a later time. For example, it can cause the target to delay a decision until it is too late to prevent friendly-mission success. It can place the target in a dilemma for which there is no acceptable solution. It may even prevent the target from taking any action at all. Deceptions in support of OPSEC are typically executed as this type of deception. … INFORMATION OPERATIONS OBJECTIVES 3-29. IO objectives describe the effects that will achieve information superiority. IO objectives do not stand alone, but support the commander’s operational intent. As such, an IO objective is a statement of what IO will do to attack the adversary or shape the environment to achieve information superiority. For example, if information superiority for an operation is “prevent target from moving from Objective Black prior to attack,” then IO objectives could be “disrupt adversary communications within Operational Area Blue to prevent early warning,” “deceive adversary decisionmakers on Objective Black to prevent relocation of C2,” or “influence local populace in Operational Area Blue to support friendly-force operations with preventing populace reporting of friendly-force activities.” 3-30. For each mission or COA considered, IO planners develop IO objectives based on the tasks for IO identified during mission analysis. Depending upon the complexity or duration of the mission (for example, a tactical direct-action mission versus a long-term FID defense mission) there may be only one IO objective or there may be numerous IO objectives developed for each phase of the overall operation. Generally, regardless of the mission, no more than five objectives are planned for execution at any one time in the operation. 3-31. When possible, IO objectives should be observable (the desired effect is detectable), achievable (assets and time are available to accomplish the objective), and quantifiable (the desired effect can be measured). The effects describe a physical or cognitive condition either in the information environment (focus on information content and flow) or against adversary forces (focus on cognition and behavior). IO objectives should not specify ways or means (that is, IO capabilities). 3-32. There is no doctrinal format for an IO objective. One possible format uses target, action, purpose, effect: Target describes the object of the desired effect. Action describes the capability or cognitive function of the target. Purpose describes what will be accomplished for the friendly force. Effect describes the outcome (for example, destroy, degrade, disrupt, or deceive).Apr 10
U.S. Army War College Study: Regaining Strategic Initiative in the Gray Zone - INTO THE NEW GRAY ZONE U.S. competitors pursuing meaningful revision or rejection of the current U.S.-led status quo are employing a host of hybrid methods to advance and secure interests that are in many cases contrary to those of the United States. These challengers employ unique combinations of influence, intimidation, coercion, and aggression to incrementally crowd out effective resistance, establish local or regional advantages, and manipulate risk perceptions in their favor. So far, the United States has not come up with a coherent countervailing approach. It is in this “gray zone”—the awkward and uncomfortable space between traditional conceptions of war and peace—where the United States and its defense enterprise face systemic challenges to U.S. position and authority. As a result, gray zone competition and conflict should be pacers for defense strategy. DESCRIBING THE GRAY ZONE For defense and military strategists, the gray zone is a broad carrier concept for a universe of often-dissimilar strategic challenges. Defense-relevant gray zone threats lie between “classic” war and peace, legitimate and illegitimate motives and methods, universal and conditional norms, order and anarchy; and traditional, irregular, or unconventional means. All gray zone challenges are distinct or unique, yet nonetheless share three common characteristics: hybridity, menace to defense/military convention, and risk-confusion. First, all gray zone challenges are some hybrid combination of adverse methods and strategic effects. Second, they menace American defense and military convention because they simply do not conform neatly to a linear spectrum of conflict or equally linear military campaign models. Finally, they are profoundly risk-confused; as such, they disrupt strategic risk calculations by presenting a paralyzing choice between action and inaction. The hazards associated with either choice appear to be equally high and unpalatable. For Department of Defense (DoD) strategists and planners, gray zone competition and conflict persistently complicate military decision-making, deployment models, and force calculations. They often fall outside the defense conceptions of war, yet they can rapidly and unexpectedly fall into them via miscalculation and unintended escalation. In the end, whether emerging via purpose or implication, gray zone challenges increasingly exact warlike consequences on the United States and its partners. AN IMPERATIVE TO ADAPT U.S. defense strategists and planners must dispense with outdated strategic assumptions about the United States, its global position, and the rules that govern the exercise of contemporary power. In fact, the U.S. defense enterprise should rely on three new core assumptions. First, the United States and the U.S.-dominated status quo will encounter persistent, unmitigated resistance. Second, that resistance will take the form of gray zone competition and conflict. Finally, the gray zone will confound U.S. defense strategists and institutions until it is normalized and more fully accounted for by the DoD. These assumptions, combined with the gray zone’s vexing action-inaction risk dilemma, indicate there is an urgent necessity for U.S. defense adaptation. Without it, the United States introduces itself to enormous strategic risk. The consequences associated with such failure to adapt range from inadvertent escalation to general war, ceding control of U.S. interests, or gradual erosion of meaningful redlines in the face of determined competitors. These risks or losses could occur absent a declared or perceived state of war. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Examining the gray zone challenge through the lens of five archetypes—three state competitors (China, Russia, and Iran), one volatile environment (Middle East and North Africa), and the United States—this study arrived at six core findings and four recommendations. The findings and recommendations are statements of principle. The study team suggests that these principles will provide senior defense leadership with touchstones for deeper examination. The findings and recommendations are broken into two major categories: policy and strategy, and operational plans and military capabilities. The former provide judgments affecting high-level DoD decision-making, while the latter informs how the U.S. military might consider employing forces and assets. POLICY AND STRATEGY In the area of policy and strategy, this study found that there is no common perception of the nature, character, or hazard associated with the gray zone or its individual threats and challenges. Consequently, there are gaps in strategic design, deliberate plans, and defense capabilities as they apply to operating and succeeding in gray zone environments. This study further found that there is significant asymmetry in risk perceptions between the United States, its partners, and their principal gray zone adversaries and competitors. The results of this apparent asymmetry of risk-perception are predictable—loss of initiative, ceded control over interests or territory, and a position of general disadvantage in the face of aggressive gray zone competition. Finally, this study discovered that there is neither an animating grand strategy nor “campaign-like” charter guiding U.S. defense efforts against specific gray zone challenges. Because of this, U.S. gray zone responses are generally overly reactive, late, and ineffective. In response to these findings, this study recommends that the DoD develop a common, compelling, and adaptive strategic picture of the range of gray zone threats and their associated hazards. This new perspective should adequately assess the current gray zone landscape, the likeliest future trajectory of its constituent threats, and finally, the prospects for sharp deviations from current trends that might trigger a fundamental defense reorientation. It further recommends that the DoD “lead up” and develop actionable, classified strategic approaches to discrete gray zone challenges and challengers. Without a coherent approach to reasserting U.S. leadership, the United States risks losing control over the security of its core interests and increasing constraints on its global freedom of action. OPERATIONAL PLANS AND MILITARY CAPABILITIES In the area of operational plans and military capabilities, this study found that combatant commanders’ (CCDR) presumptive future gray zone responsibilities do not align with their current authorities. Combatant commands (CCMDs) need greater flexibility to adapt to their theater strategic conditions, and must act to gain and maintain the initiative within their areas of responsibility. It further found that the current U.S./North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) joint phasing model is inadequate to seize and maintain the initiative in the gray zone. Purposeful gray zone revisionist actors are successfully campaigning and achieving warlike objectives inside the steady state or deterrence phases of the U.S./NATO joint phasing model. Further, contextual forces of rejection are themselves accumulating warlike wins in the absence of a coherent non-linear U.S. approach. Finally, this study concluded that current U.S. concepts for campaign design, the employment of forces, and the use of force are not well-adapted to persistent gray zone competition and conflict. To contend effectively with the implications of these findings, this study recommends the following initiatives. First, CCDRs should be empowered to “operate” against active gray zone competition and conflict with new capabilities and agile, adaptive models for campaigning. This implies that CCDRs should possess the requisite responsibility, authority, and tools essential to achieve favorable outcomes that are in their purview. In addition, this study found that the DoD and the Joint Force should develop and employ new and adaptable concepts, capabilities, and organizational solutions to confront U.S. gray zone challenges. It recommends a number of specific actions to improve U.S. military performance in the areas of ground and special operations forces (SOF), air and maritime capabilities, cyber capabilities, exercises, and power projection. WAY AHEAD—ADAPTATION AND ACTIVISM Normalizing and accounting for the DoD’s burgeoning gray zone challenge relies on the socialization of two important concepts—adaptation and activism. The defense enterprise needs to adapt to how it sees its gray zone challenges; how it charters strategic action against them; and, finally, how it designs, prioritizes, and undertakes that strategic action. All of these require a robust and activist DoD response. To date, the United States favors approaches that are more conservative. This study suggests that continuing such approaches invites substantial and potentially irreversible strategic consequences.Apr 2
(U//FOUO) U. S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa Campaign Plan 2016-2020: Theater Crisis and Contingency Response Forces in Readiness - The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa Campaign Plan 2016-2020 defines the organization’s desired baseline operating conditions and capabilities beyond a one-year planning and execution cycle and directs action to achieve desired end states. The Campaign Plan synthesizes strategic guidance provided by U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), and Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC); accounts for the Commanders’ priorities and vision; establishes a deliberate yet broadly-defined multi-year plan to achieve stated objectives; and provides a framework for implementation, periodic assessment, and refinement. The Campaign Plan will be supported by Fiscal Year Implementation Plans that will further refine the guidance of the multi-year Campaign Plan into detailed single-year Plans of Action and Milestones (POA&Ms) with specific tasking to MARFOREUR/AF staff sections and subordinate commands. … STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT While the most dangerous challenges facing MARFOREUR/AF are associated with USEUCOM contingencies, the most likely are associated with crises in USAFRICOM. Since World War II, European allies and partners have worked with the United States to achieve security and stability, and Europe continues to be critical to U.S. national security interests around the globe. Growing instability, however, is being fueled by aggressive Russian behavior and NATO is undergoing a profound historical change to address a diversity of European and global challenges. Africa remains an enduring interest for the United States and its importance will continue to increase as African economies, population, and influence grow. Our engagement now can assist our African partners in realizing their potential and gaining the capability to solve African problems. African solutions to African problems are in the best interest of Africans, Americans, and indeed the world. USEUCOM AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (AOR) After nearly a quarter century of relative geopolitical stability, Europe is entering a new strategic era that reflects a return to great superpower competition. The USEUCOM Theater Campaign Plan defines three threats in the AOR that drive the reframing of USEUCOM’s theater campaign: A revanchist Russian Federation coercing European states Terrorism stemming from the Syrian civil war and instability in North Africa providing safe haven and operating space to Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs), thereby generating foreign fighter flow to, from, and within Europe Continued threats to Israel USEUCOM is promoting a balanced approach and working with allies and partners to address these challenges. Key to this approach is being able to deter our most advanced competitors. To do so, we must have—and be seen to have—the ability to fight and win. Given our budget, our capabilities, our readiness, and our actions, U.S. Marines must and will be prepared for a high-end full-spectrum enemy. The European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) demonstrates U.S. commitment to the security of our allies and partners and to protecting our homeland through several lines of effort, including: (1) increased U.S. military presence in Europe; (2) additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with allies and partners; (3) improved infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness; (4) enhanced prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe; and (5) intensified efforts to build partner capacity for newer NATO members and other partners. Russia and Eastern Europe: Russia poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and our allies and partners in Europe. Russian intimidation of the Baltic states, revitalization of its Arctic bases, and aggressive actions in the air, at sea and in cyberspace are the cause of much concern. Meanwhile, Russia continues to develop advanced military systems that seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas and, in some cases, they’re developing weapons and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, in an effort to deny our ability to respond. The Levant: The emergence of the Islamic State is a significant regional development as the group now controls substantial portions of Iraq and Syria through its rapid para-military expansion and growth in resources. Internal strife in Syria continues to fuel the group amid sectarian friction, at great cost to human life. Syria has become a magnet for global jihad; a situation that is likely to persist. Ongoing, severe spillover effects include a flood of refugees and an influx of foreign fighters into neighboring countries and throughout Europe. Israel is in a region of growing instability, surrounded by adversaries in the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai Peninsula, and southern Lebanon. Continued U.S. political and security guarantees have left our strategic partnership with Israel unshaken, as Israel will be a key ally with which to coordinate efforts to minimize extremist influence in the broader Levant. The Arctic: The Arctic is at a critical point in its transformation from a relatively isolated region to one where receding ice is enabling increased human access. As climate change and the variability of new energy sources shape the global environment, these shifts will affect our strategic outlook, especially in the Arctic. As more countries operate in the Arctic, more opportunities and challenges will arise. The United States is committed to working with allies and partners to keep the region stable and secure through this historic change. U.S. Naval forces are uniquely capable of conducting operations across the vast distances, remote outposts, scarce infrastructure, and seasonal challenges present in the Arctic.Apr 2
The 2017 Guide to Detecting Homegrown Violent Extremists - A graphic from the 2017 National Counterterrorism Center handbook on indicators of mobilization to violence among homegrown violent extremists depicts a man watching a video of Anwar al-Awlaki. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has released a 2017 version of their handbook for spotting indicators of mobilization to violence among homegrown violent extremists (HVEs).  The guide was originally intended for distribution among public safety personnel and is not intended for public release, but has since appeared on several publicly accessible law enforcement mailing lists and conference websites.  In 2014, the NCTC’s Office of National Intelligence Management formed an Interagency Analytic Focus Group with members from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, FBI, NSA, as well as representatives of state and local law enforcement.  The focus group “collaboratively developed the list of behavioral indicators and ranked them into three tiers of diagnosticity,” eventually developing a list to distribute to law enforcement personnel.  The 2017 handbook released by NCTC is a version of that list updated with new indicators observed since the handbook was last published. Intended to provide “a roadmap of observable behaviors that could inform whether individuals or groups are preparing to engage in violent extremist activities,” the handbook is a slick 36-page publication with colorful graphics depicting dozens of behavioral indicators that an HVE is mobilizing to violence.  These behaviors are divided into three groups based on their overall diagnostic capacity.  Group A includes indicators that are “very diagnostic on their own” and thus require little else to indicate mobilization to violence.  These indicators include “preparing or disseminating a last will or martyrdom video/statement” as well as “planning or attempting to travel to a conflict zone to fight with or support an FTO.”  Group B includes indicators that are “moderately diagnostic, more so when observed with other indicators.”  These include more common activities that may not directly indicate an imminent threat of violence, such as “posting terrorist icons/flags/prominent figures to social media” and “expressing acceptance of violence as a necessary means to achieve ideological goals.”  Group C includes indicators that are even more common and thus are “minimally diagnostic on their own,” requiring the “presence of other indicators to gain diagnosticity.”  This group includes “unusual purchase of military style tactical equipment” and “blaming external factors for failure in school, career, or relationships.” A graphic depicting the scale of threat levels assigned to various behavior indicators of mobilization to violence among HVEs. The guide also introduces a scale for evaluating the overall threat level of indicators by ranking: how diagnostic they are in positively identifying mobilization to violence; how dependent they are on other indicators to positively diagnose mobilization; how easily observable the indicators are; as well as whether the indicators present a long-term, near-term, or imminent concern.  For example, someone “disseminating a last will or martyrdom video/statement” is ranked as highly diagnostic, independent of other indicators, and observable, presenting an imminent concern.  An indicator like “surveilling potential targets” is moderately diagnostic and observable, but is highly dependent on other indicators and only presents a near-term concern. While some of the initial indicators in Group A seem plainly apparent as being indicators of mobilization towards violence, many indicators in the Group B and C are broad and at times confusing in their origin.  One indicator in Group C is “inappropriate use of what an individual perceives as ‘doctrine’ to manipulate the behavior of parents, co-workers, close friends and family.”  The guide offers examples of this indicator including “criticism of parents’ clothing choices, reading material choices, musical preferences, religious practices, interfaith friendships.”  Another broad indicator in Group B is “use of encrypted media applications to engage with unknown overseas individuals.”  Several indicators in Group C also relate to communications privacy, such as “utilizing communication security techniques” and “discussing operational security.”  Many of these indicators are rated as being dependent upon other evidence “pointing to terrorism and intent to take violent action” and the guide makes clear that “many of these signals or indicators—some of which might involve constitutionally protected activities—may be insignificant on their own.”  If any public safety personnel receiving the guide “reasonably believes” based on the information contained in the guide “that an individual may be mobilizing to violence “they are encouraged to “inform LE agencies with investigative authorities via mechanisms like E-Guardian or Suspicious Activity Reporting.” Mar 26
(U//FOUO) NCTC Homegrown Violent Extremist Mobilization Indicators for Public Safety Personnel 2017 Edition - (U//FOUO) The indicators of violent extremist mobilization described herein are intended to provide federal, state, local, territorial and tribal law enforcement a roadmap of observable behaviors that could inform whether individuals or groups are preparing to engage in violent extremist activities including potential travel overseas to join a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The indicators are grouped by their assessed levels of diagnosticity—meaning how clearly we judge the behavior demonstrates an individual’s trajectory towards terrorist activity. The list also includes additional information concerning what the behavior could indicate, identifies likely observers, and provides a probable timeframe between behavior and an ultimate violent act. Some of these activities might be constitutionally protected and may be insignificant on their own, but, when observed in combination with other suspicious behaviors, may constitute a basis for reporting. Law enforcement (LE) action should not be taken based solely on the exercise of constitutionally protected activities or on the apparent race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion of the subject. BACKGROUND (U//FOUO) By law, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) focuses on international terrorism. Senior Intelligence Community officials judge that violent extremists inspired or enabled by the self-proclaimed Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qa‘ida, including their allies and affiliates, are among the most lethal international terrorist threats to the Homeland. This product focuses on the threat from those actors. (U//FOUO) In 2014, NCTC’s Office of National Intelligence Management (NIM) formed an Interagency Analytic Focus Group, including experts from DCTC, DHS/I&A, DOE, FBI, NCTC, NSA, and cleared representatives of State and local law enforcement, who collaboratively developed the list of behavioral indicators and ranked them into three tiers of diagnosticity. The focus group created this list with law enforcement, homeland security, and public safety officials in mind. The focus group updated the list for 2017 based on new indicators observed since the publication of the original booklet. GROUP INDICATORS (U//FOUO) GROUP A Indicators are very diagnostic on their own. (U//FOUO) GROUP B Indicators are moderately diagnostic, more so when observed with other indicators. (U//FOUO) GROUP C Indicators are minimally diagnostic on their own and require the presence of other indicators to gain diagnosticity. (U//FOUO) Nothing in this list of indicators is intended to confer additional authorities to law enforcement beyond that which is provided by federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Officers who believe individuals are exhibiting significant mobilization indicators are encouraged to immediately contact the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. … (U//FOUO) WHAT IS A HOMEGROWN VIOLENT EXTREMIST? (U//FOUO) A Homegrown Violent Extremist (HVE) is a violent extremist of any citizenship who has lived and/or operated primarily in the United States or its territories, and who is acting independently of the direction of a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Because HVEs are acting to further the goals of an FTO, they are considered foreign intelligence threats under the authorities of both the Intelligence Community and domestic public safety entities. (U//FOUO) WHY WAS THIS BOOKLET CREATED? (U//FOUO) We face a heightened threat environment in the United States as HVEs heed the call to violence from ISIL and other global jihadist groups. • (U//FOUO) The rise of ISIL and an uptick in extremist travel and unsophisticated attacks—inspired in part by ISIL—prompted us to reexamine a set of violent mobilization indicators originally published in 2011. • (U//FOUO) Recent HVE attacks in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas have added urgency to publishing this booklet. (U//FOUO) We published this booklet to inform our federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement (LE) and private sector partners about what signals—or indicators—we judge HVEs, particularly those inspired or enabled by ISIL or al-Qa‘ida, might display that could potentially be detected by first responder personnel and other people. We emphasize that many of these signals or indicators—some of which might involve constitutionally protected activities—may be insignificant on their own. However, when such signals or indicators are observed in combination with other suspicious behaviors, they may constitute a basis for reporting. LE action should not be taken solely based on the exercise of constitutionally protected activities or on the apparent race, ethnicity, national origin or religion of the subject, or on any combination of any such factors. (U//FOUO) WHO IS THE BOOKLET’S TARGET AUDIENCE? (U//FOUO) We tailored this booklet specifically for first responders, including LE, homeland security, and public safety officials. These officials are on the front line in their communities, are well positioned to notice suspicious behaviors outlined in the booklet, and have the potential to maintain regular engagement with members of their communities who may also witness indicators mentioned in the booklet. (U//FOUO) If members of the public suspect—based on these indicators—that an individual is mobilizing to violence, they should contact LE. (U//FOUO) HOW WAS THIS BOOKLET DEVELOPED? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘DIAGNOSTICITY?’ (U//FOUO) NCTC conceptualized this booklet with the help of an interagency focus group, including officers from the FBI, the DHS, cleared representatives of state and local LE agencies, and subject matter experts. We decided to broadly publish it for public safety officials, to address the obvious need to inform those on the front lines of the effort to detect violent extremists in the United States. (U//FOUO) The group determined that the ideal manner of listing indicators would be by diagnosticity—the extent to which behaviors indicate violent mobilization – instead of by measuring how often the behaviors have been reported in past cases. The highest tier of behaviors would most likely indicate mobilization, behaviors in the middle tier would indicate mobilization when observed with other indicators, while the behaviors in the lowest tier would only  likely indicate violent mobilization when combined with multiple other behaviors. • (U//FOUO) An example of a Group A highest-tier behavior or hard indicator is the potential observation of an individual preparing and posting a last will or martyrdom video or statement to the Internet. The group judged that this behavior would be diagnostic on its own and may be observable if shared with or otherwise discovered by family, friends, and bystanders, and online and social media contacts. • (U//FOUO) Examples of Group C lowest-tier behaviors or soft indicators would be those that on their own do not suggest mobilization, but when taken together would become more diagnostic. None of those behaviors, by themselves, conclusively signal violent mobilization. • (U//FOUO) The behaviors noted in the booklet were based on a review of information derived from dozens of FBI terrorism investigations over the past three years and brainstorming sessions by focus group members.Mar 26
FBI Cyber Bulletin: Cyber Criminals Targeting FTP Servers to Compromise Protected Health Information - The FBI is aware of criminal actors who are actively targeting File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers operating in “anonymous” mode and associated with medical and dental facilities to access protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) in order to intimidate, harass, and blackmail business owners. Threat Research conducted by the University of Michigan in 2015 titled, “FTP: The Forgotten Cloud,” indicated over 1 million FTP servers were configured to allow anonymous access, potentially exposing sensitive data stored on the servers. The anonymous extension of FTP allows a user to authenticate to the FTP server with a common username such as “anonymous” or “ftp” without submitting a password or by submitting a generic password or e-mail address. While computer security researchers are actively seeking FTP servers in anonymous mode to conduct legitimate research, other individuals are making connections to these servers to compromise PHI and PII for the purposes of intimidating, harassing, and blackmailing business owners. Cyber criminals could also use an FTP server in anonymous mode and configured to allow “write” access to store malicious tools or launch targeted cyber attacks. In general, any misconfigured or unsecured server operating on a business network on which sensitive data is stored or processed exposes the business to data theft and compromise by cyber criminals who can use the data for criminal purposes such as blackmail, identity theft, or financial fraud. Recommendations The FBI recommends medical and dental healthcare entities request their respective IT services personnel to check networks for FTP servers running in anonymous mode. If businesses have a legitimate use for operating a FTP server in anonymous mode, administrators should ensure sensitive PHI or PII is not stored on the server.Mar 26
U.S. Army Worldwide Equipment Guide 2015 Update - Volume 1: Ground Systems 658 pages 15,550,306  bytes  FD2C566BB002FD5D7CAE1754AE11619A803B90AECEE1890DBA8BC8450535DB27 Volume 2: Air and Air Defense Systems 490 pages 8,633,454  bytes  957E099E8E63975DB197EBD1FDEF27B70AA9BB61B09A923E85096091FE7AE769 Volume 3: Naval Systems 69 pages 2,781,746  bytes  46972E3456364C4F010F139283801A6A1A7B676D3DDC47E2084539EB100712DA 1. In today’s complicated and uncertain world, it is impossible to predict the exact nature of the next conflict that may involve U.S. joint forces. We must be ready to meet the challenges of any type of conflict, in all kinds of places, and against all types of threats in all Complex Operational Environments. As a training tool, the opposing force (OPFOR) must be a challenging, uncooperative sparring partner capable of stressing any or all warfighting functions and mission-essential tasks of the U.S. force. 2. The Army Training Circular 7-100 series describes the doctrine, organizations, TTP, and equipment of such an OPFOR and how to combine it with other operational variables to portray the qualities of a full range of conditions appropriate to Army training environments. 3. The WEG was developed to support the TC 7- 100 series and all OPFOR portrayal in training simulations (live, virtual, constructive, and gaming). The equipment portrayed in the WEG represents military systems, variants, and upgrades that US forces may encounter now and in the foreseeable future. The authors continually analyze realworld developments, capabilities, and trends to guarantee the OPFOR remains relevant. 4. Published in three volumes, (Ground; Airspace & Air Defense Systems; and Naval & Littoral Systems) the WEG is the approved document for OPFOR equipment data used in U.S. Army training. Annual updates are posted on the ATN website. Therefore it is available for downloading and local distribution. Distribution restriction is unlimited. This issue replaces all previous issues. … Mar 11
U.S. Army Threat Tactics Report: Boko Haram - Boko Haram is a relatively new organization, having begun serious military operations against the Nigerian government in 2009. Abubakar Shekau leads a confederation of sub organizations with commanders who mostly control their own day-to-day operations. Shekau’s legitimacy comes from his position as deputy to the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. Boko Haram primarily conducts offensive raids, assaults, and ambushes against thinly-stretched and poorly-resourced Nigerian security elements and civilians in northeastern Nigeria. Influence from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to whom Boko Haram recently swore allegiance, can be seen in an improved and increasing Boko Haram social media presence. The Nigerian military counterinsurgency campaign begun in 2013 has reduced Boko Haram’s freedom of maneuver within Nigeria, causing it to setup safe havens in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon utilizing hundreds of unguarded border transit points. Due to a campaign of violence against civilians and businesses, Boko Haram has lost both Nigerian civilian support and recruits, causing it to look to disaffected and poverty-ridden areas in border countries, particularly Cameroon. Boko Haram’s violent attacks have alienated it from much of the Nigerian population. … The primary goal of Boko Haram is to institute an Islamic state throughout Nigeria based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law with an inevitable regional expansion. The founder and spiritual leader of Boko Haram, Muhammed Yusuf, and his followers originally believed in a peaceful transition and made what the current Boko Haram leadership considered illegitimate concessions to and compromises with secular and government leaders. The group has since adopted a takfirist ideology—the belief that less than a strict adherence to Salafist Islam makes a Muslim an “apostate” equal to infidels and, therefore, a legitimate target. Boko Haram has targeted and killed a number of prominent Muslim leaders who have been critical of the organization. Boko Haram considers any support of Western or secular ideas, such as schools based on Western influence, heretical and worthy of attack. The movement is not without provocations which have contributed to the escalation of its use of violence in pursuit of its goals. Decades of resentment against corruption, poverty, and perceived inequality have given Boko Haram its trajectory toward becoming an ever more violent organization. The reintroduction of sharia criminal courts in northern Islamic states failed because of the general perception of unfairness by the population. Police brutality, extrajudicial killings by security forces, and disappearances of people taken into custody have bred general distrust, animosity, and resistance to the Nigerian government that has not fully investigated and prosecuted offenses. Despite being Africa’s largest economy with great natural resource wealth, it has one of the poorest populations with a large percent of people living on less than $1 a day. The disparity in distribution of that wealth is stark in its inequitable concentration with 72 percent of the North’s population living in poverty compared with 27 percent in the South and 35 percent in the Niger Delta. The population in the North is caught between two violent and contesting forces, Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces. … Mar 11

Sunlight Foundation Blog

How American cities can help close the national trust deficit - In a world where fake news has become an international preoccupation, an increasing number of American cities are committing to make data-driven governance a core part of their culture. It’s an important trend, and one that we’re proud to participate in leading. In March, Sunlight joined hundreds of public officials from more than 90 cities around the world and our partners in the What Works Cities initiative in New York City to share knowledge and discuss the future of data-driven cities. The entire Open Cities team traveled up from DC to host sessions on data standards, community engagement with open data, and share the state of the Sunlight Foundation’s work with local governments. We came away both reinvigorated and inspired to pursue our work in the coming year. Here are three key takeaways: Cities play an important role in national politics Cities can create change from the ground up, implementing practical, effective policies that uphold our democracy’s ingrained standards for transparency and accountability. Urban open data champions play a key role in the national politics. This year at the What Works Cities Summit, it was clear that cities are at the center of ongoing, important national discussion about how data can serve the American people, wherever their mayors sit on the political spectrum. The work of Sunlight’s Open Cities team necessarily means resolving the nitty gritty issues involved in  drafting and enacting an open data policy. We are immersed in the work of adapting the larger goals of the open data movement to the environment of each What Works City. It’s easy for us and our partners in city governments to get bogged down in the details of shifting not just practice and policy but culture. It was both uplifting and inspiring to be reminded at the Summit that developing more open relationships between governments and residents is part of a much larger conversation about what it means to live in a democracy. In the year ahead, our team hopes to help cities imbue their stories with the power of empirical evidence, connecting how the efforts of cities to open data bolsters the commitment of American governments to public accountability based upon evidence. Local government champions matter In our work with cities, we’ve often talked about the successes of champions like chief data officer Eric Roche of Kansas City and other contributors to our OpenGov Voices series. Over the years, we’ve used our blog to capture their stories, but after listening to the challenges and occasional crises of confidence of Summit attendees, we know we need to help open government champions realize their own successes. Hundreds of city staff members around the country are creating opportunities for open data that never existed in their cities before by having tough conversations and suggesting improvements, including some changes that may go against the political grain. A recent post by Lisa Abeyta, founder and CEO of CityLife, highlighted the importance of recognizing cities’ “unsung heroes.” Laura Melle, a Summit attendee from the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology, said that she felt better going back to her city knowing she had the support of over 300 allies committed to open government. Every city champion should know they have that level of support. Sunlight will keep celebrating and congratulating hard-working city staff who are making the open data movement happen around the world. Time to go beyond access to information As a team, we’re proud of the successes we’ve had in cities in the past year – but we have a lot we still want to achieve. At Summit, we heard about city leaders using open data as a tool to engage communities, increase transparency, accountability and public participation. Cities are continuing to grow beyond access, with or without us. Part of our focus for the coming year will be to develop resources that address cities’ needs to reach citizens more effectively with open data. Some of these resources are already in development, which you can read about in our post about Sunlight’s new Tactical Data Engagement guide. We will continue studying the uplifting stories of cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, and data collaboratives around the world that work with community partners and external researchers to apply city data. We’re inspired by many new stories of the impact of open data we heard at Summit. Whether it’s improving a public records request system, using open data to help members of the community work on shared problems, or experimenting with public participation pilots, we hope to hear about more successes in open data that belong in the national spotlight. We’re particularly interested in studying ways in which cities like can use community-generated data from local partners. For example, Baltimore city government is working to incorporate data from the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance into their open data portal. We hope other cities will use this practice to incorporate their own external partners into discussions about their open data goals? This year’s Summit helped cement the notion that community input in city decision-making is a core component in the movement toward transparent, accountable government. We’re excited to work with more cities to bring more of the public into public policymaking in year ahead.Apr 12
Today in OpenGov: Trump’s trademarks, your life on open data, and more… - In today’s edition, we think about President Trump’s world of trademarks, explore open data’s impact on daily life, look at Seattle’s open data policy, highlight a conference on open parliaments, and more… trumpland The Government Accountability Office is reviewing Trump’s transition ethics and fundraising. “The federal government’s internal auditor is commencing a review of President Trump’s transition into office, examining potential conflicts of interest, contacts with foreign government and funding sources.” (Government Executive) Potentially of interest to the GAO, the @Transition2017 Twitter account is no longer searchable or clickable. President Trump’s slate of trademarks around the world raise ethics concerns. “A review of 10 trademark databases show that Mr. Trump’s enterprise, now run by his two adult sons, has 157 trademark applications pending in 36 countries.” A group of constitutional and ethics lawyers are challenging Trump in court, arguing “that the Constitution prohibits the president from accepting any economic benefit, including trademark approvals, from foreign governments.” (New York Times) The risks of privatizing government ethics. Bob Bauer reflected on the risks of moving ethics enforcement away from public bodies in the Trump era: “There is a different way of looking at what may exceptional about the Trump ethics regime…It is more concerned with a change, for the worse, in the institutional safeguards for keeping government service under public ethical controls. The problem could be thought of as a sort of privatization of public ethics.” (More Soft Money Hard Law via Election Law Blog) White House will have answers on visitor logs “very shortly”. Sean Spicer’s statement regarding White House visitor logs In the wake of a lawsuit pushing for their release: “We should have an answer on our policy very shortly.” As Wall Street Journal Reporter Rebecca Ballhaus noted on Twitter, it sounds a lot like his statement on the issue two weeks ago. (Rebecca Ballhaus) states and cities Seattle’s open data policy balances openness with citizen privacy. Steven Goldsmith, originally writing in a paper on What Works Cities’ Certification Program, digs in to the efforts made by Seattle’s government to balance privacy with the goals of their open data program and how they engaged citizens to ensure success. (Government Technology, Data-Smart City Solutions) Michigan Governor signs new FOI exemption into law. “Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that will exempt in-progress bids for public contracts from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last week.” (The Peninsula via NFOIC) elsewhere Open data’s quiet, but important role in daily life. Open government data helps citizens make decisions about schools, appliances, their morning commute and much more. Unfortunately, the ultimate source of this data is not always recognized, as Sunlight’s Alex Howard explained to CNN, the public may not realize how we already use government data in making decisions every day…” Potential government funding cuts may put much of it at risk.  (CNN) Facebook’s increasing focus on “civic projects”. “When it comes to social media platforms, Facebook is becoming increasingly engaged in the government space…the platform has been undeniably stepping up what it aptly calls its ‘civic products.'”(Government Technology) Brazil’s ongoing corruption problem shows no sign of letting up. “Brazil’s under-fire political establishment was dealt another blow on Tuesday after a Supreme Court judge authorized investigations into leading members of the government as well as dozens of the country’s most senior politicians.” (Bloomberg) save the dates #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets here! This one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress. April 13th: Ignite Night and Happy Hour at the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC. “This event will feature a series of several Ignite-style lightning talks (exactly 5 minutes, with 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds) about some of the latest exciting projects from OpenGov Hub member organizations, including Open Data Watch, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Global Integrity, and more!” Register to attend here. April 25th: TICTeC in Florence, Italy. Hosted by mySociety and “Returning for a third year, the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference focuses on the impact that civic technology and digital democracy are having on citizens, decision makers and governments around the world.” Learn more and register to attend here. May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. “Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.” Learn more here. May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. “Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress.” Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here! May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. “This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership’s new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments.” Registration runs through April 13th. June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here. Are you hosting an event that you’d like to see highlighted in this newsletter? Please let us know by sending a quick email to with a brief description and a link to the event page.   Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback! Apr 12
Today in OpenGov: Transport data ownership, email records management, and more… - In today’s edition, we ask about transit data sharing, argue for tax transparency, investigate protests in Venezuela, invite you to #TCampAZ, and more… states and cities   Transportation data sharing benefits from technological advances, helps states and cities. “Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) has operated the Intelligent Transportations Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) for decades, the recent technological advances in vehicle connectivity and smart infrastructure design have led to a number of programs adaptable for state and local governments.” (Government Technology) Closed transit data is bad for cities, citizens. U.S. Cities tend to open up their transit data, leading to a plethora of apps and services that help people navigate and explore their surroundings. That’s not always the case elsewhere in the world. Here, Germany is used as an example of the negative ramifications of keeping transit data closed. (CityLab) Embattled Alabama governor resigns, admits to campaign finance violations. “Gov. Robert Bentley resigned Monday rather than face impeachment and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations that arose during an investigation of his alleged affair with a top aide.” (POLITICO) Some states respond to federal Internet privacy rollbacks. “Privacy groups lost a major battle when Congress and President Trump canceled Internet privacy rules written under the Obama administration. The regulations prevented Internet service providers from selling your web browsing history to third parties, and they were stricter than rules for other kinds of Internet firms. But…the fight’s not over. It’s just moved to the states. (NPR) Colorado House hoping to shed light on dark money. “House Bill 17-1261 would require that anyone spending $1,000 or more in a year on electioneering communications include ‘paid for’ disclosures in those ads. House Bill 17-1262 would close a reporting gap so that spending information on electioneering communications is available throughout a campaign season.” (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition via NFOIC) washington watch   President Trump should embrace transparency and disclose his tax returns. Sunlight’s deputy director Alex Howard weighed in on why we’ll be participating in Saturday’s Tax March in DC. We, along with the majority of Americans, believe that this transparency is vital. We hope that sustained public interest in the President’s tax returns will bend the arc of openness in this presidency back towards the American values of public service over private interest that our democracy deserves.  (The Sunlight Foundation) Agencies make progress on email management, have much more to do. Some federal agencies are still managing email archives using paper, despite President Barack Obama’s 2012 order — and as Meredith Somers reports, they’re not being fully transparent about where they stand in their self-assessments. Alex Howard noted that a number of major agencies had not released required self-assessments, arguing “when agencies do not complete self-assessments, something is awry. On that count, it’s unfortunately notable that OMB itself does not have a report online, despite the importance of leadership on IT modernization.” (Federal News Radio) See Sunlight’s full statement on our Facebook page. around the world   Venezuelan media, citizens facing censorship as protests escalate in Caracas. Several television stations have been inaccessible within the country after “broadcasting protests in Caracas, which were organized by those opposing Nicolás Maduro’s administration. The demonstrations unfolded last week after the country’s Supreme Court dissolved the parliament and reassigned its functions to the executive branch and the Supreme Court itself.” (Global Voices) Yesterday, the U.S. State Department called on the Venezuelan government to respect human rights and public participation.   Russian opposition leader Navalny released from prison following arrest during protests. Alexey Navalny was arrested during unprecedented protests last month targeting “Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over allegations that he took more than a $1 billion in bribes from state banks and wealthy businessmen, the rallies penetrated deep into Russia, taking place in more than 80 towns and cities and drawing tens of thousands of people into the streets.” (POLITICO) What’s next for fiscal transparency in OGP National Action Plans? “Budget transparency is a key area [for countries building their National Action Plans]: it is one of the four requirements for membership of the OGP; and fiscal transparency commitments made up around one third of all the commitments in the first 51 Action Plans.” (Open Government Partnership) save the dates   #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets here! This one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.  April 13th: Ignite Night and Happy Hour at the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC. “This event will feature a series of several Ignite-style lightning talks (exactly 5 minutes, with 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds) about some of the latest exciting projects from OpenGov Hub member organizations, including Open Data Watch, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Global Integrity, and more!” Register to attend here. April 25th: TICTeC in Florence, Italy. Hosted by mySociety and “Returning for a third year, the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference focuses on the impact that civic technology and digital democracy are having on citizens, decision makers and governments around the world.” Learn more and register to attend here. May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. “Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.” Learn more here. May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. “Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress.” Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here!  June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.  Are you hosting an event that you’d like to see highlighted in this newsletter? Please let us know by sending a quick email to with a brief description and a link to the event page.    Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 11
President Trump should embrace transparency and disclose his tax returns - In May 2016, Sunlight said that Congress should mandate disclosure of the tax returns of presidential candidates. As we detailed, the public can learn a lot from a tax return that’s relevant to an electoral decision. In the months since, the need for enacting such a mandate has only become greater. During the campaign, President Donald J. Trump became the first major party candidate since the 1970’s to refuse to release tax information, despite initially pledging to do so. The leak of some of Trump’s 2005 returns added only a small piece of a much larger landscape of Trump’s overall tax record. Accountability to the public relies upon transparency regarding the finances of public servants, a standard that has served our country well for decades. That singular issue is why we have chosen to participate in this Saturday’s Tax March in DC: We believe in open government. We think a majority of Americans do, too, as shown by public polling and the most popular White House petition in history. A @WhiteHouse petition calling on @POTUS to release his tax returns is the 1st in history with 1 million signatures. — Sunlight Foundation (@SunFoundation) February 21, 2017 Since his election to the White House, President Trump has not only repudiated decades of democratic norms by refusing to disclose his returns. Despite the demonstrated public interest for doing so, the president has refused to divest from his businesses, place his assets in a blind trust and put an independent monitor in charge of oversight, carrying unprecedented conflicts of interest into the White House. We hope that sustained public interest in the President’s tax returns will bend the arc of openness in this presidency back towards the American values of public service over private interest that our democracy deserves.Apr 10
Today in OpenGov: The life of a watchdog in the Trump era, body cameras in the Big Apple, and more - In today's edition, we consider New York City's new police body camera policy, push for changes to Foreign Agents Registration Act reporting, explore how watchdog groups are dealing with the Trump presidency, roundup a slate of events, and more… states and cities   The NYPD's new body camera policy falls short on key accountability issues. "The New York Civil Liberties Union remains concerned that the policy is not sufficiently targeted at ensuring police accountability because it gives police too much control over the footage that’s collected." (NYCLU) Read more about the policy at The Verge and take a look at, which outlines some best practices for police body camera policies including the importance of accountability and public engagement.  Lawmaker calls on Alabama governor to resign in advance of impeachment proceedings. "Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon called on Gov. Robert Bentley to resign from office immediately, days before impeachment proceedings into the governor's billowing sex scandal are scheduled to begin."  (CNN) Arizona Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a campaign finance reform bill. "Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Friday vetoed a piece of legislation that would have required greater public disclosure by those who spend big money in New Mexico political races." (New Mexico in Depth via Election Law Blog) Boston launched a new data portal last week. The city is also running an Open Data Challenge through April 24th to encourage use of the data. (via Michael Morisy on Twitter) trumpland   "The Nightmarish Existence of the Watchdogs Keeping Tabs on Trump." Vice goes deep on the new reality for Washington watchdogs "in an era of reality TV presidents and alternative facts." Sunlight's executive director John Wonderlich weighed in on how it felt to realize that, if elected President, Trump would not have to divest from his various business interests: "It was hard to advocate for and discuss with Congress, because it felt like a cry wolf situation to warn of something that seemed so unlikely…It was also hard for members of Congress to conceive of the American presidency as something that came with branding deals."  (Vice) DOJ refuses to release U.S. Attorney's letters of resignation. The Burlington Free Press asked The United States Department of Justice for the letters of resignation submitted by the U.S. attorneys at the request of the Trump administration. In response, the rejected the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the letter because they were "inherently personal." FOIA experts took exception to the decision. Sunlight's Alex Howard weighed in: "This is the public's business. It's not private business…Some of the greatest power in our system, a prosecutor in the United States government — their conduct, their work, their interactions are of great public interest. Overbroad exemptions don't serve the public's interest." (USAToday and The Burlington Free Press) We hope the DoJ reconsiders their decision. Watchdogs sue for access to Trump White House visitor logs. The White House won't commit to disclosing visitor logs. Now, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the First Amendment Center at Columbia University in the City of New York and the National Security Archive will file suit for disclosure (Washington Post) The 2020 census faces threats in the form of budget shortfalls, potentially limited participation stemming from President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. "But census-watchers are increasingly warning that the 2020 Census could be hobbled…The Census Bureau was one of few federal agencies outside the Pentagon to get an increase in Trump's 2018 budget—but that $100 million increase is misleading, because the House and Senate had already each proposed to increase the Census Bureau’s funding by around that amount for 2017. So at a time when the Census needs to be ramping up sharply—it had requested a 21 percent increase for 2017, or $290 million—Trump’s 2018 budget represents no increase at all." (POLITICO) DHS ends pursuit of account information after Twitter fights back in court. "The Department of Homeland Security is backing off demands that Twitter disclose the identity of users posting criticisms of the Trump administration’s immigration policy in the guise of a rogue employee at the account @ALT_uscis." (Federal Computer Week) elsewhere in washington FARA data collection and distribution must be modernized. Sunlight joined a number of watchdogs on comments regarding the Justice Department's process for collecting and distributing information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  You can read the entire document here. Congressman's attempt to ban video at town hall attracts scrutiny. Event invite language banning video recording "attracted the ire of local Indivisible groups, which have frequently taped their interactions at town halls, resulting in awkward media coverage for the members of Congress. The American Civil Liberties Union, after spotting the Eventbrite language, suggested that it might violate laws around free speech." (Washington Post) save the dates   #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets here! This one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.  April 13th: Ignite Night and Happy Hour at the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC. "This event will feature a series of several Ignite-style lightning talks (exactly 5 minutes, with 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds) about some of the latest exciting projects from OpenGov Hub member organizations, including Open Data Watch, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Global Integrity, and more!" Register to attend here. April 25th: TICTeC in Florence, Italy. Hosted by mySociety and "Returning for a third year, the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference focuses on the impact that civic technology and digital democracy are having on citizens, decision makers and governments around the world." Learn more and register to attend here. May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. "Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress." Learn more here. May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. "Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress." Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here!  June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. "The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen." Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.  Are you hosting an event that you'd like to see highlighted in this newsletter? Please let us know by sending a quick email to with a brief description and a link to the event page.    Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 10
Today in OpenGov: Transparency Camp heads to Phoenix, opening ICANN, and more - In today's edition, we head to Arizona for the latest edition of Transparency Camp, support transparency at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ask when to share information around data breaches, and more… States and cities   Join us at Transparency Camp on May 22 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Sunlight Foundation is teaming up with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, Galvanize, and the Arizona Institute for Digital Progress for TCamp 2017! The event will bring "together the best and brightest from the government, developer and journalist communities to talk about and problem-solve issues relating to making government data open and accessible to the public. An un-conference format in which participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges and success stories they’ve seen firsthand during morning and afternoon breakout sessions." Learn more and get your tickets here. Transparent accounting and financial information is a winning strategy for private and public sector organizations. "Many Fortune 500 companies have learned the importance of transparency in financial disclosures—some of them the hard way. But the recent string of municipal bankruptcies, including Detroit, suggest that plenty of governments are still not convinced." (Government Executive) Fight over healthcare price transparency in Ohio struggles to attract coverage. "The Healthcare Price Transparency Law, written by Republican state Rep. Jim Butler and passed in 2015, would require the state’s hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers to disclose their prices for non-emergency services…" An ongoing fight over its implementation has failed to attract much coverage from traditional media outlets in the state. (Columbia Journalism Review) Alabama ethics panel exposes governor to prosecution. "Gov. Robert Bently of Alabama could face criminal prosection after a state ethics panel found probable cause that he broke ethics and campaign finance laws in a sex-tinged scandal that has engulfed him for over a year." (New York Times) around the world   Sunlight joined more than 50 organizations urging transparency at ICANN. The letter, directed at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' leadership, called "ICANN’s accountability mechanisms…hollow [and] without robust policies for providing information about the context underlying critical Internet governance debates."  Read the letter and raise your voice.  India is looking to change its Right to Information law for better and worse. "Proposed revisions to the 2012 rules governing India’s Right to Information Act are drawing criticisms mixed with some praise." ( NGO funding is causing concern at the European Parliament. "On March 27, the Parliament’s budgetary control committee discussed a proposal put forward by German center-right MEP Markus Pieper calling for the EU to cut public funding for NGOs 'demonstrably disseminating untruths' or campaigning for 'objectives [that are] contrary to the fundamental values of the European Union.'" There appears to be broad support for more transparency, but it's worth noting that some of the most vocal criticisms have come from corporate lobbyists who are often at odds with public interest oriented NGOs. (POLITICO) And now for something completely different: "What I learned from 20,000 dog poops." mySociety analyzed data from their FixMyStreet tool detailing reported incidences of "dog fouling" to help explain how when "working with data that you didn’t set out to gather you have to be careful to think about what the data actually means, rather than what it seems to be saying." Washington Watch   Trump advisors must be subject to ethics laws to avoid conflicts. "With news earlier this week that the White House may name another advisor with vast business holdings that would pose conflicts of interest, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) sent a letter today to President Trump’s top attorney, Don McGahn II, urging the White House to subject this potential new advisor to government ethics laws if he is appointed." (Project on Government Oversight) Twitter fights back over questionable request for user information. "The Trump administration is demanding Twitter expose the anonymous account holder behind the @ALT_uscis handle that has been critical of the US president's immigration policy." Twitter wasn't particularly impressed with the summons issued by Customs and Border Protection and is fighting back in court. (Ars Technica) Nunes steps aside from Russia investigation in wake of Ethics Committee probe. "The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it is investigating whether Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) made unauthorized disclosures of classified information while overseeing his panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election." (The Hill) When is the right time to notify the public of data breaches? "Competing interests exist between two of the predominant federal agencies tasked with stopping hackers from attacking the U.S., officials say, and that dynamic shapes how and when the government notifies Americans if they’ve been breached." (FedScoop) Still tracking Trump's conflicts of interest. The Georgian Ambassador to the United States tweeted praise for President Trump's Washington, DC hotel, prompting Sunlight's Alex Howard to ask "If a conflict is tweeted on Penn Ave, can OfficeGovEthics hear it?"  Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 7
Today in OpenGov: An open data coalition, marching for tax transparency, and more - In today's edition, we show support for open data legislation, march for Trump tax transparency, develop data in Ukraine, and more… Washington Watch   Sunlight joins more than 80 organizations in support of the OPEN Government Data Act. In a letter to Congress, the coalition consisting of tech companies, trade organizations, and civil society groups, urged quick passage of the bipartisan bill that "would set a presumption that all government data be published in open, machine-readable formats." (FedScoop) You can read the full letter here. A group of undergrads are bringing a technology and data science internship program to the federal government. "The students — Neel Mehta, Athena Kan and Chris Kuang — have partnered with former U.S. deputy CTO and current Harvard adjunct lecturer Nick Sinai, as well as senior leadership at the Census Bureau, Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans Affairs, to launch the first-of-its-kind Civic Digital Fellowship." (Federal Computer Week) "Mailing a fake newspaper is not a crime, nor is secretly funding a candidate to do so." Former Sunlighter Jacob Fenton dug up one of the most interesting — if legal — details from the 46 page indictment against former Congressman Steve Stockman. A major donor personally funded $450,000 worth of fake newspapers supporting Stockman's candidacy. Read the whole, complicated story at the Huffington Post. trumpland   Activists to celebrate tax day with march to release Trump's tax returns. The President's refusal to release his tax returns has been an issue since the campaign. Activists are planning to mark the upcoming deadline to file taxes with roughly 80 "anti-Trump tax marches scheduled on Saturday, April 15."  (NPR) Office of Government Ethics dealing with an explosion of public inquiries and complaints. "A small, previously obscure federal ethics office has catalogued a burst of inquiries and complaints from the public — more than 30,000 — since Donald Trump’s election as president, compared to a few hundred in all of fiscal 2015." (Roll Call) Bannon considered resigning but was talked down by major donor. "Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. 'Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,' said one person familiar with the situation." Bannon was removed from his position on the National Security Council yesterday and sources say that he had threatened to resign if the change went through. (POLITICO) Around the world   Ukraine's participation in the Open Data Charter has been a helpful tool for reform. "Ukraine’s open data journey started in 2015 but has roots dating back to the historic events of 2014 when thousands of Ukrainians came together on the Maidan, Kyiv's central square, to demand greater transparency of government and economic development.  These mass protests, called the Revolution of Dignity, pushed for reforms towards European integration and ultimately led to a change of government." (Open Government Partnership) New report: Not easy to access information about World Bank board of directors. "Requests for documents about the World Bank’s Board of Directors take many months to process and are often unsuccessful, even for very old documents, according to a examination of Bank records." ( The EU is helping fund new data journalism projects. "Three major European news agencies, AFP, DPA and ANSA will launch the European Data News Hub in June, while more than a dozen news organizations are behind the European Data Journalism Network, which will begin operations in October." The European Commission is chipping in nearly $2 million to get the projects off the ground. (POLITICO) Congratulations to Ontario and its people on the launch of Code for Canada!  Yesterday, "Ontario Minister of Digital Government Deb Matthews announced the launch of Code for Canada, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping governments build more efficient, digital public services." (BetaKit)   Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 6
Today in OpenGov: Whistleblower rights, accountability in South Bend, and more - In today's edition, South Bend boosts accountability, POGO teaches us about whistleblower rights, White House financial disclosures get easier to peruse, China takes a stand on golf, and more… States and cities   Strategic goals and transparency have helped South Bend, Indiana improve its government. "By setting clear goals that drive work throughout the city, and reporting on those goals to residents, [Mayor Pete] Buttigieg has created a high-performing government that is accountable for results. One outstanding example is the publicly-stated strategic goal of addressing 1,000 vacant or abandoned properties in 1,000 days, which started in early 2013. Mayor Buttigieg wanted to tackle the issue of blight, which residents told him was a priority during his campaign, in a visible way that allowed citizens to track the city’s progress." (Data-Smart City Solutions) San Diego tackles parking problems with data. "The city recently installed sensors in 200 Hillcrest parking meters to see how often they are occupied, which could be the first step toward using data to vary meter rates and free up more spots like Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston have done." The city hasn't yet embraced real-time data, but does have plans to release historical data to the public. (Government Technology) Washington watch   New program aims to educate would-be whistleblowers. "Federal employees and contractors need to understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to blowing the whistle on wrongdoing related to their work. That’s why POGO has launched a training program to educate would-be whistleblowers on tactics to safely disclose information through protected channels and to understand their protections in case of retaliation." (Project on Government Oversight) Whip Watch app rolls out updates aimed at boosting transparency. "House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer rolled out major updates to the 'Whip Watch' application at his members meeting on Thursday." The App, which has more than 3,000 active users will "allow users to be informed about House votes in real time. That includes giving them access to live vote totals with party breakdown, the time remaining on a vote, and how long a vote stays open after it was supposed to close."  (Roll Call) The past, present, and future of federal open data programs. This piece, by John M. Kamensky a Senior Research Fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government, lays out some of open data's history in Washington, explains the many ways it can be useful to regular people as well as the government, and looks towards the future. (Government Executive) Might as well face it, you're addicted to PACs. Angelo Pesce is serving a 10 year sentence at the Taylorville Correctional Facility in Indiana for scamming a woman out of $100,000, he is also the creator of a number of Political Action Committees. His situation "is the latest reminder of a nagging problem with political committees: While most PACs follow the rules, there are few safeguards against hucksters looking to make a buck." (The Center for Public Integrity) Trumpland   White House financial disclosures are now easier to search. Following the White House's Friday news dump, a number of news organizations began compiling and reporting on White House financial disclosure documents. Now, "The Center for Public Integrity compiled data from those disclosures into a searchable, sortable database, which provide a window into the wealth, assets and business interests of many of the people closest to President Donald Trump. The Center for Public Integrity’s news developer, Chris Zubak-Skees, extracted these details from more than 90 reports, released in PDF format, using a software tool he created." (Center for Public Integrity) Keeping busy on the White House "money beat". "The past few days have been busy ones on the Trump money beat. Although the latest developments aren’t particularly surprising, they add to the picture of a supposedly populist Administration that is actually the richest, most conflicted, and least transparent in living memory."  (The New Yorker) The future is unclear for the idea of a Chief Innovation Officer at the Pentagon. "Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s handpicked Defense Innovation Board recommended he create a chief innovation officer position in the Pentagon….Carter agreed with the recommendation, but he’s no longer around to see the idea into fruition. And now a new presidency and legislation changing the structure of the Pentagon’s leadership may throw into question what actually happens with that advice." (FedScoop) Facing budget cuts, NOAA ponders reliance on commercial data. "The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is exploring ways to deal with a proposed cut in future weather satellite programs, including greater use of commercial and international data sources over the long term." (Space News) Crackdown on corruption in China includes anti-golf push. Golf is one of President Trump's favorite methods of bonding with other world leaders, but it is unlikely that he will tee off with Chinese leader Xi Jinping when the two meet this week. "Golf has come under particular scrutiny as Xi continues his massive campaign against political corruption, long a lightning rod for public discontent amid a slowing economy and widening income gap." (CNN) Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 5
Today in OpenGov: Trump’s trust tweaks, Seattle’s open data reports, and more - In today's edition, we check in on Seattle's open data program, track tweaks to President Trump's trust, ask why NASA is making it harder to access information via FOIA, look for French campaign cash, and more states and cities   Seattle shows progress with new open data reports. "The Seattle Open Data Program has published its 2016 Annual Report and its 2017 Open Data Plan, giving the city a look into its recent past and upcoming future." The documents come on the heels of a new executive order that pushes city agencies to expand their use of data and analytics. (Government Technology) Sunlight's Alyssa Doom congratulated the city, noting that the program is exceeding its stated goals.  Looking to recruit tech talent to your city? Follow these steps. "Based on my experience in city government, as well as many conversations with mayors, department heads and chief data officers, I’ve learned that improving communications to job-seekers and creating a more tech-friendly city environment can go a long way toward appealing to the best of the IT world. Here are five steps cities can take to make their data and IT offices a hub for tech talent" (Data-Smart City Solutions) Tiny Washington newspaper sued by government agency following records request. The weekly Malheur Enterprise "was sued this past week by a state agency. Not because the paper did anything wrong, but because it’s pursuing public records in a horrific murder case of intense interest in the town. The government wants to shield the records, and make the paper pay its court costs…" (Seattle Times via NFOIC) around the world   Launching a new beneficial ownership registry in the wake of the Panama Papers. "This year, we – a group of civil society organizations and business(link is external) – are presenting a new project that will incite a culture shift toward corporate transparency. OpenOwnership(link is external)’s central goal is to build an open data register of global beneficial ownership in the public interest. The OpenOwnership Register will serve as a single platform from which to access data about who owns companies from around the world in a way that is easy to use, and totally free." (Open Government Partnership) French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen struggling to find financing at foreign banks. "Le Pen’s team has sent about a dozen requests to banks in Russia, the U.S., Italy, India, Indonesia and the U.K. on top of her applications to French financial institutions, according to her strategic adviser Louis Aliot." Le Pen reportedly needs around $15 million to fund her campaign plans. (Bloomberg) New book investigates financial links between Asian dictators, western power. "Weak, corrupt, and politically unstable, the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are dismissed as isolated and irrelevant to the outside world. But are they? Based on years of research and involvement in the region, Cooley and Heathershaw reveal how business networks, elite bank accounts, overseas courts, third-party brokers, and Western lawyers connect Central Asia’s supposedly isolated leaders with global power centers." (Open Society Foundations) trumpland Trump tweaks trust, can withdraw from businesses without disclosure. After revising his revocable trust, POTUS Donald J. Trump can now draw money from his businesses at any time, without public disclosure. (ProPublica) White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that the President could withdraw funds, "but he declined to say whether Trump would make such withdrawals public." (POLITICO) This latest shift to what was already a profoundly flawed arrangement brazenly flouts decades of precedent, in which a President held himself to the same ethical standards that Cabinet Secretaries do: disclosure, divestment, and use of a blind trust with an independent overseer. As we have said since November, so long as President Trump does not divest himself from his complex foreign and domestic business interests, both real and rumored corruption will cast a shadow over his presidency and everything he tries to do in government, whether right or wrong. All of Trump's Tweets will be preserved by the White House and the National Archives. "The White House has agreed preserve each of President Donald Trump's tweets, even deleted or amended ones, following the request of the National Archives and Records Administration…" (The Hill) House Oversight is investigating Flynn's foreign payments. "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Monday his committee is looking into payments that former national security adviser Michael Flynn received from foreign governments." (The Hill) Elsewhere in washington   NASA aims to thwart FOIA service by requiring individual mailing addresses. "The National Aeronautics Space Administration has begun rejecting public records requests from users of FOIA request-filing service MuckRock, which doesn’t provide what the agency calls a 'personal mailing address,' even though the requirement appears to have no basis under the law."  (The Daily Dot) Senate, GAO keep eyes on DATA Act implementation. "Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent letters to 24 chief financial officer agencies on Friday, urging leadership to" keep DATA Act implementation as a high priority. Agencies face a major DATA Act deadline in early May. (Federal News Radio) We're glad to see the General Accountability Office & Congress overseeing implementation of the DATA Act by The White House and U.S. Department of the Treasury. Facing major budget changes, agencies must move beyond Excel spreadsheets. "Spreadsheets are ill equipped to process the myriad functions that exist in the current budget formulation process. Agencies must record, analyze, categorize, control and report thousands of changing budget data points back to stakeholders. This process is far more complex than simply plugging numbers into a table." (Federal Computer Week)   Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 4
Today in OpenGov: White House financial disclosures, plugging public information loopholes and more - In today's edition, we dig into White House financial disclosure documents, shed light on Texas government contracts, look into Tom Price's potential stock improprieties, and more… Trumpland The White House made financial disclosure forms available late on Friday, but they didn't post them online. Instead, they required interested parties to fill out a form requesting specific documents, which where then distributed via email. This approach is far from optimal, as ProPublica explained: "the White House required a separate request for each staffer’s disclosure. And they didn’t give the names of the staffers, leaving us to guess who had filed disclosures, a kind of Transparency Bingo." ProPublica, the New York Times, and the Associated Press are teaming up to post all the files online in a public Google Drive folder. They are also encouraging their readers to dig through the files and share any interesting tidbits they notice. Among other information, the disclosures reveal that senior adviser Gary Cohn, formerly president of Goldman Sachs, is worth at least $250 million (Bloomberg), a number of staffers profited healthily from the flood of political cash unleashed following the 2010 Citizens United decision (New York Times), and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are holding on to real estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars despite their official White House Jobs (USA Today) GSA Inspector General pushed to review Trump hotel lease. "A group comprising 22 nonprofit organizations, liberal advocates, professors and ethical experts have written the inspector general of the General Services Administration — the agency that manages the lease for the Trump International hotel — asking that she review the recent decision by the agency to allow the president’s company to keep the lease while he is in office." (The Washington Post) Sunlight was happy to join other watchdogs and ethics experts in signing the letter, which you can read in full here. The sorry state of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "There’s still no leader at OSTP, a job that can double as the chief science adviser to the president…The other leadership jobs within OSTP — overseeing issues like energy policy, innovation and more — similarly remain unfilled." In fact, the office currently has only one staffer. (Recode) We hope that the President appoints a U.S. chief technology officer and a WhiteHouse Office of Science and Technology director. Putting scientists and technologists at the table where decisions are made is crucial for 21st century governance. Former Trump campaign staffers seek out foreign clients. "Some of President Donald Trump’s former campaign hands are rushing to sign lucrative deals with foreign clients, shrugging off their own pledges to avoid foreign lobbying and the president’s vow to 'drain the swamp.'" (POLITICO) It is time to review and reform how foreign lobbying is tracked. "Recent revelations have confirmed that former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn lobbied for foreign interests while he was working on the campaign without registering as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This is only the latest example that shows a formal review of the effectiveness FARA is overdue." (Project on Government Oversight) Elsewhere in washington   Tom Price bought drug company stock while intervening to protect profits. "On the same day the stockbroker for then-Georgia Congressman Tom Price bought him up to $90,000 of stock in six pharmaceutical companies last year, Price arranged to call a top U.S. health official, seeking to scuttle a controversial rule that could have hurt the firms’ profits and driven down their share prices, records obtained by ProPublica show." (ProPublica) Contractors push back against proposed transparency legislation. "In a move intended to make it easier for the public to see what exactly federal contractors do for the taxpayer money they receive, two Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would require agencies to post the text of major contracts online. But contractors and contracting specialists are pushing back." (Government Executive) Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee's unexpected responsibility. The Atlantic took a deep look at the Utah Republican, with a particular focus on how he is handling the "responsibility of policing his own party’s administration—rooting out conflicts of interest, exposing abuses of power, and generally causing headaches for President Trump. It’s an awkward and unpleasant task, and one that he does not seem to savor." States and cities   Celebrating data and evidence at the 2017 What Works Cities Summit. Sunlight's Alex Howard pulled together some highlights from "the annual conference convened by What Works Cities, an initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that provides support for American cities to improve how they apply data and evidence with their communities. (Sunlight Foundation) Early data-driven governance programs are floundering in Maryland. Martin O'Malley focused heavily on improving government performance through data and statistics while serving in Maryland, but his "model is in trouble. His successor in Annapolis, Gov. Larry Hogan, has discontinued the program. Baltimore’s CitiStat hasn’t fared much better, languishing from inactivity for months, if not years, at a time. The celebrated innovation that inspired a movement of Stat-like programs from Jackson, Miss., to Washington state is struggling to stay alive on its home turf." (Governing) Texas Senate moves to reduce contract secrecy. "The Texas Senate cleared a pair of bills Tuesday aimed at plugging 'loopholes' in public records law that have left taxpayers in the dark about key details of some government contracts." (Texas Tribune) We hope that the State Senate follows suit quickly.    Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!   Apr 3

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