A new TV “confession” and dodgy doings at the Supreme People’s Court

Access Archive

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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. The latest TV ‘confession’ — whistle-blowing judge under investigation for leaking state secrets

There’s something very fishy going on at the Supreme People’s Court of China. Radio Free Asia reports:

Former Chinese Supreme Court judge Wáng Línqīng 王林清, who in December helped blow the whistle on judicial misconduct at the highest level, is now under criminal investigation for “leaking state secrets,” Xinhua News Agency reported (in Chinese).

State-run news agency Xinhua said a former disciplinary investigation into Wang’s conduct had now been handed over to police.

The announcement came as state television aired a video “confession” from Wang, his first public comment after he disappeared into incommunicado detention on Jan. 3, after making two whistle-blowing videos.

  • There’s more on the “confession” at the South China Morning Post: In “a shocking televised confession,” Wang said that “he was behind the mysterious loss of legal documents in a long-running contract dispute.”

  • The editor of overseas Chinese website Mingjing, Ho Pin (何频 Hé Pín), last week commented:

Even the most secretive under-the-table deals cannot fool the discerning eyes of Chinese netizens. The investigative report on Wang Linqing’s case by the Political and Legal Affairs Committee has become the biggest laughingstock on social media. The loopholes are so numerous and the logic so twisted that people are even more skeptical that the authorities are trying to conceal the insidious cronyism among the powerful.  

  • Today, Ho also condemned the use of forced televised “confessions” in a note:

The Chinese government often uses forced confessions for propaganda purposes, even before any formal legal proceedings have started. Coerced confessions like Wang’s, which are often extracted through threat, insult and even torture, are reminiscent of terrorist groups’ tactics.

The U.S. division of China Global Television Network — known as CGTN now and earlier as CCTV — is now registered with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Originally designed to expose and forestall Nazi-influence campaigns, FARA now requires lobbyists or public-relation firms working for a foreign entity to register and file regular updates with the Justice Department.

But to me, registration requirements alone are not enough. The role played by CGTN is more sinister and goes far beyond that of a foreign agent. One may even argue that it’s a criminal instrument weaponized by the Chinese government.

2. Trade talks — Trump tweets, but there is no certainty

Donald Trump sent a pair of tweets from the White House at 5:39 p.m. Sunday evening:

I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues. As a result of these very productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1. Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement. A very good weekend for U.S. & China!

  • Xinhua News Agency reported on the tweet with a report consisting of a single sentence (in Chinese), usually a sign that the state-owned news agency thinks something is important but too politically “sensitive” to describe in detail.

  • The People’s Daily blessed Trump’s optimism with an article (in Chinese) published under the byline Zhōng Shēng 钟声 — a pun on “the voice of China” — a name used for “authoritative” commentaries on foreign affairs. Xinhua said that China and the U.S. have concluded the latest trade talks with substantial progress.  

It’s difficult to share Xinhua and Trump’s optimism about the talks when so much rides on the American president’s personal feelings. Last week, Trump argued with his top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, about the meaning of “Memorandum of Understanding” in front of China’s top negotiator, Liú Hè 刘鹤. You can watch the awkward moment in this Bloomberg video. Other reasons for pessimism:

  • “China is likely to agree (to) some sort of deal and just run the clock down on the Trump administration,” said one analyst to CNBC in reaction to Trump’s tweet, in a piece titled “Chinese stocks rocketed higher on Trump’s trade tweet, but a deal isn’t a sure thing.”

  • China will not “give in on areas it considers to be ‘core interests,’” says the South China Morning Post. Separately, and despite the happy noises in much state-media coverage about the trade talks, a Xinhua News Agency commentary (in Chinese) warns that as the current round of talks draws to a close, “new uncertainties cannot be ruled out, and the long-term, complex and arduous nature of Sino-US trade frictions must be clearly understood.”

  • “Trump ‘always changes his mind’ say exporters wary of trade deal,” according to Bloomberg.

  • “The U.S. and China haven’t yet agreed on the critical issue of enforcement in a proposed currency deal that would ensure Beijing lives up to its promise to not depreciate the yuan,” reports Bloomberg.

Elsewhere, U.S.-China tensions continue to simmer:

—Jeremy Goldkorn


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

  • Xinjiang internment camps
    Turkey renews criticism of China over Uyghur minority / VOA
    Ankara is not politely falling silent on this issue:

    Turkey has renewed its unusual criticism of China’s treatment of its Muslim minority group, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu calling on the country to make a distinction “between terrorists and innocent people.”

    In an address to a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting on Monday, Cavusoglu said Turkey recognized “China’s right to combat terrorism,” but urged the country to respect freedom of religion and to safeguard Uighurs’ and other Muslims’ cultural identities.

    Fears for Uyghur comedian missing amid crackdown on cultural figures / Guardian

    “Adil Mijit worked for a government arts troupe for 30 years, but his family fear he has been taken into a re-education camp… For decades he has been a household name who was known wherever he went in Xinjiang — but no one has seen him for more than three months.

    US firm stops selling DNA collection equipment to China / The Verge

    “Massachusetts-based biotech firm Thermo Fisher says it will stop selling equipment to Xinjiang, the province where Chinese authorities have launched a statewide campaign to monitor and track Uyghurs.”

    American families of missing Uighurs speak out at DC event / AP  

    Elsewhere, online and offline campaigns to raise awareness about the camps:

    Nearly two years after the Chinese government began to detain members of Muslim minority groups in western China, a growing number of family members abroad are refusing to remain silent. On Sunday, about three dozen relatives of some of the 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others being held without charge spoke out about the mass detentions at an event in Washington, D.C.…

    …“If you know someone who is missing, it is time to speak up,” said Ferkat Jawdat, a Virginia-based software engineer. He’s lost contact with his 52-year-old mother in Xinjiang.

Over the course of the past eight months, I interviewed dozens of Chinese immigrants in Canada from various backgrounds for a Human Rights Watch report on the Chinese government’s activities undermining human rights abroad. Many expressed deep fear of the Chinese government, saying that while they are outraged by the human rights abuses in China, they worry that if they criticize the government openly, their job prospects, business opportunities and chances of going back to China would be affected or that their family members who remain in China would be in danger.

  • Natural and unnatural disasters
    Broken-down bus that crashed in China mine was bought online / CTV News
    “The operators of China’s largest silver mine transported workers underground on a broken-down bus that was bought online, routinely overloaded and operating on ramp not intended for transporting people, safety officials said after the bus crashed, killing 21 miners and injuring 29.”
    Magnitude 4.9 quake hits Sichuan / Xinhua  
    “Two victims died after a balcony guard bar fell on them.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:


FEATURED ON SUPCHINA

Kuora: All the times the Chinese Communist Party nearly died

In several points in its relatively short history, the Chinese Communist Party came close to collapse. First, it barely made it to its seventh birthday, as Chiang Kai-shek launched the “White Terror” that killed many of the young CCP’s leaders. Then there was the Long March, an encirclement campaign in Yan’an, and full-blown civil war itself. The Cultural Revolution and protests at Tiananmen in 1989 also threatened the Party’s existence — and would have changed how modern China looks today.

The rise of Chinese student power casts further uncertainty over Canada-China ties

Canadians’ opinion of China, on a downward trajectory over the last few years, may have hit a new low in the wake of the angry displays of Chinese student power at two university events in the province of Ontario early this month. First, a group of Chinese students campaigned aggressively to oust Chemi Lhamo, a Tibetan Canadian, shortly after she was elected student president of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. Days later, another group tried to intimidate Uyghur activist Rukiye Turdush as she was giving a talk at McMaster University on human rights abuses inflicted on her people in China’s Xinjiang region.

Manchester City makes official foray into Chinese football

In a move that’s been in the works for several years, the Manchester City football club — or, more precisely, its parent company, City Football Group (CFG) — now has an official foothold in China, as it is part of a deal to purchase third-tier Chinese club Sichuan Jiuniu (四川九牛) FC alongside the club’s two other partners in this joint venture, humanoid robot firm UBTECH and sports investment fund China Sports Capital. Sources say the vast majority of the money has been put up by UBTECH, which takes a controlling 51 percent stake in the club, while CFG receives as much as 40 percent for precisely zero money.

Friday Song: ‘Yali Da’ — ‘Big Pressure’ — from The Wu-Force

The Wu-Force was formed in Beijing in 2013 between Wú Fēi 吴非, the banjo player Abigail Washburn, and Kai Welch, a man who has never seen an instrument he can’t play. The song “Big Pressure” — Yālì Dà 压力大 — was arranged for The Wu-Force to perform with the alt-classical ensemble chatterbird. If you’re feeling under pressure, turn up the volume and sing along at the top of your lungs!


SINICA PODCAST NETWORK

Sinica Early Access: Everything you ever wanted to know about Taiwan but were afraid to ask, Part 1

This week, we feature the first half of an extensive interview with Shelley Rigger, a political scientist at Davidson College and the leading U.S. expert on the politics of Taiwan. This first half of the interview, which covers the history of Taiwan through 1996, was conducted by Neysun Mahboubi of the UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China Podcast (one of our favorite China podcasts), and is republished here with the Center’s permission.

  • Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 77

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: the closure of 28 Confucius Institute programs by Canada’s province of New Brunswick, China’s first court devoted to financial cases, new studies of Chinese mental health, and more.

NüVoices Podcast: Queer culture, perception, and representation within China

On the first episode of the second season of the NüVoices Podcast, Alice Xin Liu and Sophie Lu are joined by Alex Li, senior editor at Vice China. Alex has a Ph.D. in gender and sexuality studies and a master’s degree in psychology. She is also the host of the gender and sexuality channel Biede Girls for Vice China. Alice was previously a guest on her podcast, Biede Girls Podcast, to talk about her bicultural background.


PHOTO OF THE DAY

A winter walk with granddad

Tanner Brown took this photo of a baby bundled up in Spring Festival finery taking a walk with his grandfather in Beijing.