Beijing claims detained Canadians held in ‘good’ conditions

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is All the people beat the traitors (全民打汉奸 quánmín dǎ hànjiān).

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

A screenshot from a new state-promoted game called Fight the Traitors Together, which allows users to beat up Hong Kong protesters — see below. 

1. Beijing says detained Canadians held in ‘good’ conditions, cases handed over to prosecutors

Agence France-Presse reports:

China defended on Tuesday its year-long detention of two Canadians after Ottawa accused Beijing of “arbitrarily” arresting the men in what was widely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei executive.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been languishing in China’s opaque legal system since they were apprehended on December 10, 2018, just nine days after the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Kovrig and Spavor have not had access to lawyers and have been denied contact with their families since they were “arbitrarily detained”….

“Their conditions are good. China’s judicial department strictly enforces the law and handles the case in a civilized way,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Huá Chūnyíng 华春莹 said at a regular press briefing Tuesday.

The last news of the conditions of their detention was that the authorities had confiscated Kovrig’s reading glasses. This is what else we know of the conditions of their detention, and their future the Party has in store for them, according to the Washington Post:

For the first six months, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business executive Michael Spavor were held in solitary confinement with the lights on 24 hours a day, a move classified as a form of torture. They have endured hours of interrogation, according to people familiar with their situations.

After they were accused in May of stealing state secrets, both were moved to prisons, where they pass their days in cramped cells. Neither is allowed outside to exercise or see the sun. Neither has seen a lawyer or their family members.

The investigative process in the two cases “has been completed, and they have been transferred to procuratorial authorities for investigation and prosecution,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Huà Chūnyíng 华春莹 said Tuesday.

2. ‘Fighting the traitors’ in Hong Kong

According to propaganda sheet the Global Times, “an online game calling on players to hunt down traitors who seek to separate Hong Kong from China and fuel street violence has reportedly begun to attract players across Chinese mainland social media platforms.”

Fight the Traitors Together, or All the People Beat the Traitors (全民打汉奸 quánmín dǎ hànjiān), can be played in web browsers and on mobile phones. Players can use a fist, a sandal, or a baseball bat to hit protesters. You get extra points for beating caricatures of prominent Hong Kong activists, including Joshua Wong (黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng) and Nathan Law (羅冠聰 Luó Guāncōng). Per the Global Times, the game “also features Western faces, including characters that appear to be Julie Eadeh, a political unit chief of the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong,” whom Chinese propaganda has called a “black hand” behind the protests.

The Global Times does not say what organization produced the game, but in state media, the phrase “has reportedly begun to attract players” — like “gone viral” — is a sure sign that the government is pushing it.

Other news of and from the City of Protest:

Ambushed in Australia? “A ‘frontline’ Hong Kong democracy protester who recently fled the territory in fear of his safety says he was ambushed and chased in an Australian city by a group of masked Chinese men,” according to the Guardian.

“Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the city’s anti-mask law will remain unconstitutional for the time being, with the case awaiting its full appeal hearing next month,” reports the Hong Kong Free Press.

“Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor [林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é] has brushed aside “rumors and speculation” of a cabinet reshuffle ahead of her imminent duty visit to Beijing, saying the government has listened to the people after Sunday’s huge protest rally,” per the South China Morning Post.

3. JD’s Richard Liu quietly steps aside after sexual assault scandal?

“Richard Liu Liú Qiángdōng 刘强东, the man who founded ecommerce giant JD.com, said last year he would loosen his iron grip on the company after he was implicated in a sexual assault scandal that highlighted its key man risk,” reports Caixin.

Business records show that’s been happening — at least on paper.

Liu has quietly stepped down from top jobs at multiple JD subsidiaries including the company’s logistics, cloud computing, and healthcare units in the past few weeks, changes in business registry records show.

The reality on the ground may be different. Public records show Liu still holds a 45 percent stake in a company registered in Xi’an that fully controls JD Logistics. He also indirectly controls the subsidiary which runs JD’s cloud computing unit.

4. TikTok’s troubles are only beginning

The Washington Post reports:

TikTok chief Alex Zhu (朱骏 Zhū Jùn) has canceled a scheduled trip to Washington to meet with members of Congress, lawmakers said, a move that stoked fresh criticism of the social-media app at a moment when it’s trying to repair its relationships with U.S. officials.

TikTok in a statement confirmed that Zhu was postponing his planned Washington trip until “after the holidays.” It said the postponement was necessary “to ensure these conversations are as productive as possible.”

“TikTok has no higher priority than ensuring Congress members’ questions are addressed fully and transparently,” the statement said.

Zhu recently made the hard-to-believe claim that TikTok does not censor for political content.

5. Party plans for ‘testing’ economic conditions

Bloomberg reports (porous paywall):

China’s top leadership will set the target for economic growth at “about 6 percent” for 2020 as they meet this week for their annual policy conclave, according to a survey of economists.

The Central Economic Work Conference meeting began Tuesday and will wrap up on Thursday, according to people briefed on the plans, right as negotiators aim to finalize a phase-one trade deal with the U.S.…

Top leaders on Friday vowed to avoid systemic financial risks next year and warned that “challenges at home and abroad have risen significantly.” The gathering of the 25-member Politburo, chaired by President Xi Jinping, pledged to keep growth in a “reasonable range” and called for turning external pressure into a driving force for deepening reforms and opening up.

See also Xinhua News Agency’s top news story today: Top CPC leadership navigates China through testing year, or its Chinese version, which has a headline that is a bit of a mouthful: “In chaotic times of change — a description of the high-quality development of the Chinese economy led by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 as the core.”

6. Trump to delay new tariffs?

The South China Morning Post reports:

Christopher Hill, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said that both nations recognized the need to get the “phase one” deal done, but he warned that both had “a mountain of mistrust” standing in the way of an agreement.

Ya think?

Meanwhile, Bloomberg says (porous paywall) that “Chinese officials expect President Donald Trump to delay a threatened tariff increase set for Sunday, giving more time to negotiate an interim trade deal that both sides continue to insist is close to fruition despite a series of missed deadlines.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn

7. ‘The hysterical pursuit of security’ — the abuse of facial recognition

Facial recognition technology is coming to the Beijing subway system, and not everyone is okay with that. Jeff Ding of the ChinAI Newsletter has translated an essay by Professor Láo Dōngyàn 劳东燕 of Tsinghua University, originally posted to WeChat (in Chinese), in which she argues against the technology. In her words:

If this society has not yet fallen into a state of persecution and paranoia, it is time to say enough on security issues. The hysterical pursuit of security has brought to society not security at all, but complete suppression and panic.

Lao’s key concerns are about:

  • The authorities’ ability to protect sensitive personal information.
  • A lack of public consultation.
  • A lack of transparency around how screenings will be conducted and fears over discrimination.
  • Insufficient evidence that facial recognition promotes a more efficient transport system.

Last week, the Financial Times reported (paywall) on a survey conducted by the Nandu Personal Information Protection Research Center in Beijing that showed “74 percent of respondents want the option to choose traditional ID methods over facial recognition.” Also see this FT article (paywall) about China’s attempts to corner the global surveillance market and sell its technology in emerging markets.

—Anthony Tao

8. Transsion dominates African mobile phone market

International Data Corporation released third-quarter African mobile phone market data that revealed near-total dominance by Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings in both the smartphone and feature phone markets.

  • Feature phones: Transsion’s family of brands, including Tecno, Infinix, and Itel, commands an impressive 64 percent of the total African feature phone market.
  • Smartphones: Transsion also leads the market in smartphones that are becoming increasingly popular among consumers. Together, the Transsion brands lead with 36.2 percent, Samsung is second with 23 percent, and China’s Huawei is third in the market with 11.4 percent.

For details, see the China-Africa Project (paywall).

—Eric Olander  


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

The Chinese internet titan [Tencent] has teamed up with three other companies to create a gargantuan satellite network, in an attempt to provide affordable remote-imaging services to government agencies, scientific research institutions and tech companies, according to a Monday post [in Chinese] on Tencent Cloud’s public WeChat account.

Consumer inflation in China soared to an eight-year high in November, official data showed Tuesday, as pork prices continued to climb amid an ongoing supply shortage caused by a nationwide outbreak of African swine fever that has decimated hog stocks.

The consumer price index (CPI), which measures the prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, rose 4.5 percent (link in Chinese) year-on-year in November, the biggest jump since October 2011, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show. That compared with a 3.8 percent gain in October and was higher than the median estimate of 4.4 percent growth (link in Chinese) in a Caixin survey of economists.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, pork prices rose 110 percent in November compared to a year ago. In October, pork prices rose 101 percent from a year ago.

Overall, consumer prices in China rose 4.5 percent in November from a year earlier, while producer prices in the same month fell 1.4 percent from a year ago.

Huawei plans to incorporate its homegrown Harmony operating system into more of its products next year, and will promote them at home and abroad. The move comes as the embattled Chinese tech giant seeks to combat U.S. restrictions on buying core components and software from American suppliers, Reuters reported Monday, citing a company spokesperson.

In August, Huawei launched a smart TV, the company’s first product powered by Harmony OS. Huawei however has no plans to put Harmony OS into its smartphones, tablets and computers, the spokesman said.

China’s largest stock debut in years did next to nothing, following signs of weakening sentiment in the world’s second largest equity market.

State-owned lender Postal Savings Bank of China Co. rose only as much as 2.7 percent Tuesday on its first day in Shanghai.

The bank sold its shares at 5.5 yuan apiece, allowing it to raise as much as 32.7 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) if it fully exercises a greenshoe option. That would make it the largest onshore listing since Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. in 2010. The stock closed 2 percent higher at 5.61 yuan.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

For days after his FBI interrogation, Wei Su wondered: Where had the microphone been?

The agents had played him a scratchy recording of a conversation he’d had with a friend at a restaurant in Eatontown, N.J. Both men found it strange when a pot of hot tea arrived at their table without their having ordered it, but only later did Su, an award-winning scientist for the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, form a hypothesis. He thinks the teapot was bugged.

Government officials in a northwestern county in China face punishment after images of them burning books outside a library went viral, sparking concern on social media about the destruction of cultural and intellectual heritage.

In recent days a screenshot of an article about a clean-up at a state-run library in Zhenyuan, a small county in Gansu Province, has circulated on Chinese social media, showing two women burning what appeared to be a pile of papers and books.

“The library has completely cleaned and quickly destroyed illegal books, religious publications, and especially books and articles with biases,” said the article, which local media said was originally posted on the library’s website, but was no longer accessible.

In a statement on Monday, the county government said there would be “an in-depth investigation of the specific employees, who will be seriously held accountable” for their actions.

China’s attempts to woo South and Central Asian countries with a total of $126 billion of investment in 17 years have proved the most polarizing of its efforts to gain regional influence, because of concerns over debt traps, transparency and Chinese labour, according to research in the United States.

U.S. lawmakers announced an agreement on Monday on a $738 billion bill setting policy for the Department of Defense, including new measures for competing with Russia and China, family leave for federal workers and the creation of President Donald Trump’s long-desired Space Force.

Ever since anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong turned violent this summer, China’s celebrity-obsessed young generation have patrolled Facebook, Twitter and Weibo, ready to pounce on perceived slights and defend their motherland.

Nicknamed “fangirls” [or little pinks 小粉红 xiǎo fěnhóng] because they exhibit the same fervor most often reserved for pop-culture icons, these women and men flood social media with slogans and memes shaming brands -— sometimes with far-reaching consequences.

Massive pro-Chinese influence network was just exposed in the Czech Republic.

Czech largest financial group PPF, which has major business interests in China, has been funding and organizing network of public figures in Czech public debate.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

My play follows a female journalist who chooses to align herself with a pro-CCP outlet because of her misplaced belief that she can change it from the inside.

—The Battle of Triangle Hill [上甘岭战役 shànggānlǐng zhànyì] is known in China as a victory against foreign aggressors.

—Film’s timing linked to deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington on multiple fronts.