Woeser Detained in Lhasa for Taking Pictures

The Times Online in the UK reports that famed Tibetan writer and blogger Woeser was detained in Lhasa for taking pictures. She has since been released. Here’s the report from the Times:

Tibet’s most famous woman writer and blogger has been questioned by police for eight hours, accused of taking photographs on the street, after she returned home briefly to the capital, Lhasa.

The detention of Woeser, who like many Tibetans goes by a single name, underscores the nervousness of the authorities in the Himalayan city, where Tibetans restive under Beijing rule rioted in the streets in March, killing 22 people and setting fire to hundreds of offices and businesses.

Eight police arrived at the home of Woeser’s mother on Thursday and presented her with a summons to accompany them for questioning. Her husband, the author Wang Lixiong, said: “They had used the wrong name on the document so I insisted that they correct the name before they could take her away. I reminded them that they had to bring her home within the stipulated 12 hours.”

She was held for questioning by several officers who said that they were acting on a tip-off from a member of the public, who had seen her taking photographs of army and police positions in Lhasa from inside a taxi.

Mr Wang, who spoke on behalf of his wife because he was worried for her safety, told The Times: “She told them that it was not illegal to take photographs in a public place and she had not visited any secret areas or military installations. They had no legal basis for holding her.” The police searched her mother’s home and removed several documents as well as Mr Wang’s computer.

They hacked his password, checked all documents on the laptop and required Woeser to erase every photograph that showed a policeman or army officer on the streets of Lhasa or in Tibetan areas they had visited.

Mr Wang said: “I can’t say whether their intention was to intimidate. But if they can do this to an influential writer who has done nothing more than take photographs, then one can only imagine the kind of threat that ordinary people in Tibet must feel every day.”

The couple decided to return home to Beijing as soon as they could get flights, but first organised a reunion party with Woeser’s many family and friends in the city. However, many did not attend, apparently afraid of possible consequences after her encounter with the police. The couple flew back to Beijing on Saturday, less than 48 hours after her summons and six days into a planned month-long visit to Lhasa.

Forced Labor for 2 Elderly Chinese Protest Petitioners

No one could have predicted that Chinese petitioners asking to protest in “protest zones” during the Olympics would be punished for their views of dissent…right?

The New York Times reports on what we all feared would happen as a result of Beijing’s Olympic-related P.R. stunt:

Two elderly Chinese women have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.

The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to get permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing.

During their final visit on Monday, public security officials informed them that they had been given administrative sentences for “disturbing the public order,” according to Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son.

Mr. Li said his mother and Ms. Wang, who used to be neighbors before their homes were demolished to make way for a redevelopment project, were allowed to return home but were told they could be sent to a detention center at any moment. “Can you imagine two old ladies in their 70s being re-educated through labor?” he asked. He said Ms. Wang was nearly blind.

I’m sure Professional Asshat & China Apologist Nick Kristof thinks this is a sign of tremendous progress and liberalism by the Chinese government.

I’m sure that Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, and Giselle Davies, the IOC’s media stonewaller and question-dodger spokeswoman, think that this is not an event that merits comment from the sporting overlords who keep the impenetrably noble Olympic flame safe as a symbol of peace and global unity.

I’m sure that everyone who has ever looked at the creation of “protest zones” and praised the new direction the Chinese government is heading in because of the Olympics will not look back at what they’ve said or written and amend their statements in light of this Olympic crime. They will not admit their errors and they will not let reality revise their views on China.

In the name of all that any people around the world think is just and right, this is a crime. These two elderly women are being sent to a forced labor camp for asking for permission to protest. Not for calling for the overthrow of the Chinese government. Not for even protesting without permit. For taking the Beijing authorities at their word and saying, “We would like a permit to publicly ask for adequate compensation for the government destroying our homes to make way for the Olympic Games.”

This is sickening. This is what tyranny looks like. And it’s happening with the entire world watching, with tens of thousands of journalists, foreign dignitaries, and celebrities blocks away. Yet no one is standing up to stop it.

In my view, Jacques Rogge and the directors of the International Olympic Committee are just as culpable as the insecure tyrants who run the Chinese government for what has happened to Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying. I hope Dianyuan and Xiuying are strong women and come out of one year of forced labor ready to continue fighting for their rights. But if tragedy occurs, and these two elderly women do not, then their blood is on the hands of Rogge and the IOC.

China Blocks iTunes for Tibet Album?

This is a screenshot of iTunes accessed from inside China:

As you can see, you can’t get onto iTunes from within China. The problem was identified in this thread on the Apple Support forum and it didn’t take long for iTunes inside China to put things together. User merrillks writes:

I live in Western China and use an american account and have the same problem. My guess is that China has blocked iTunes. How they do this I don’t know, but it’s the same way that they can block Youtube. My guess is that they probably blocked it due to the “Songs for Tibet” CD that came out on iTunes two days before the olympics. I think part of the money goes to Tibet and since they have very strong views on Tibet I’m sure that played a part in them shutting down iTunes.

User Sinoman adds:

In my 12-year China experience, I’ve seen a plethora of all sorts of “blockages” from the Chinese government, and if that’s what this is, it’s likely a “content” issue. I wasn’t aware of the aforementioned selection supporting Tibet, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that would spur a blockage of the site, since they can’t very well block a single song.

Another user points out that the same day iTunes was shut down, there were media reports that 40 Olympic athletes have downloaded “Songs for Tibet,” a musical compilation benefiting Tibetan independence, from inside Beijing. The album had been made available for free for Olympic athletes to download from iTunes. “Songs for Tibet” opened #4 on the Billboard charts and has been a huge hit on iTunes and other online sales sites worldwide.

A report on china.org.cn, which is the authorized government portal site to China, managed by the Information Office of the State Council, was critical of the iTunes download and spoke to angry Chinese netizen response:

According to Chinanews.com, the angry netizens are rallying together to denounce Apple in offering “Songs for Tibet” for purchase. They have also expressed a wish to ban the album’s singers and producers, most notably Sting, John Mayer and Dave Matthews, from entering China.

Many people have made remarks on online forums to express their anger, even those who have been fans of the artists in the past.

So it seems the table was set for an action on iTunes. Has it happened? It’s unclear but even bloggers who aren’t pro-Tibet think so and are outraged by it.

We don’t know for certain that iTunes has been banned because of “Songs for Tibet” or the popularity for this album amongst Olympic athletes. Both Apple and the Chinese government are silent so far. But it seems like a real possibility that China has shut down access to iTunes merely because it was selling an album supportive of the Tibetan people and their struggle for independence. Obviously if that turns out to be the case, it will be just another instance where the Chinese authorities show their true colors during the Olympics. They have not opened up. They have not become more progressive. They have not changed as a result of the Games. Rather, they’re the same repressive government that has only taken their illiberal tactics to new, more brazen levels with the whole world watching.

Nick Kristof’s Arrogant Idiocy

Regular readers of Tibet Will Be Free know that New York Times columnist Nick Kristof has a long history of wankery when it comes to his writing on Tibet and China. Kristof is a Sinophile through and through — he spends a significant amount of time in China every year — but lately Kristof has declared himself the Self-Appointed Negotiator and Moderator of the solution to the Tibet question. I don’t know why he’s decided to do this, I suppose to appear Serious and Reasonable, but I try to avoid divining the intentions of opinion columnists when they find themselves on thought experiments on serious matters.

Anyway, Kristof’s column this weekend related to China, but avoided the subject of Tibet. Instead Kristof tells the world about his Daring Adventure applying for a permit to protest in a “protest zone” inside Beijing (but nowhere near Olympic venues). Not shockingly, Kristof fails, but in so doing he displays some of the highest order arrogance I have ever seen a columnist display in print on any subject ever. Kristof glosses over the fact that at least six petitioners have been arrested or disappeared, going so far as to praise the Chinese security forces for duping people (with an assist from the I.O.C.) into admitting they are people the PRC would want to silence. Kristof fails to mention that foreigners weren’t allowed to protest in the first place as he engages in his worthless experiment. Worst of all, he takes the fact that no petitions are being approved, a fact that speaks only to the Chinese authorities new-found public relations savvy, and states that all of this shows that China is magically going in the right direction.

Kristof invites his readers to comment on his column and last night I took the opportunity. Here’s what I wrote in response:

Mr. Kristof -

Your glibness about the fact that Chinese petitioners imprisoned and disappeared for taking the Chinese authorities at their word that protests would be permitted is truly sickening. You gloss over the fact that BOCOG and the Chinese government made a P.R. move by announcing the existence of these protest zones. Yet not only do you casually admit that that Chinese security are arresting petitioners, you (ironically???) praise them for doing so when you write:

“What I didn’t realize is that Public Security has arrested at least a half-dozen people who have shown up to apply for protest permits. Public Security is pretty shrewd. In the old days it had to go out and catch protesters in the act. Now it saves itself the bother: would-be protesters show up at Public Security offices to apply for permits and are promptly detained. That’s cost-effective law enforcement for you.”

You then go on to fail in getting a permit for your inane protest. despite reports at the time of the announcement of this policy that protests were *for Chinese citizens only* and would not be granted to foreigners, your column never mentions it.

How can any reasonable human being, let alone a columnist at the paper of record, look at a situation where (1) petitioners are arrested for applying for a permit and (2) a foreign columnist fails to attain one and say “In coming months…we will see some approvals granted”? You are speculating and praising things that not only have not yet occurred, but the opposite has occurred.

The Chinese government has used the Olympics to whitewash their human rights record and the “protest zones” were one piece of that. Mr. Kristof, you yourself are now whitewashing the atrocity that is this “protest zone” ploy. You, sir, are now complicit in whatever happens to the “at least a half-dozen people who have shown up to apply for protest permits.”

You should be ashamed of yourself. I hope the Public Editor of the Times is reading these comments and I hope your work will undergo intense internal scrutiny. This is truly sickening, depraved work Mr. Kristof. Shame on you.

— Posted by F.X. Leach

I encourage everyone to go comment on Kristof’s column. Maybe the editors of the NY Times will look in and see how outraged the public is at Kristof’s arrogant idiocy.

UPDATE:

I forgot to mention it, but according to the Associated Press, China is batting 0 for 77 when it comes to approving applications for protests during the Olympics. Expect another Kristof column expounding on how rejecting 100% of the requests to protest is a great victory for openness and democracy for China shortly.

Two Great Articles

A great source for Tibet & China commentary is Rebecca Novick, who blogs regularly on The Huffington Post. Novick has two posts up this week on China’s crackdown inside Tibet following the nation-wide uprising this spring and as the Olympics approach. Go give these two articles — Leaking State Secrets: Beijing Finds Nothing Noble in Speaking Out on Human Rights and Guilty of Being Tibetan: Scenes from a Lhasa Prison — a read today.

That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Confusion over the meaning of words strikes the Chinese Communist Party:

“When Tibet is returning to normal, the timely announcement of reopening Tibet is a very important progress. If you all wish to go to Tibet, it is open again. I believe foreign journalists will be able to apply for their trip to Tibet as in the past,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said. Tibet had been kept out of bounds for foreign journalists after the March 14 Lhasa riots.

Liu, however, warned journalists that there could be “some uncertainties in the local situation” and urged them to cooperate with local authorities during their travel.

The word “open” does not mean what you think it means. When journalists have to apply for permission to visit Tibet, it’s not open.

Chinese Hackers Hit US Congressmen

Two U.S. Congressmen have accused China of hacking their computers.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, said his office computers had been compromised in August 2006 and that he was told by the FBI and other officials the source of the attack was inside China.

Rep. Christopher Smith, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his computer had also been attacked from China….

Wolf said the computers that were targeted contained sensitive information about human rights in China, while Smith, a New Jersey Republican, said he had “every reason to believe” the Chinese government was to blame.

Hmm. Why would China (or Chinese hackers working on behalf of their government) want to target American Congressmen like Chris Smith? Readers of Tibet Will Be Free will probably remember that New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith was a lead advocate for human rights and a free internet when Google launched their tailor-made censor site, Google.cn. At the time, Rep. Smith said, “These are not victimless crimes…We need to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressors.”

Smith also proposed legislation to stop Google and other American tech companies from helping totalitarian governments like China crack down on the internet.

The subcommittee’s chairman, Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, plans to introduce legislation by week’s end that would restrict an Internet company’s ability to censor or filter basic political or religious terms — even if that puts the company at odds with local laws in the countries where it now operates. Although some advocates have argued that the companies may actually be violating existing trade laws, most experts concede that does not appear to be the case.

Mr. Smith’s legislation, called the Global Online Freedom Act, however, would render much of what the Internet companies are currently doing in China illegal.

Among the act’s provisions is the establishment of an Office of Global Internet Freedom, which would establish standards for Internet companies operating abroad. In addition to prohibiting companies from filtering out certain political or religious terms, it would require them to disclose to users any sort of filtering they undertake.

It strikes me as awfully convenient that Smith would just happen to be hacked by attackers from inside China. The Chinese government has never liked the outspoken position some American politicians have taken on behalf of the people of Tibet and China. Smith is one of them and this is what he gets in return: not respect deserving of an American elected official, but hack jobs by Chinese internet goons.

You stay classy, China.

State Department’s 2007 Human Rights Report On Tibet

The US State Department has released their 2007 human rights report on Tibet. My understanding is that it is for the calendar year of 2007 and thus does not include any analysis of the impact of the popular uprising in Tibet this spring and China’s harsh crackdown in response. Nonetheless, the report includes this assessment:

The government’s human rights record in Tibetan areas of China remained poor, and the level of repression of religious freedom increased. Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and house arrest and surveillance of dissidents. The government restricted freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of movement. The government adopted new regulations and other measures to control the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, including measures that require government approval to name all reincarnated lamas. The preservation and development of the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of Tibetan areas and the protection of the Tibetan people’s other fundamental human rights continued to be of concern.