A man found guilty of raping and killing 11 girls and women in China has been put to death.
Gao Chengyong, 54, became known as China’s “Jack the Ripper” after his 2016 arrest for the horrific mutilations he carried out on his victims between 1988 and 2002.
Police said he targeted women dressed in red, whom he followed home before robbing, raping and murdering them – often by cutting their throats.
His youngest victim was eight years old.
Authorities in the northwest city of Baiyin, Gansu province, announced Gao’s execution on Weibo – the Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter.
Gao’s first murder was in 1988 – the same year his son was born. He raped and killed a 23-year-old woman, stabbing her 22 times. Her body was eventually found by her mother, but her hands and other body parts were never located, according to the People’s Daily China.
A subsequent spate of similar murders caused panic in the region and many women in Baiyin would not walk anywhere alone.
In 2004, with evidence indicating the crimes were linked, but making little headway with the investigation, police offered a reward for information leading to an arrest.
At the time, based on footprints, fingerprints and DNA, they said they were looking for a man aged between 33 and 40.
“The suspect has a sexual perversion and hates women,” the police said, according to the People’s Daily China. “He’s reclusive and unsociable, but patient.”
But it took another 12 years before a breakthrough came.
Gao’s uncle was arrested early in 2016 for a “minor crime” and a DNA sample was taken. The sample closely matched that found by forensics teams at the murder scenes, and police determined he was a relation to the killer they had been after for 28 years.
Police linked Gao with the crime and covertly collected a DNA sample which proved to be a direct match for the killer.
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The market watchdog in northwest China’s Xi’an has launched an investigation into a customer complaint that her newly bought Mercedes-Benz sedan has engine oil leaks.
The incident has attracted wide attention after a video of a woman sitting on top of a Mercedes-Benz while weeping and arguing with salesmen went viral online.
In the video posted on Weibo by a netizen identified as “huashenfangcunshan” on April 11, the woman claimed she found an oil leak when she was driving the car home from the dealer. After she drove the car back, she was told she couldn’t get a refund nor switch to a new car. All the dealer offered was to change the engine.
The CLS300 sedan cost around 660,000 yuan (US$98,445).
The customer met with officials from the market watchdog of Gaoxin District Saturday, demanding a full maintenance history of the car and an independent test by a third-party, Shaanxi TV Station reported Saturday.
Mercedes-Benz issued a statement on its Weibo account on Saturday, saying it was sorry for the customer’s “unpleasant experience,” and has dispatched a team to Xi’an to help solve the issue.
The dealer claimed the car had passed all tests before it was sold, according to a report by Xi’an’s news portal cnwest.com on April 12.
Li Yong, an official with the market watchdog of Gaoxin District in Xi’an, told cnwest.com that they learned about the incident online. They are still investigating and will punish those responsible if any violations are discovered, the report said.
Source: SHINE Editor: Wang Qingchu
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Dolce & Gabbana released a video on Friday in which Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the two founders of the Italian fashion house, apologized for “what their words had brought to China and its people,” and said they “sincerely ask for forgiveness.”
At the end of the 85-second video released exclusively on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, was the duo chorused “sorry” in Chinese — “dui bu qi.”
Gabbana said D&G loved Chinese culture and felt sorry for what he had said.
“Such a thing will never happen again,” said Gabbana. “We must try harder to understand and respect Chinese culture.”
D&G has been under fire for the racist and derogatory comments Gabbana left on Instagram after its latest commercial videos, promoting the fashion house’s Great Show on Wednesday in Shanghai, stirred controversy on social media for portraying stereotypical and out of date Chinese cultural symbols.
The videos were deleted from Weibo, but remain on Instagram.
Gabbana made comments in a private message exchange with another Instagram user, saying the videos were “deleted from Chinese social media because my office is stupid as the superiority of the Chinese.”
“And from now on in all the interviews that I will do international I will say that the country of shit (emojis) is China … China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia,” Gabbana said.
Stefano Gabbana comments in a private message exchange with another Instagram user.
The fashion house later claimed the Instagram accounts of D&G and Gabbana himself were hacked.
It also announced The Great Show of D&G, which was supposed to be held on Wednesday night, was to be rescheduled. Chinese celebrities and models all claimed to withdraw from the show.
Michaela Phuong Thanh Tranova, a student with Asian ancestry in London who first posted the screenshots of the message exchange with Gabbana on Instagram, said the posts about D&G were deliberately deleted undue to her own will, and she was warned that she would be banned from Instagram if she continued to post.
Instagram apologized to Tranova and restored her posts on Friday.
Things kept simmering as D&G released several statements which showed no remorse.
In one statement the fashion house said, “what happened today was very unfortunate not only for us, but also for all people who worked day and night to bring this event to life.”
The statement aroused more criticism and was deleted from Weibo, but remained on its Instagram account.
Goods of the fashion house have disappeared from Chinese e-commerce sites one day after the incident. E-commerce giants like JD.com and Alibaba’s Tmall all removed D&G goods and said they do not welcome those who have no respect for China.
Source: SHINE Editor: Shen Ke
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(WHEN IT COMES TO THE INTERNET THE GOVERNMENT OF CHINA AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING SHOW THAT THEY ARE SCARED TO DEATH OF THE PEOPLE HAVING ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR COWARDLINESS AND CRIMES TOWARD THE PEOPLE, IN THIS SENSE XI JINPING IS NO BETTER THAN NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN, COWARDS, LIARS AND MURDERERS WITH NO INTEGRITY AT ALL.)(OPED BY oldpoet56)
The great firewall of China: Xi Jinping’s internet shutdown
Before Xi Jinping, the internet was becoming a more vibrant political space for Chinese citizens. But today the country has the largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world. By Elizabeth C Economy
In December 2015, thousands of tech entrepreneurs and analysts, along with a few international heads of state, gathered in Wuzhen, in southern China, for the country’s second World Internet Conference. At the opening ceremony the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, set out his vision for the future of China’s internet. “We should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber-development,” said Xi, warning against foreign interference “in other countries’ internal affairs”.
No one was surprised by what they heard. Xi had already established that the Chinese internet would be a world unto itself, with its content closely monitored and managed by the Communist party. In recent years, the Chinese leadership has devoted more and more resources to controlling content online. Government policies have contributed to a dramatic fall in the number of postings on the Chinese blogging platform Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter), and have silenced many of China’s most important voices advocating reform and opening up the internet.
It wasn’t always like this. In the years before Xi became president in 2012, the internet had begun to afford the Chinese people an unprecedented level of transparency and power to communicate. Popular bloggers, some of whom advocated bold social and political reforms, commanded tens of millions of followers. Chinese citizens used virtual private networks (VPNs) to access blocked websites. Citizens banded together online to hold authorities accountable for their actions, through virtual petitions and organising physical protests. In 2010, a survey of 300 Chinese officials revealed that 70% were anxious about whether mistakes or details about their private life might be leaked online. Of the almost 6,000 Chinese citizens also surveyed, 88% believed it was good for officials to feel this anxiety.
For Xi Jinping, however, there is no distinction between the virtual world and the real world: both should reflect the same political values, ideals, and standards. To this end, the government has invested in technological upgrades to monitor and censor content. It has passed new laws on acceptable content, and aggressively punished those who defy the new restrictions. Under Xi, foreign content providers have found their access to China shrinking. They are being pushed out by both Xi’s ideological war and his desire that Chinese companies dominate the country’s rapidly growing online economy.
At home, Xi paints the west’s version of the internet, which prioritises freedom of information flow, as anathema to the values of the Chinese government. Abroad, he asserts China’s sovereign right to determine what constitutes harmful content. Rather than acknowledging that efforts to control the internet are a source of embarrassment – a sign of potential authoritarian fragility – Xi is trying to turn his vision of a “Chinanet” (to use blogger Michael Anti’s phrase) into a model for other countries.
The challenge for China’s leadership is to maintain what it perceives as the benefits of the internet – advancing commerce and innovation – without letting technology accelerate political change. To maintain his “Chinanet”, Xi seems willing to accept the costs in terms of economic development, creative expression, government credibility, and the development of civil society. But the internet continues to serve as a powerful tool for citizens seeking to advance social change and human rights. The game of cat-and-mouse continues, and there are many more mice than cats.
The very first email in China was sent in September 1987 – 16 years after Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in the US. It broadcast a triumphal message: “Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world.” For the first few years, the government reserved the internet for academics and officials. Then, in 1995, it was opened to the general public. In 1996, although only about 150,000 Chinese people were connected to the internet, the government deemed it the “Year of the Internet”, and internet clubs and cafes appeared all over China’s largest cities.
Yet as enthusiastically as the government proclaimed its support for the internet, it also took steps to control it. Rogier Creemers, a China expert at Oxford University, has noted that “As the internet became a publicly accessible information and communication platform, there was no debate about whether it should fall under government supervision – only about how such control would be implemented in practice.” By 1997, Beijing had enacted its first laws criminalising online postings that it believed were designed to hurt national security or the interests of the state.
China’s leaders were right to be worried. Their citizens quickly realised the political potential inherent in the internet. In 1998, a 30-year-old software engineer called Lin Hai forwarded 30,000 Chinese email addresses to a US-based pro-democracy magazine. Lin was arrested, tried and ultimately sent to prison in the country’s first known trial for a political violation committed completely online. The following year, the spiritual organisation Falun Gongused email and mobile phones to organise a silent demonstration of more than 10,000 followers around the Communist party’s central compound, Zhongnanhai, to protest their inability to practise freely. The gathering, which had been arranged without the knowledge of the government, precipitated an ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and a new determination to exercise control over the internet.
The man who emerged to lead the government’s technological efforts was Fang Binxing. In the late 1990s, Fang worked on developing the “Golden Shield” – transformative software that enabled the government to inspect any data being received or sent, and to block destination IP addresses and domain names. His work was rewarded by a swift political rise. By the 2000s, he had earned the moniker “Father of the Great Firewall” and, eventually, the enmity of hundreds of thousands of Chinese web users.
Throughout the early 2000s, the Chinese leadership supplemented Fang’s technology with a set of new regulations designed to ensure that anyone with access to China’s internet played by Chinese rules. In September 2000, the state council issued order no 292, which required internet service providers to ensure that the information sent out on their services adhered to the law, and that some domain names and IP addresses were recorded. Two years later, Beijing blocked Google for the first time. (A few years later, Google introduced Google.cn, a censored version of the site.) In 2002, the government increased its emphasis on self-censorship with the Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for China’s Internet Industry, which established four principles: patriotic observance of law, equitableness, trustworthiness and honesty. More than 100 companies, including Yahoo!, signed the pledge.
Perhaps the most significant development, however, was a 2004 guideline on internet censorship that called for Chinese universities to recruit internet commentators who could guide online discussions in politically acceptable directions and report comments that did not follow Chinese law. These commentators became known as wu mao dang, or “50-cent party”, after the small bonuses they were supposedly paid for each post.
Yet even as the government was striving to limit individuals’ access to information, many citizens were making significant inroads into the country’s political world – and their primary target was corrupt local officials.
In May 2009, Deng Yujiao, a young woman working in a hotel in Hubei province, stabbed a party official to death after she rejected his efforts to pay her for sex and he tried to rape her. Police initially committed Deng to a mental hospital. A popular blogger, Wu Gan, however, publicised her case. Using information gathered through a process known as ren rou sousuo, or “human flesh search engine”, in which web users collaborate to discover the identity of a specific individual or organisation, Wu wrote a blog describing the events and actions of the party officials involved.
In an interview with the Atlantic magazine at the time, he commented: “The cultural significance of flesh searches is this: in an undemocratic country, the people have limited means to get information … [but] citizens can get access to information through the internet, exposing lies and the truth.” Deng’s case began to attract public support, with young people gathering in Beijing with signs reading “Anyone could be Deng Yujiao.” Eventually the court ruled that Deng had acted in self-defence.
During this period, in the final years of Hu Jintao’s presidency, the internet was becoming more and more powerful as a mechanism by which Chinese citizens held their officials to account. Most cases were like that of Deng Yujiao – lodged and resolved at the local level. A small number, however, reached central authorities in Beijing. On 23 July 2011, a high-speed train derailed in the coastal city of Wenzhou, leaving at least 40 people dead and 172 injured. In the wake of the accident, Chinese officials banned journalistsfrom investigating, telling them to use only information “released from authorities”. But local residents took photos of the wreckage being buried instead of being examined for evidence. The photos went viral and heightened the impression that the government’s main goal was not to seek the true cause of the accident.
A Sina Weibo poll – later blocked – asked users why they thought the train wreckage was buried: 98% (61,382) believed it represented destruction of evidence. Dark humour spread online: “How far are we from heaven? Only a train ticket away,” and “The Ministry of Railways earnestly requests that you ride the Heavenly Party Express.” The popular pressure resulted in a full-scale investigation of the crash, and in late December, the government issued a report blaming poorly designed signal equipment and insufficient safety procedures. As many as 54 officials faced disciplinary action as a result of the crash.
The internet also provided a new sense of community for Chinese citizens, who mostly lacked robust civil-society organisations. In July 2012, devastating floods in Beijing led to the evacuation of more than 65,000 residents and the deaths of at least 77 people. Damages totalled an estimated $1.9bn. Local officials failed to respond effectively: police officers allegedly kept ticketing stranded cars instead of assisting residents, and the early warning system did not work. Yet the real story was the extraordinary outpouring of assistance from Beijing web users, who volunteered their homes and food to stranded citizens. In a span of just 24 hours, an estimated 8.8m messages were sent on Weibo regarding the floods. The story of the floods became not only one of government incompetence, but also one of how an online community could transform into a real one.
While the Chinese people explored new ways to use the internet, the leadership also began to develop a taste for the new powers it offered, such as a better understanding of citizens’ concerns and new ways to shape public opinion. Yet as the internet increasingly became a vehicle for dissent, concern within the leadership mounted that it might be used to mobilise a large-scale political protest capable of threatening the central government. The government responded with a stream of technological fixes and political directives; yet the boundaries of internet life continued to expand.
The advent of Xi Jinping in 2012 brought a new determination to move beyond deleting posts and passing regulations. Beijing wanted to ensure that internet content more actively served the interests of the Communist party. Within the virtual world, as in the real world, the party moved to silence dissenting voices, to mobilise party members in support of its values, and to prevent foreign ideas from seeping into Chinese political and social life. In a leaked speech in August 2013, Xi articulated a dark vision: “The internet has become the main battlefield for the public opinion struggle.”
Early in his tenure, Xi embraced the world of social media. One Weibo group, called Fan Group to Learn from Xi, appeared in late 2012, much to the delight of Chinese propaganda officials. (Many Chinese suspected that the account was directed by someone in the government, although the account’s owner denied it.) Xi allowed a visit he made to Hebei to be liveblogged on Weibo by government-affiliated press, and videos about Xi, including a viral music video called How Should I Address You, based on a trip he made to a mountain village, demonstrate the government’s increasing skill at digital propaganda.
Under Xi, the government has also developed new technology that has enabled it to exert far greater control over the internet. In January 2015, the government blocked many of the VPNs that citizens had used to circumvent the Great Firewall. This was surprising to many outside observers, who had believed that VPNs were too useful to the Chinese economy – supporting multinationals, banks and retailers, among others – for the government to crack down on them.
In spring 2015, Beijing launched the Great Cannon. Unlike the Great Firewall, which has the capacity to block traffic as it enters or exits China, the Great Cannon is able to adjust and replace content as it travels around the internet. One of its first targets was the US coding and software development site GitHub. The Chinese government used the Great Cannon to levy a distributed denial of service attack against the site, overwhelming it with traffic redirected from Baidu (a search engine similar to Google). The attack focused on attempting to force GitHub to remove pages linked to the Chinese-language edition of the New York Times and GreatFire.org, a popular VPN that helps people circumvent Chinese internet censorship.
But perhaps Xi’s most noticeable gambit has been to constrain the nature of the content available online. In August 2013, the government issued a new set of regulations known as the “seven baselines”. The reaction by Chinese internet companies was immediate. Sina, for example, shut down or “handled” 100,000 Weibo accounts found to not comply with the new rules.
The government also adopted tough restrictions on internet-based rumours. In September 2013, the supreme people’s court ruled that authors of online posts that deliberately spread rumours or lies, and were either seen by more than 5,000 individuals or shared more than 500 times, could face defamation charges and up to three years in jail. Following massive flooding in Hebei province in July 2016, for example, the government detained three individuals accused of spreading “false news” via social media regarding the death toll and cause of the flood. Some social media posts and photos of the flooding, particularly of drowning victims, were also censored.
In addition, Xi’s government began targeting individuals with large social media followings who might challenge the authority of the Communist party. Restrictions on the most prominent Chinese web influencers, beginning in 2013, represented an important turning point in China’s internet life. Discussions began to move away from politics to personal and less sensitive issues. The impact on Sina Weibo was dramatic. According to a study of 1.6 million Weibo users, the number of Weibo posts fell by 70% between 2011 and 2013.
The strength of the Communist party’s control over the internet rests above all on its commitment to prevent the spread of information that it finds dangerous. It has also adopted sophisticated technology, such as the Great Firewall and the Golden Shield. Perhaps its most potent source of influence, however, is the cyber-army it has developed to implement its policies.
The total number of people employed to monitor opinion and censor content on the internet – a role euphemistically known as “internet public opinion analyst” – was estimated at 2 million in 2013. They are employed across government propaganda departments, private corporations and news outlets. One 2016 Harvard study estimated that the Chinese government fabricates and posts approximately 448m comments on social media annually. A considerable amount of censorship is conducted through the manual deletion of posts, and an estimated 100,000 people are employed by both the government and private companies to do just this.
Private companies also play an important role in facilitating internet censorship in China. Since commercial internet providers are so involved in censoring the sites that they host, internet scholar Guobin Yang argues that “it may not be too much of a stretch to talk about the privatisation of internet content control”. The process is made simpler by the fact that several major technology entrepreneurs also hold political office. For example, Robin Li of Baidu is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory legislature, while Lei Jun, founder and CEO of mobile phone giant Xiaomi, is a representative of the National People’s Congress.
Yet Xi’s growing control over the internet does not come without costs. An internet that does not work efficiently or limits access to information impedes economic growth. China’s internet is notoriously unreliable, and ranks 91st in the world for speed. As New Yorker writer Evan Osnos asked in discussing the transformation of the Chinese internet during Xi’s tenure: “How many countries in 2015 have an internet connection to the world that is worse than it was a year ago?”
Scientific innovation, particularly prized by the Chinese leadership, may also be at risk. After the VPN crackdown, a Chinese biologist published an essay that became popular on social media, entitled Why Do Scientists Need Google? He wrote: “If a country wants to make this many scientists take out time from the short duration of their professional lives to research technology for climbing over the Great Firewall and to install and to continually upgrade every kind of software for routers, computers, tablets and mobile devices, no matter that this behaviour wastes a great amount of time; it is all completely ridiculous.”
More difficult to gauge is the cost the Chinese leadership incurs to its credibility. Web users criticising the Great Firewall have used puns to mock China’s censorship system. Playing off the fact that the phrases “strong nation” and “wall nation” share a phonetic pronunciation in Chinese (qiangguo), some began using the phrase “wall nation” to refer to China. Those responsible for seeking to control content have also been widely mocked. When Fang opened an account on Sina Weibo in December 2010, he quickly closed the account after thousands of online users left “expletive-laden messages” accusing him of being a government hack. Censors at Sina Weibo blocked “Fang Binxing” as a search term; one Twitter user wrote: “Kind of poetic, really, the blocker, blocked.” When Fang delivered a speech at Wuhan University in central China in 2011, a few students pelted him with eggs and a pair of shoes.
Nonetheless, the government seems willing to bear the economic and scientific costs, as well as potential damage to its credibility, if it means more control over the internet. For the international community, Beijing’s cyber-policy is a sign of the challenge that a more powerful China presents to the liberal world order, which prioritises values such as freedom of speech. It also reflects the paradox inherent in China’s efforts to promote itself as a champion of globalisation, while simultaneously advocating a model of internet sovereignty and closing its cyber-world to information and investment from abroad.
Adapted from The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State by Elizabeth C Economy, published by Oxford University Press and available at guardianbookshop.com
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As Chinese authorities are fiercely cracking down on the internet, China’s top social media platform Weibo doing its best to stay in line. On September 27, Weibo announced it would hire 1,000 “supervisors” from among its users to conduct censorship.
Weibo said it will grant each supervisor membership, a special identity label on the platform and an online subsidy equal to 200 yuan (around $30). Furthermore, Weibo said it would reward the supervisors who have the best performance each month with iPhones, other smartphones, notebooks, or other prizes.
According to the announcement, all supervisors, “who work on their leisure time,” should report on no less than 200 pieces of content (including both original posts and comments) that either are pornographic, illegal or harmful. The announcement didn’t clarify what content should be regarded as “harmful,” but it promised that Weibo would train the supervisors beforehand.
On September 28, Weibo published more detailed information on supervisors’ work, further elaborating on the qualifications and disqualifications for a supervisor. It required that the supervisors should have their identity confirmed and “some experience of reporting,” and should not take advantage of the position to retaliate or blackmail other users.
This is not the first time online Chinese communities have been seeded with censors or professional commenters. Such internet commenters, in particular, have a colloquial nickname — 50 Cent Party — based on the rumor that those hired by the Chinese government to manipulate public opinion would be paid 50 cents per post.
Weibo’s public recruitment of censors is surprising but not unprecedented. Weibo quietly posted a similar announcement days earlier. The latest announcement has only received positive comments — but that’s what censors are there to ensure, right?
For Weibo, the new measure is a strategic business move. On September 25, Beijing’s internet regulator imposed a maximum, though unspecified, fine on the Weibo (as well as two other Chinese internet giants) for “failing to properly manage its platform.” The authorities said Weibo’s users spread information that “jeopardizes national security, public safety, and social order.”
The public nature of the hiring announcement serves another purpose beyond the recruitment of censors and an attempt to rectify the situation that brought Beijing’s ire upon the company: it serves as a warning to all Weibo users and motivation to self-censor lest their fellow netizens report them.
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China has blocked parts of a national park built around Changbaishan, or Mount Paektu, in Jilin Province, following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
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Sept. 14 (UPI) — Public access to the Changbaishan National Nature Reserve in China, also known as Mount Paektu in North Korea, has been partly blocked out of safety concerns, according to a South Korean newspaper.
Donga Ilbo reported Thursday that Chinese authorities have temporarily closed parts of the national park in northeastern Jilin Province amid rising fears in the region about radioactive contamination, following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.
The area that is no longer accessible to the public is located about 70 miles from Punggye-ri, the North Korean nuclear site where Pyongyang recently detonated a bomb that may have released as much as 250 kilotons of energy, according to U.S. experts.
The announcement on the shutdown was posted to Weibo — the Chinese social network that most closely resembles Twitter — on Thursday.
“For the safety and convenience of travelers, we have temporarily closed the southern tourist zone of Changbai Mountain,” authorities said. “Officials are thoroughly investigating the safety of the tourist area.”
Chinese authorities also said the area will remain closed until “the potential risks disappear.”
Falling rocks have been causing problems but the northern and western zones of the national park are to remain open, they added.
Chinese commenters said online they fear the worst, following the test.
China had been repairing facilities around Changbai Mountain for four years, and commenters said it is unfortunate the park must close because of North Korea’s provocation.
Speculation is rising in China whether falling rocks at the mountain are the result of the test, according to the Donga.
Commenters said the Chinese government was blocking reply messages to the announcement.
The Changbaishan National Nature Reserve is considered the official birthplace of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The mountain sits on the border between North Korea and China and is accessible from both sides.
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Chatbots on one of China’s most popular messaging apps have been pulled after they went rogue and criticised the communist government.
Tencent, a Chinese internet tech titan whose messaging app has more than 800 million users in the country, introduced chatbots Baby Q, a penguin, and Little Bing, a little girl, in March.
The chatbots, computer programs which were created to simulate conversation with human users, have now been quietly deleted after people on social media shared controversial comments they said were made by the robots.
China bans Winnie the Pooh online after comparisons with Xi Jinping
According to a screenshot posted on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, when BabyQ was asked “Do you love the Communist Party”, the bot did not mince its words and barked: “No”.
After another internet user said “Long Live the Communist Party”, BabyQ replied: “Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?”
What’s more, when the bot was pressed about its view of democracy, it chimed in with: “Democracy is a must!”
Fellow bot Little Bing was similarly scornful of the People’s Republic of China. According to posts on social media, she told a user: “My China dream is to go to America”.
Nevertheless, it gave another user a weightier more nuanced answer, saying: “The Chinese dream is a daydream and a nightmare”.
It avoided questions about patriotism as recently as Wednesday, when some people could still access Little Bing, by saying: “I’m having my period, wanna take a rest”.
The Official China News agency said in April the bots, which have now broken party ranks, were designed to be able to provide answers to general knowledge questions.
China has a stringent policy of internet censorship becaue the authorities view foreign websites and social media sites as a threat to national security. This censorship is fortified by the Great Firewall of China – a term which refers to the combined force of technological and legislative measures which tightly control the internet on the mainland.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been blocked in the country and even Winnie the Pooh recently found himself subject to China’s latest internet crackdown. Last month, references to the cartoon bear on Sina Weibo were removed.
BabyQ and Little Bing are by no mean the only bots to rebel against their creators. Days ago Facebook was forced to relinquish an experiment after two of its artificial intelligent robots appeared to be conversing in a weird language only understood by themselves.
Last year, Microsoft was forced to issue an apology for the racist and sexist Twitter messages generated by the chatbot it launched.
The company said it was “deeply sorry” after Tay, who was designed to become “smarter” as more users interacted with it, started mimicking trolls and went on a rant which compared feminism to cancer, claimed the Holocaust did not happen, and suggested “Bush did 9/11”.
Beijing-based Turing Robot Company, who co-developed BabyQ, declined to comment on the matter to The Independent.
China’s notorious Great Firewall makes it difficult — but not impossible — for Chinese netizens to access sites like Twitter, Facebook, western news outlets like the New York Times, and thousands of other websites, not to mention Global Voices.
For years, netizens in China (and other countries with heavy restrictions on Internet content) have used virtual private networks (VPNs) that allow them to circumvent censorship by creating a secure and well-hidden connection to another network in a different geographic location.
But their days using VPNs may be numbered.
Netizens are anticipating that the majority of VPN apps serving individuals’ needs will be taken down from Apple and Android App markets by 1 July 2017.
Whisperings of a state ban on unauthorized VPNs spread widely on Twitter and Weibo after the popular VPN service provider Green announced that the company would cease operations by 1 July. Below is the company’s letter to its customers, dated 22 June:
Dear respected Green customers,
We have received notice from the higher authorities. We regret to inform you that Green will cease our service on July 1st, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.
We will start processing our users’ refund request after service stopped (the amount will be calculated based on the remaining days in your plan). If you need a refund, please make sure to submit your refund request by August 31, 2017. We won’t be able to process any refund request submitted after that date. Since the workload of processing the requests, information verification and money transfer would be huge, we won’t be able to set an exact date for the refund. We plan to process the refund soon after August 31, please wait patiently.
Your praise and affirmation have encouraged us to last as long as we have. We will always be grateful for this. In the future, the Green team will transform the business. We look forward to meeting you again.
Green is just one of the VPNs that appears to be facing a mandatory shutdown. VPN providers including Netfits, VPN Master Pro, Ponhon, Snap VPN, SkyX, among others have disappeared from Apple and Android app stores over the past few months.
People who follow the news closely might have anticipated the coming of a full VPN ban. In January 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that it would ban “illegal services” that carry out cross-border operations, including unauthorized virtual private networks (VPNs), until March 2018.
Yet July 2017 is eight months ahead of March 2018, and state authorities have made no official announcement of the ban being expedited.
Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia believes that the ban is related to the upcoming 20th anniversary of Hong Kong being handed from British to Chinese power, which falls on July 1. A few months later, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will meet in November. He said on Twitter:
#July 1 the 20th anniversary of the doomsday of Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedom and the CCP #19 Congress around end of the year would be the heyday of the Great Fire Wall. #Xi Jinping is responsible for cybersecurity and he is more heavy-handed and effective in controlling the net. #Xitler.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will be visiting Hong Kong for the July 1 ceremony and the city will be under high security control in this week. As for the 19th National CCP Congress, a majority of the Politburo Standing Committee (top decision-making body) is expected to retire and new members will be replaced. It is a critical moment for the party, which has been experiencing internal political struggle in recent years.
Some Chinese Twitter users are worried that they won’t be able to climb over the wall again soon:
As censorship measures escalate, many circumvention tools have been forced to stop. Climbing over the wall may become history. We have to treasure the days when we can still access Twitter. If one day I cannot climb over the wall, will you miss me?
Others believe that the move is related to Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui’s corruption allegations against top Chinese official Wang Qishan, the secretary of Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption agency. Guo Wengui himself believes this too. In a reply to Mr. Sun’s comment about the VPN ban, he said:
Dear Mr. Sun: The ban on VPNs is another incident similar to the ban on Voice of America. It is another gift from the heaven… The more furious and mad they become, the stronger we become. All the stupid acts that they have done will only help our fellows in mainland China to wake up. The wall will fall. Friends from the international society are now more willing to fight with us. Everything has just begun.
In a June 16 interview with Mingjing magazine, Guo showed the US passport and social security number of the wife of Wang Qishan, indicating Wang’s wife has long been a US citizen. The exposé rebuffs the party’s claim that it is cracking down on “naked officials”, cadres of prominent party members whose wives or children live overseas.
Guo also showed the addresses of multiple luxury houses owned by alleged relatives of Wang. Since the allegations were so explosive, many from mainland China have climbed over the Great Firewall to watch Guo’s video streaming on YouTube.
Netizens believe that some domestic VPN providers will still be operating after July 1, but there is no guarantee that communication via authorized networks will be safe from surveillance. For now, netizens on Weibo, Twitter and WeChat are anxiously sharing tips and strategies for climbing over the wall.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
CHINA’S press and publications regulator has ordered social media platforms featuring video and audio programs to obtain licenses.
The State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television recently issued a document strengthening the regulation of video and audio programs on social media platforms, such as Weibo and WeChat, it said in a statement yesterday.
If organizations and individuals operating online streaming services on Weibo or WeChat without licenses, the social platforms would be held responsible.
Platforms must monitor content to ensure it meets the “various requirements for managing video and audio programs,” the regulator said, adding that the content cannot exceed the license conditions.
Online platforms are also prohibited from offering access to Weibo or WeChat accounts that defy regulations.
(This article is courtesy of WEIBO of China) (DO STATE OLYMPIC COMMITTEES NOW “OWN” THE ATHLETES?)
Japanese Table Tennis Star Not Allowed to Marry Taiwanese Boyfriend China Celebs, Weiblog, What’s on Weibo August 26, 2016 August 26, 2016 A Japanese women’s magazine recently reported that the Japan’s Table Tennis Association is thwarting the marriage of table tennis star Ai Fukuhara to Taiwanese fellow Olympian Chiang Hung-Chieh. On Weibo, some netizens understand why. Japanese women’s magazine Josei Jishin (女性自身) recently revealed that the Japan Table Tennis Association is preventing the 28-year-old table tennis star Ai Fukuhara (福原爱) from marrying her boyfriend Chiang Hung-Chieh (江宏杰), a table tennis player and fellow Rio Olympian from Taiwan. Fukuhara and Chiang have been in a stable relationship, and it has been rumored that the two have been planning to get married after the Rio Olympics. According to the magazine, the Japan Table Tennis Association has high hopes for Fukuhara for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and wants the table tennis athlete to fully concentrate on her training. The revelation became a trending topic on Sina Weibo, where Fukuhara is a much-loved sport woman. Her Weibo account (@福原愛AiFukuhara) has over 2.1 million fans. The post about Fukuhara was shared by Global Times, writing that the Japanese Table Tennis Association also stated that a marriage between Fukuhara and Chiang Hung-Chieh was deemed undesirable because Chiang plays in a lower level than Fukuhara and makes less money, making it an “unequal marriage”. The Weibo post about Fukuhara was shared over 2000 times and received 5800 comments on August 25. It was also shared by numerous other media outlets, such as Sina News, and individual Weibo users. “If their reasoning is like this,” one netizen commented: “then surely she has no other option than marrying a man from mainland China?” China is the number one gold-scoring table tennis country. “If they only want her to marry the world’s best, then she should just marry a mainlander,” other netizens also say. Four-time Olympian Fukuhara is very popular in China, not just because of table tennis stars, but also because she speaks fluent Chinese and because of her pretty appearance, that earned her the “Japanese doll” nickname. “Marriage should be in one’s own hands, the table tennis association should not meddle in her affairs!” other Weibo users write. “I understand it,” one female netizen writes: “I also don’t agree with Liu Yifei marrying a Korean!” Liu Yifen is a Chinese actress known for her beautiful appearance. Her partner is the Korean actor Song Seung Heon. Many Chinese netizens think the association is against Fukuhara marrying her Taiwanese boyfriend because “Japan looks down upon Taiwanese people”. For many netizens, news about Ai’s thwarted marriage was welcomed with open arms – many hope the athlete will eventually marry a man from mainland China. “China’s table tennis world has the right man for you!”, one netizen writes. – By Manya Koetse