Archive for January, 2012

2011 Marks New Low for China’s Human Rights Record

January 27, 2012

It is easy too look back on 2011 as a banner year for human rights and democracy across the world. The Arab Spring brought fundamental change across the Middle East, from Tunisia to Yemen.  Unfortunately, this tide democracy did not reach China: A new report points toward “worsening human rights abuses in China after charting 2011 as a year of unprecedented, illegal disappearances in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in North Africa and the Middle East.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the Arab Spring further emboldened the Chinese Communist Party to take action to silence any voices of criticism or dissent within the nation, fearing the possibility of a “Jasmine Revolution.” Additionally, the Chinese Communist Party wanted to send a signal that the leadership transition set to occur should not be seen as an opportunity for increased liberties or fundamental change.

Chinese police took the unusual step early last year of “disappearing” numerous lawyers and activists, including well-known artist and public advocate Ai Weiwei, who was held for 81 days before being released on the condition that he not speak about his experience.

It said the latest clampdown came amid growing public awareness of rights issues and widening popular anger.

“More than 100,000 ‘mass incidents’ or protests are estimated to occur annually in China and the Chinese government now budgets more funds for social stability maintenance than national defense,” HRW said.

Among those targeted by the Chinese Communist Party during 2011 was Du Daobin, one of three named plaintiffs in a human rights lawsuit brought by Ward & Ward, PLLC against Cisco Systems, Inc. (“Cisco”) alleging knowing and willful enablement of the Chinese Communist Party’s harassment, arrest, and torture of Chinese political activists.  Mr. Du, who had previously been imprisoned for posting pro-democracy articles online, was again detained for questioning by Chinese police regarding his involvement in the lawsuit against Cisco and warned that they continued to monitor his online activities.

Unfortunately, it appears the CCP’s increased crackdown in 2011 is only a sign of things to come in 2012:

Last year’s rights record was an alarming sign of what may be still to come as China’s leaders make efforts to enshrine the practice of disappearance in the country’s criminal law, according to HRW China director Sophie Richardson.

“The Chinese government’s sharp crackdown on critics—while trying to cover abuses with a fig leaf of legality—is an alarming sign of what the next year could be like for Chinese citizens, government critics, and human rights defenders,” Richardson said.

As we have stated previously, there is no doubt there is more evidence out there regarding Cisco’s ongoing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s continued oppression of its citizens.  If you have any information, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Ward.  Any such communications will be kept confidential.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated.  Contact your elected representatives — let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.

SOPA/PIPA protests draw parallels to China’s “Great Firewall”

January 20, 2012

Today marked a momentous occasion as the United States Senate and House of Representatives agreed to put two Internet anti-piracy bills on hold in the wake of public outcry over the reach of the bills. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) sparked mass online protests on Wednesday, with some websites such as Wikipedia going dark for a 24-hour period and redirecting its users to contact their Congressman. At the heart of the controversy was a belief that the bills would impose a huge burden on websites to police user activity on their sites and remove any content suspected of violating intellectual property rights.  Failure to comply would give the Justice Department broad powers to block access to domain names in their entireties and prevent search engines from listing them in their results.  The hold on the bills is the result of many Senators and Congressmen responding to the concerns of its constituents, expressed in such volume that many congressional websites crashed on Wednesday afternoon.

These bills and the government’s attempts to police the content of websites has led many to draw parallels with the Chinese government’s “Great Firewall” and its constant vigilance over the activities of Chinese dissidents on the internet.  Many bloggers and activists in China found some humor and irony in the events as they unfolded:

 Watching from China, where Web censorship is practically a national hallmark, some can’t help but smirk and crack jokes about the controversy raging over Internet freedom in the U.S.

“Now the U.S. government is copying us and starting to build their own firewall,” wrote one micro-blogger, relating China’s chief censorship tool to the U.S. plan to block sites that trade in pirated material.

The Relevant Organs, an anonymous Twitter account (presumably) pretending to be the voice of the Chinese communist leadership, quipped: “Don’t understand the hoopla over Wikipedia blackout in the U.S. today. We blacked it out here years ago. Where are OUR hugs?”

While it might be tempting to compare SOPA/PIPA to the Chinese firewall, the reality is they are vastly different devices. The United States government, in seeking these bills, is seeking to combat Internet piracy (often conducted from China), a legitimate cause pursued in a misguided manner. The Chinese government, on the other hand, is seeking to censor its own people and remove any hints of opposition, dissidence, or open debate of politics or policy.

Yet it is interesting to compare the American’s public response to the bill, and their success in opposing it, with the reality Chinese citizens face in being unable to protest the actions or policy of their Government without facing severe consequences.

 “Only an American company could protest the way Wikipedia or Google has to the government,” said Zhao Jing, a closely followed blogger in Beijing who uses the pen name Michael Anti. “A Chinese company would never get away with that.”

Indeed, China’s Internet sector has no choice but to submit to government pressure -– be it by censoring its own users or implementing whatever happens to be the state initiative of the moment (the latest may require the real-ID registration of 250 million micro-blog accounts despite threats to privacy and the cost burden on Web firms).

Another distinction Chinese activists note is that the proposed legislation in Washington is being debated openly in public and ultimately has to adhere to U.S. law. Chinese censorship, on the other hand, operates in an opaque space where no one really knows what’s banned, what isn’t and who is calling the shots.

While U.S. companies such as Wikipedia and Reddit can comfortably participate in an “Internet Blackout” and American citizens are able, and in fact encouraged, to contact their Congressmen in opposition to a bill, Chinese citizens have no recourse to petition their government to change course. In fact, to do so is to put oneself in the scope of the Chinese government’s police.

One of the companies that led the charge against SOPA/PIPA was of course Google, the largest search engine in the United States and a company that would have found itself having to censor its search results if the bill was passed.  Google has a history of opposing Internet censorship wherever it may be, starting with China itself. In 2010 it declared it would cease to cooperate with the Chinese government’s attempt to censor the Internet, a move that caused much controversy around the world.

Sadly, not all U.S. tech companies have demonstrated the same courage as Google, and worse still some have played crucial roles in helping China continue to develop its system of Internet censorship and violations of human rights. Through this all, Cisco Systems has continued to act as a partner and collaborator with Chinese government’s as it pursues the “Golden Shield Project”

Internet companies and citizens alike should be encouraged by their success in lobbying their representatives to change course and protect the Internet from censorship. Likewise, they should continue to oppose censorship wherever it may be and let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated.  Contact your elected representatives — let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.

Christian Bale Becomes Latest Target of Chinese Crackdown

January 10, 2012

At first glance, Academy Award winner Christian Bale would appear to be a popular figure in the People’s Republic of China. Known internationally for his role as Batman in the blockbuster trilogy, he has also made a name for himself in China for his leading role in The Flowers of War, by acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou. The film, which depicts Japan’s rape of Nanking in 1937, has become a box-office in smash in China, earning over $83 million, enough to make it the third-highest grossing Chinese film of all-time, and earned a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Foreign Film, according to the Hollywood Reporter.  Later this month, it hopes to earn an Academy Award nomination as the official Chinese entry to the prestigious award ceremony.

Nonetheless, Christian Bale did not receive a hero’s welcome during a recent visit to China to promote the film. Instead, he became the latest victim of the Chinese governments’ crackdown on voices of opposition and dissidence. While in China, Mr. Bale had hoped to meet with Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist living under house arrest for his work in opposition to China’s one-child policy. Instead, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Bale soon found himself in a shoving match with Chinese police:

Academy Award winner Christian Bale found himself in a shoving match with local police in a village near Beijing, as The Dark Knight star attempted to visit a Chinese activist that he regards as an “inspiration.”

Bale had invited CNN correspondent Stan Grant and a cameraman to join him on a visit to Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist living under house arrest after being released from prison in 2010. Chen was sentenced to four years in prison for damaging property and disrupting traffic during a protest, although supporters say his legal work on behalf of what Chen said are victim’s of China’s one-child policy, including forced abortions and sterilizations, led to his prosecution.

“Why can’t I visit this free man?” Bale asked repeatedly, with Grant translating. Local police, many dressed in plainclothes, pushed the group back as they approached Chen’s village, punched and damaged a camera Bale was holding, and threw rocks at their car.

“What I really wanted to do was to meet [Chen], shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is,” Bale told CNN.

Instead of apologizing to Mr. Bale for this embarrassing incident and trying to put the bad publicity behind, the Chinese government believes it is the American actor who should be embarrassed. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weiman says Mr. Bale was invited to China to promote the film, “But he was not invited to create a story or shoot film in a certain village… I think if you want to make up news in China, you will not be welcome here.”

The “make up news” Mr. Liu refers to is the well-documented plight of Mr. Chen.

Chen documented forced late-term abortions and sterilizations and other abuses by overzealous authorities trying to meet population control goals in his rural community. He was imprisoned for allegedly instigating an attack on government offices and organizing a group of people to disrupt traffic, charges his supporters say were fabricated.

Although now officially free under the law, he has been confined to his home in the village eight hours’ drive from Beijing and subjected to periodic beatings and other abuse, activists say.

Chen’s case has been raised publicly by U.S. lawmakers and diplomats, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, all to no response from China.

Mr. Bale’s dustup with Chinese officials is just the latest example of the Chinese government’s attempt to silence any opposition and dissidence. It is the same policy that has led to the Chinese Community Party to pursue the Golden Shield Project, with the assistance of Cisco Systems.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated.  Contact your elected representatives — let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.