Mo Yan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. The trial of a student dissident triggers a discussion about the future of the labor camp system. Top Chinese banks and financial personnel skip annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Tokyo. US Congress releases official warning against American telecommunications companies partnering with Huawei and ZTE. A student sues a government official in Shaanxi Province over a failure to disclose his official salary. These are the top stories for the week of October 12 from the People¡¯s Republic of China.
Chinese writer Mo Yan wins Nobel Prize for Literature
Chinese writer Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature on October 11, 2012, as announced by the Swedish Academy. Mo Yan, which means ¡°don¡¯t speak¡± in Chinese, is a pseudonym for Guan Moye. He is the second Chinese writer in history to win the prize. Gao Xingjian, who was born in China but is a citizen of France, won the prize in 2000, although his novels and plays have been officially banned in China since 1986. The 57-year-old Mo has witnessed and lived through China¡¯s brutal and revolutionary changes, reflecting this bitter experience in his works that merge ¡°hallucinatory realism with folk tales, history and the contemporary,¡± according to the Swedish Academy.
This year, a Chinese national winning a Nobel Prize was less of a threat and inconvenience for the Chinese government than in 2010 and 1989, when Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and the Dalai Lama respectively won the Noble Peace Prize, leading to criticism from Beijing directed at the Nobel Committee for interfering in its domestic affairs. Liu Xiaobo was sentenced in 2009 to an 11-year jail term for inciting subversion.
The decision to award Mo the prestigious prize is very welcome in China, and the tightly controlled state media even broke into a newscast to report the news. Mo on the other hand is being criticized by some Chinese human rights activists for being too close with the Party and ¡°singing the same tune.¡±
(BBC, Washington Post, Reuters, South China Morning Post, New York Times, October 11)
Trial of Ren Jianyu triggers discussions on the labor camp system and judicial reform
The trial of a junior college dissident in Chongqing and the first issue of the annual white paper in which the Chinese government reviews judicial reform and related policies, initiated a wide-scale public discussion on the labor camp system (known as the ¡°Reeducation through Labor Program¡±), freedom of speech and judicial policies in China.
The No.3 Chongqing¡¯s People¡¯s Court held the trial of Ren Jianyu publicly on October 10, according to China News Service and Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Ren is a junior college-educated village official, who used to post commentaries on democracy and civil rights in China and re-tweet hundreds of related status on his own micro-blog (¡°Wei Bo¡±). Ren was arrested and later put into a labor camp for two years by the local police bureau in Chongqing without any judicial charges or a trial. Ren¡¯s father and girlfriend have been advocating for his release and brought a lawsuit against the local police this year. Ren¡¯s case is not unique in China. The Wall Street Journal China says a UN Human Rights Council report in 2008 showed that there are about 190,000 people confined in labor camps in China. In previous months, the Chinese media have covered several similar cases, such as Peng Hong in Chongqing and Tang Hui in Yongzhu, Hunan Province. Police indicted these people on charges of either ¡°inciting subversion of state power¡± or ¡°disturbing the social order¡± and detained them for 6 months to 4 years.
Many National People¡¯s Congress representatives, legal scholars and professionals have been advocating the reform of the program for years, arguing that it not only violates the Constitution and basic human rights, but also creates the conditions for arbitrary interpretations by local police to decide, arrest and detain dissidents for a long period of time without any due process and normal legal procedure. On October 9, the State Council of China released the first policy paper in reviewing judicial reform in China. For the first time the Chinese government openly admitted there are many problems within the current Chinese judicial system, including the ¡°Reeducation through Labor Program¡±, and reforms are necessary. The spokesman of the State Council, however, insisted that the system cannot be abolished immediately. Together with the trail of Ren, the policy paper triggers a new round of public discussions among the Chinese public and intellectuals on reforming the labor reeducation program and other potential systemic problems within the Chinese judicial system.
(The Seattle Times, October 8; Xinhua News Agency, October 9; China News Service, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, The Wall Street Journal China, Radio Free Asia, October 10)
US House Intelligence Committee issues warning about Chinese Telecommunication Companies
The Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives concluded an 11 month study on Monday by issuing a recommendation that US telecom companies should not engage in business with Huawei and ZTE, two leading Chinese telecom companies, on national security grounds. While the committee stopped short of recommending a US boycott on mobile phones made by Huawei and ZTE, Committee chairman Mike Rogers claimed that ¡°China has the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for espionage purposes.¡± Huawei is the second-largest maker of telecom equipment, trailing only Sweden¡¯s Ericsson while ZTE is the fifth largest such company in the world. The threat of espionage was raised by the committee, which claimed that Huawei in particular ¡°cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence.¡± A spokesman for Huawei repudiated the conclusion claiming that jeopardizing their global standing to engage in espionage for the Chinese government would be ¡°corporate suicide.¡±
The House Intelligence Committee¡¯s report was followed on Wednesday by the British government announcing an investigation by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament into the relationship between Huawei and British Telecom (BT). Huawei has been operating within the United Kingdom with BT since 2001, and British Prime Minister David Cameron met with the head of Huawei as recently as last month. The parliamentary report is expected to be delivered before Christmas, and could have a major impact on the broadband and mobile phone infrastructure of the United Kingdom. Huawei has been trying to expand its global reach during the previous decade, but has faced similar setbacks in the past, as the company is blacklisted by Australia and the Canadian government has suggested it might also begin an investigation of the company.
(Al-Jazeera, NBC News, October 8; China Daily, the Guardian, October 10)
Chinese Financial Giants Cancel Appearances at IMF Summit in Tokyo
Top Chinese financial ministers and banks declined to appear at a large International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meeting in Japan, which began on October 9. Zhou Xiaochuan, China¡¯s Central Bank Governor, and Finance Minister Xie Xuren, cancelled their appearances at the gathering this week. Zhou Xiaochuan was scheduled to give the closing speech of the conference on October 14, a speech which will now be given by his deputy Yi Gang. Additionally, China¡¯s four large state-owned banks (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Agricultural Bank of China) also skipped the conference, citing the strain in Sino-Japanese relations caused by the ongoing rift over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Japan called the cancellations ¡°very regrettable¡± and stressed the importance of maintaining strong bilateral economic relations with China. The island dispute has hurt Japanese auto manufacturers¡¯ sales in China; with Toyota announcing this week that its sales in China dropped 49% in September and Honda announcing a 41% slump in Chinese sales during September. Japan also hinted the cancellation might be an attempt for China to internationalize the island dispute, noting that the most senior financial ministers from South Korea would be attending the IMF conference despite Japan and South Korea having a dispute over the Takeshima/Dokdo islands. 20,000 people will attend the conference, and the absence of top level financial ministers from the world¡¯s second largest economy is very rare for such a large economic event.
(Al-Jazeera, BBC, the Guardian, October 10; Japan Times, October 11)
Student sues Shaanxi Government for refusing to disclose government official¡¯s salary information
At the beginning of September, Liu Yanfeng, a second-year-student from Sanxia University, sent applications to Shaanxi Province Department of Finance and Administration of Work Safety to request salary information of the ¡°Smiling Bureau Chief¡± Yang Dacai. The nickname derived from a widely-spread picture of Yang, who at the time was the Bureau Chief of Shaanxi Province Administration of Work Safety. The picture showed that Yang was smiling at the investigation scene of a car crash accident that led to the death of 36 people on August 26. This picture enraged a wide Chinese audience and became a heated topic of discussion on the Internet. Further investigations took place within the Internet community, and numerous pictures were revealed with Yang in expensive watches and belts. These discoveries led to suspicions of Yang being corrupt, while he claimed that his yearly income is under 200,000 Yuan and all his accessories were bought with his ¡°legal income.¡± The series of events led to Liu¡¯s decision to file an application to request Yang¡¯s salary information. Shaanxi Province Department of Finance refused to disclose Yang¡¯s salary information in its reply to Liu. The Department of Finance claimed that salary information of government officials did not fall under the range of government information that needed disclosure. Liu said it took longer than 15 working days for the Department of Finance to reply to his application, which was a violation of the Open Government Information Regulation; the Administration of Work Safety never responded to Liu¡¯s request. On October 9, Liu formally asked his lawyer to sue the two government departments on Liu¡¯s behalf and demand disclosure of Yang¡¯s salary information.
(Beijing News, October 3; North News, October 10)
Summaries by Xiaoyuan Li, Dong Yu, Andrew Dirks, and Zhuqing Ju, China Program interns at The Carter Center.