Chen Guangcheng¡¯s nephew sentenced to three years in jail following extremely brief trial. Sex scandal rocks Chongqing official with links to Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun. New Chinese passport angers several Asian nations with a controversial map. China successfully launches and lands a fighter jet on its first aircraft carrier. These are the top stories from the People¡¯s Republic of China for the week of November 30.
Chen Guangcheng¡¯s Nephew Jailed Following Sudden Trial
Chen Kegui, the nephew of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to prison for three years and three months on November 30 on charges of causing ¡°intentional injury.¡± Chen Kegui had been detained for seven months following an incident where authorities entered his house in the middle of the night to search for Chen Guangcheng following his escape from house arrest. Chen Kegui says he acted in self-defense and that the authorities who entered his home forced their way in and refused to identify themselves as police. Chen Kegui¡¯s father maintains that his son thought he was fighting off bandits. Kegui, who stabbed one of the policemen during the scuffle, was initially charged with ¡°intentional homicide,¡± even though no one was killed in the incident. His family claims local officials in Shandong province have disallowed them from visiting Chen Kegui, and dismissing lawyers hired by the family for his defense. Kegui¡¯s father says he received a call from a court-appointed attorney at 10:00 Friday morning informing him that his son¡¯s trial would commence in four hours. The family was denied access to the courtroom, and Chen Kegui was not allowed to present any witnesses on his behalf, nor utilize his right of appeal.
Although the sentence is lighter than many of Chen¡¯s supporters had feared, they still denounced the entire trial as unjust. Chen Guangcheng has long expressed personal fears that his relatives would face reprisals for his actions, and China has frequently punished the families of dissidents in the past. The case was a first test of whether or not Beijing would honor its verbal commitment to Chen Guangcheng to investigate the years he spent under house arrest and ensure his family did not face the vengeance of local officials. It is worth noting that former Shandong Party Secretary Zhang Gaoli was named to the Politburo Standing Committee at the recently concluded 18th Party Congress. Zhang was head of Shandong when reports of coerced abortions rose in the province, an issue that Chen Guangcheng advocated against and a leading cause of his house arrest. Chen Kegui¡¯s father finished his remarks by stating: ¡°My son is innocent. Three years and three months is too heavy for him. This is the revenge of the government on Chen Guangcheng¡Chen Kegui has replaced Chen Guangcheng to serve this sentence.¡±
(BBC, Guardian, South China Morning Post, Washington Post, November 30)
Chongqing Official Sacked Following Sex Scandal
A district official from Chongqing was fired on November 23 following confirmation that he was the individual featured in a sex tape uploaded on the internet by microbloggers. Investigations proved the veracity of the video, which was shot in 2007, of Lei Zhengfu engaging in sexual acts with his then 18-year-old mistress at a Chongqing hotel. A property developer apparently hired the mistress in an attempt to blackmail Lei in order to win lucrative building contracts. Lei initially swore that the video was a forgery. The citizen journalist Zhu Ruifeng, who uploaded screen shots from the video, claimed that the incident was the tip of the iceberg in a complex bribery and extortion ring in Chongqing, and implicated former police Chief Wang Lijun in the ring, claiming that Wang had jailed the mistress in 2007 and disgraced former official Bo Xilai knew about the affair in 2009. The video, along with alleged tapes of at least five other officials in Chongqing, were suppressed by Bo and Wang during their tenure in the municipality, according to Zhu. Zhu is the founder of ¡°People¡¯s Supervision Net,¡± an internet whistle blowing group dedicated to combating corruption through social media. Netizens praised the government¡¯s rapid response to the scandal, and stated that the case demonstrates the power of internet users and disciplinary authorities working in tandem to root out corruption.
In a related story, an anonymous official from the Beijing Administration of Work Safety Discipline said that an unnamed official in the capital had been targeted by extortionists in a similar fashion. A sex tape purportedly starring the official was sent to his house, along with a demand for 500,000 renminbi to prevent the extortionists from uploading the video to the internet. Police said the video in this case was an obviously photo-shopped, as the officials¡¯ head and body in the video were widely disproportionate. Authorities in Beijing stated their concern over the growing trend of extorting officials in this manner, as six similar cases occurred in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province earlier in November.
(Xinhua, Guardian, Global Times, November 23; South China Morning Post, November 25; The Telegraph, November 26; Voice of America, November 27; Washington Post, November 28)
Passport Redesign Causes Imbroglio with China¡¯s Neighbors
A new passport design for the People¡¯s Republic of China has caused controversy in several countries, including Vietnam, Philippines, India, and Taiwan. Page 8 of the new passport features a watermark map of China that shows several disputed territories, including the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea and the disputed Himalayan regions of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of China. The passport also includes images of popular tourist sites in Taiwan. Vietnam and the Philippines quickly launched official protests over the passport, and both nations are refusing to stamp the document, claiming doing so would endorse Chinese territorial claims. India responded by issuing Visas to Chinese citizens containing a map showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as belonging to India. Taiwan said the passport was ¡°unacceptable,¡± and claimed it could damage the prospects for rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing. The disputed Diaoyu Islands were not included in the map, although they might be too small to appear in the image. This could also be explained by the fact that the passports were initially issued in May, before the current standoff between China and Japan over the islands, which took hold in September. The U.S. State Department said that it would ¡°raise concerns¡± with China over the passport, but reiterated its neutrality in Chinese territorial disputes and said that stamping passports does not equate to endorsing the map. Foreign Minister Hong Lei said that images on the passport should be overstated or conflated.
(BBC, November 23; The Diplomat, Washington Post, November 27; Voice of America, November 28; Al-Jazeera, November 29)
China Successfully Lands a Fighter Jet on its First Aircraft Carrier
China successfully launched and landed a fighter-bomber jet on the Liaoning aircraft carrier this week. The Liaoning, China¡¯s first such vessel, was launched on September 25. The ship was constructed in the 1980¡¯s for the Soviet Navy and never used before being purchased by a Chinese company with links to the People¡¯s Liberation Army in 1998. The company initially claimed it bought the carrier to turn it into a floating casino in Macau, before eventually revealing that the Chinese government was refurbishing the carrier. The plane test also marked the debut of the new J-15 fighter-bomber, developed by China and similar to the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 and American F-18 Hornet. The test underscores China¡¯s ambitions to be a leading naval power in Asia, as outgoing President Hu Jintao stated at the 18th Party Congress. The Liaoning will not be able to hold a full capacity of planes or be battle ready for some time, but will eventually be capable of supporting 30 J-15¡¯s and a crew of 2,000 sailors. The Pentagon in Washington estimates that China is currently building homegrown aircraft carriers, the first of which could be unveiled in 2015.
A video of the J-15¡¯s takeoff and landing was aired on CCTV. Images of the crew directing takeoff went viral, with memes surfacing on the internet of people mimicking the pose in unusual places. In the two months since the Liaoning was launched, crew members have completed over 100 training and test programs leading up to the successful fighter test.
(Al-Jazeera, BBC, New York Times, November 25; CNN, November 26; Wall Street Journal, November 27)
Summaries by Andrew Dirks, China Program intern at The Carter Center.