A pixie-ish literature professor is the latest person to run afoul of China’s government, denied permission to travel to a prominent academic conference in the US this week.
Cui Weiping (崔衛平) had her Chinese passport, US visa and airplane ticket to Philadelphia in hand when, she said, officials at the Beijing Film Academy where she works called her on Sunday and told her to cancel the trip. Though they gave reasons for the denial — she has classes to teach, her conference panel was not related to her academic discipline — those were excuses, she said.
The unstated reason — last year’s commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement and her recent outraged Twitter posts at the jailing of a peaceful political activist, she said.
“Really, they want to punish me,” Cui said on Thursday, sitting in a coffee shop in the university district. “They’re afraid, one, of what I might say abroad, and two, they want to pressure me.”
Following the uproar over Google’s tussle with Chinese Internet censorship, Cui’s case is a reminder that the Chinese government often resorts to more blunt ways to restrict the flow of ideas.
Cui is hardly a firebrand. Small, bookish and 54, she prefers her literary and film criticism, her translations of the works of people like Czech dissident-turned-president Vaclav Havel, to political campaigning.
Nor is she the only person to see her freedom of movement curtailed. Writer and outspoken government critic Liao Yiwu (廖亦武) was taken off a plane in the southwestern city of Chengdu last month on his way to Germany for Europe’s largest literary festival; it was the 13th time he was blocked.
Ai Xiaoming (艾曉明), a feminist literary critic who has made pointed documentaries on AIDS and one village’s attempts to oust corrupt officials, only discovered she was subject to a five-year ban when she went to renew her passport in December and couldn’t. A police official looked up her name in a database and told her “you’ve been prohibited from going abroad,” she said.
“To use a Chinese phrase, it’s very shady. They don’t notify you directly, and you only find you’re being punished when you try to do something,” said Ai, a professor in Guangzhou. “There’s no way to seek redress.”
Cui too has been told not to travel to the US twice before, once in 2006 for a conference on the radical Maoist Cultural Revolution and last year for an event organized by a Chinese emigre who produced a documentary on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
For Cui, the predicament is another marker in her slow evolution into activism. Disturbed by the military’s quelling of the democracy movement in 1989, she only began speaking out about repression in recent years. A recurring theme of her research is retrieving for public memory tragic events governments and societies try to suppress. She said the academic world has begun to feel narrower, hemmed in by government pressure to conform.
“On the surface, we’re supposed to be academics, and we’re not supposed to cross that line,” Cui said. “There are people like me who are concerned with free speech. Rural issues, property prices are not my concern. But free speech is something that directly touches me. It’s sensitive but I cannot avoid it.”
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures