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Sputnik via AP

Traffic passes beneath an overpass in Beijing (Sputnik via AP)

Snapshots of China

Surveillance within, threats without

China’s version of Big Brother works to monitor the movement of citizens and control foreign media messaging

The latest China-related news reveals that Beijing is tightening control over not only China’s citizens, but over its public image overseas—with threats aimed at those who dare criticize the government.

Inside the country, China is rolling out a program that would require new cars to have radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips installed on the windshield, providing information on the vehicles as they pass reading devices on the sides of the road, according to The Wall Street Journal. The government claims the purpose of the chips is to study traffic congestion on roads in order to reduce pollution, but given China’s growing surveillance program, the system would likely be used to monitor citizens.

The government claims the purpose of the chips is to study traffic congestion on roads in order to reduce pollution, but the system would likely be used to monitor citizens.

The program, mandatory for all new vehicles starting in 2019, is the latest step towards China’s goal of tracking all its citizens. Already, a network of surveillance cameras with facial recognition software blanket China’s cities and feed information to the centralized “Sharp Eyes” system.

Today China’s most sophisticated surveillance system is in the western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority. China has locked up hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in “reeducation camps” for practicing their religion, accessing banned sites on their phones, or having family members studying abroad.

A report by Foreign Policy revealed that Western investors, including firms like JPMorgan, Vanguard, and Fidelity, have invested heavily in two of China’s major security camera companies, Hikvision and Dahua Technology. The two companies have won at least $1.2 billion in government contracts for surveillance projects across Xinjiang targeting Uighurs. Companies like Intel and Nvidia are also helping Hikvision and Dahua improve their artificial intelligence capabilities, Foreign Policy reported.

China’s surveillance is extremely concerning for groups that Beijing considers politically sensitive: Uighurs, Tibetans, dissidents, and human rights advocates. And as the government devises new ways to track its people inside China, it’s also finding new ways to pressure those who have fled the country. One method: preventing family members—including American citizens—from leaving China.

Last year, Beijing stopped at least three U.S. citizens, including a pregnant woman, from exiting the country, according to The Daily Beast. The State Department’s travel advisory for China states that China uses exit bans on U.S. citizens not only in cases of business disputes, court orders, and government investigations, but also “to compel their family members or colleagues to cooperate with Chinese courts or investigators.”

John Kamm of the U.S.-based human rights group Dui Hua Foundation told The Daily Beast he knew of two dozen cases in the past year and a half where Americans were not allowed to leave China. Last year, Beijing prevented University of Technology Sydney associate professor Feng Chongyi from leaving the country while on a trip to research Chinese human rights lawyers. Authorities finally allowed Feng to return home after international coverage of his situation.

Last week, China continued its interference in Australia by reportedly threatening the TV producers of a scheduled news segment about China’s growing influence in the Pacific region. Kirsty Thomson, executive producer of Australia’s 60 Minutes, said she received an angry phone call from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

“Take this down and take it to your leaders,” yelled Cao Saxian, the embassy’s head of media affairs. According to Australia’s 9News, Cao claimed the show’s crew had illegally filmed the exterior of the Chinese Embassy on the island of Vanuatu and flown a drone over it. Thomson countered that they had filmed the embassy from a public space and the drone did not fly over the embassy.

“You will listen,” Cao continued, shouting over the phone, according to Thomson. “There must be no more misconduct in the future.”

Standing up to power:

In an interview in The New York Review of Books, Guo Yuhua, a professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and an outspoken public intellectual, speaks out about what it’s like to have her own censor, how the Communist Party has destroyed real Chinese culture, and how Chinese college students are brainwashed. “In China, everyone criticizes the market and capitalism,” Guo said. “That’s really easy. That’s safe. But that’s not China’s problem. The problem isn’t capitalism. It’s power.”

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A nurse attends newborn babies at a hospital in Huainan city, China (Imaginechina via AP)

Snapshots of China

Backpedaling the birth policy

Will the Chinese government soon nix its longstanding birth limits for families?

The Chinese government is contemplating ending all birth limits on its citizens. The proposal would end a nearly 40-year policy that has led to millions of abortions, abandoned babies, forced abortions and sterilizations, and “hidden children” who live without documentation or access to healthcare, schooling, or jobs.

China’s State Council has commissioned research on the consequences of ending family planning policies in China, government sources told Bloomberg News. The government could allow families to decide for themselves the number of children they want starting at the end of the year.

The move is an attempt to reverse the effects of China’s horrendous family planning experiment, which could otherwise force a shrinking labor force to support a ballooning elderly population. The one-child policy has had other disastrous effects on China’s demographics: Due to a traditional preference for boys, families often abort or abandon baby girls, leading to a ratio of 115 boys for every 100 girls, according to the World Bank. Millions of Chinese bachelors are unable to find wives, fueling human trafficking from nearby countries such as North Korea. The one-child policy has also produced a generation of so-called “Little Emperors” who have been waited on hand and foot by their parents and grandparents.

One of the policy’s most devastating results is the normalization of abortion in Chinese society: The U.S. State Department has estimated 23 million abortions occur each year in China, with most older women having multiple abortions throughout their lifetime. In the church, the situation is similar: Pastors often advise women who get pregnant with a third child to abort in order to follow the law and to “be a good witness.” Local pro-life groups are making headway in churches, but the majority do not yet have a Biblical view of the sanctity of life.

But even rescinding birth limits is unlikely to increase births to the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman (China’s current fertility rate is 1.57 births per woman). Today it’s not just laws that keep Chinese families small, but an internalized belief that it’s too costly and inconvenient to have more than one child. For instance, China relaxed its policy to allow couples to have two children in 2015, but that’s led to only a small increase in births. Although the number of births increased by 8 percent in 2016, it fell by 3.5 percent last year to 17.2 million, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

At WORLD, we’ve often reported on China’s one-child policy and its effects, focusing on the courageous groups working to save lives, like All Girls Allowed, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, and local Chinese pro-life ministries.

Facebook saving face:

Facebook admitted to having given Chinese telecom company Huawei access to some users’ data since 2010. Huawei, which U.S. intelligence officials have flagged as a national security threat, has close ties to the Chinese government. Facebook representatives said they would end their relationship with the company this week.

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A June 4 candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to commemorate the protesters killed in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Snapshots of China

Selective remembrance

As Chinese activists commemorate Tiananmen Square, the government remains silent about the 1989 massacre

For the past 29 years, members of the Tiananmen Mothers group have urged the Chinese government to acknowledge, investigate, and apologize for the Tiananmen Square massacre, when China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) shot and killed hundreds or even thousands of students. The response: silence and the continued persecution of those who speak out. 

Members of the Tiananmen Mothers share a somber bond: Each has a family member who died on June 4, 1989, at the hands of the PLA. Most of the 128 members of Tiananmen Mothers are in their 70s or 80s, and in the past 29 years, 51 members have died “without getting justice.” Instead, the government put them under surveillance or forced them to leave the city during the Tiananmen Square anniversary.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” read an open letter signed by the members of Tiananmen Mothers. “There was a total disregard for the loss of invaluable human lives.”

Although Chinese state media stayed silent on the anniversary yesterday, activists around the world commemorated the day. Chinese artist Badiucao urged netizens to take photos reenacting the famous “Tank Man” photo, which depicted a lone man standing in front of a row of tanks rolling down the street to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Using the hashtag #Tankman2018, people around the world posted photos of themselves wearing a similar white shirt, black pants with a shopping bag in each hand. 

Badiucao believes Tank Man represents “something lost in China’s young generation now—the idealism, passion, sense of responsibility, and confidence that an individual can make a change,” Badiucao told The Guardian

In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people attended a candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of the massacre. The vigil was the only memorial of the Tiananmen Square massacre on Chinese soil, and it attracted about 100,000 people, according to rally organizers—police estimated about 17,000 participants. In recent years, some young Hong Kong residents have stopped attending the vigil as they wish to distance themselves from all aspects of mainland China. 

Over in Chengdu, police again blocked a planned prayer meeting at Early Rain Covenant Church and detained Pastor Wang Yi, preacher Li Yingqiang, and other church members. Congregants instead met in groups to pray in their homes, and police later released all the church members before midnight. This is the third time police arrested Wang in the past month.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the Chinese government to disclose the number of students killed in the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which officials have refused to do.

“As Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, delivered in absentia, ‘the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest,’” Pompeo said in a statement. Liu, a democracy activist, died in Chinese custody last summer. “We join others in the international community in urging the Chinese government to make a full public accounting of those killed, detained, or missing.”

Although the Chinese government tries to erase the memory of June 4 from its people, many Christians point to the Tiananmen Square massacre as the catalyst for their conversion. Some like Zion Pastor Ezra Jin said the bloody crackdown revealed to them there was no hope in the Chinese Communist government and led them down a path to find hope in Jesus. They realized that while justice for the events of June 4 may not be found in this life, it will be found in the next.

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