Smile… You’re on MoLive

Virtual China, which has lots of cool stuff, has pointed out, a Chinese photosharing site that started just a couple of months ago and is getting alot of activity. Virtual China refers to it as citizen journalism – which in some cases it undoubtedly is. So I thought I’d see what kind of coverage “laowai” get. My translations are crap, and some of these I’m really not sure what exactly they mean. Corrections are most welcome. Have at it.

Long Haired Beautiful Girl with Bald Laowai!! 长�美女和秃头�外�
Comment: Is this lady grabbing his ass or his wallet?这个美女是摸摸�外的�股呢还是摸他的钱包呢?



The insecurity of Chinese males

Or at least some of them. CHeck it out – it’s funny, especially the 24 centimeter bit.


HIV/AIDS Student Group Banned in Xinjiang

I urge everyone to read the entirety of this post, though it is long. This is because I quote in length from a blog that may very well go dark any day now.

Some of you may have read at The Opposite End of China a China Daily article on 19 middle school students being thrown out of school for being hepatitis-B carriers. While the schools involved claimed the students were contagious and they were complying with health regulations, China Daily also reported:

Zhang Yuexin, a senior expert from the Xinjiang Liver Disease Centre, disagreed, telling the Nanfang Daily: “There is nothing wrong with their liver functions. Viruses are duplicating inside their bodies, but do not show they are in an acute period.”

“What the schools have done is not legal. Even if the students are Hepatitis-B virus carriers, they still have the right to a normal school life,” a local lawyer named Zhang Yuanxin told China Daily.

In addition, the Health Minister Mao Qun’an said “this is prejudice”. Attention was brought to the issue by a group called Xuelianhua, or “Snow Lotus”, HIV/AIDS Education Institute (新疆《雪莲花艾滋简讯》). Xuelianhua was started in early 2005 and quickly began organizing students at four Urumqi universities, including my old stomping grounds Xinjiang Finance Institute. They later were given funding by the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the same group that, among other things, has brought you Bono and Oprah in (RED) t-shirts) and named a national member of the council for NGOs fighting HIV/AIDS. Chang Kun also was interviewed about his outreach to young gays in Urumqi (Chinese article). On his blog, founder Chang Kun further lists (in an open English letter, with further information in Chinese and English):

Our organization has promoted four HIV/AIDS university student associations, organized red ribbon student activities and participation of minority students in cure and prevention. Snow Lotus also organized the 2005 second forum for students and HIV/AIDS, organized Xinjiang university peer education workshops, set up a spot
for free condom delivery, care and protection for children living with HIV/AIDS, organized the first university enrollment for students living with HIV/AIDS, organized Xinjiang debate on homosexuals self identity and HIV/AIDS education, scheduled public visits to beauty salons’ outpatient services, held public conferences on the use of medication for people suffering from contagious diseases, helped students suspended from school to make legal appeals, set up a channel to share and deliver information as well as the regular publication “Snow Lotus Aids News Brief” with more than one thousand members subscribed. In 2006, Snow Lotus applied and received funding from the NGO “Global Fund for HIV/AIDS tuberculosis and malaria”.

So what happened next? According to Reuters:

China has banned an unregistered non-governmental AIDS group founded by university students in the far western region of Xinjiang, an activist and a lawyer said on Thursday.

The “Snow Lotus” AIDS education group, which had over 200 mainly university student volunteers, was closed down on Wednesday by the local government for not having registered with them, activist Chang Kun told Reuters.

On his blog, Chang Kun details:

On 10 October 2006, the incident regarding those 19 students suspended from school was reported in the national media and the main representatives of the local departments of education were condemned. After this, Snow Lotus received increased pressure from the local authorities. Even more volunteers were taken away for interrogation and there was even one university student who was held at the police station until after midnight.

On 13 October, I was interrogated for seven hours and was warned that Snow Lotus should not carry out any work again. This included withdrawal from the Global Fund HIV/AIDS Project,. I was threatened with arrest if I failed to comply with this warning.

At ten o’clock in the morning of 18 October 2006, while I was doing training in the work unit, I was summoned to the security department of the university. I was interrogated by personnel from the Xinjiang NGO Legal Bureau and by police officers. After that, they came to my residence and to the Snow Lotus office together with directors from the university and carried out an investigation. At noon, the Xinjiang NGO Legal Bureau showed me the “Notice on the Legal Ban of Illegal NGOs”, a document which I had printed myself long ago, and declared the ban of Snow Lotus HIV/AIDS Education Institute. The alleged reason was that the organization was not registered as an NGO but was carrying out activities as such. At the same time, they also threatened me and said I should “immediately stop those illegal activities, otherwise the organization would be sanctioned according to regulations issued by the relevant legislation, the legal code of administrative sanctions and the relevant departments”.

After that, my residence was closed down and the materials, articles, hard drives and computer in Snow Lotus were confiscated. During this process, I argued with them, closed my personal email account but they didn’t show any consideration. I received a hard psychological blow and was brought to tears several times. I opened the
window, willing to jump out as a sign of protest, but they just sat by unconcerned. They didn’t show the slightest intention to stop me. Only one of my teachers held me back.

From 4 October, many Snow Lotus volunteers, myself included, were the object of several interrogations. We had to bear a lot of pressure and great psychological strain. Moreover, I received threats and this made me lose all sense of safety. Today’s process of confiscation was also a psychological trauma for me. I had to leave Urumuqi, a city which I love and for which I have worked hard to develop work on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Financial Times has a good article, pointing out:

NGOs operate in a difficult regulatory environment in China. Activists say that registration procedures remain onerous and have largely been frozen by officials concerned about the development of “civil society� groups that might some day challenge the Communist party’s monopoly on power.

Aids NGOs have been given greater freedom to operate, after pressure from international organisations and a growing awareness in the government that they can reach out much more effectively to vulnerable groups.

However, Aids groups say that they remain subject to harassment and interference, and mutual suspicions prompted a bitter dispute in April over elections of non-governmental and patients’ representatives to the China board of the Global Fund.

Given the China Daily coverage of the Hepatitis-B case (and there are numerous Chinese language versions across the net, Xinhua, for example), I think there’s more here than simply a troubled relationship between China and NGOs. It is the provincial and municipal government that appears to have taken action against Snow Lotus after being embarassed in the national press. Now, if only Baidu would show me the national press is following up. I am not holding my breath.

Xuelianhua’s official site is, or, but in reality both domain names route you to a Google Groups page. Chang Kun’s blog is on MSN Spaces. Chinese offficial estimates reported 16,035 HIV carriers in Xinjiang as of this June, but this is misleading since that is clearly the official confirmed cases. As Bates Gill and Song Gang reported in the latest China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly (PDF):

The number of confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in Xinjiang reached 16,035 as of June 30, 2006. But according to official estimates, there are some 60,000 HIV-positive persons living in Xinjiang, making it the fourth most-affected province in terms of total cases. On a per-capita basis, Xinjiang is easily the heaviest-hit province by a large margin: Xinjiang accounts for a little more than one percent of China’s population, but about 10 percent of its estimated HIV population.

The Uyghur population is disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis in Xinjiang, partly due to lack of medical facilities (mother to child transmission has increased – never a good sign), partly due to a lack of education, and partly due to the related problem of intravenous drug use. Other vectors, unsurprisingly, involve commercial sex workers and migrants. Of course, while governments may not act quickly enough when only a discriminated minority is primarily at risk, HIV does not see ethnicity as an obstacle. NGOs are largely recognized as critical in providing awareness and prevention, and no matter how much money the Clinton Foundation, the Australian government or the Global Fund pours into the region, it won’t be worth a damn if the locals can’t form their own civic groups – many of which die stillborn because of the fear of reprisal. Chang Kun stood up to be counted, and was run out of town.


Terrorist attack in America

This is almost beyond belief – a suicide bomber douses himself in gasoline, smashes his car into a building on US soil and tries to demolish it. And yet there’s nary a peep from the media. Where’s Michelle? Where’s Charles Johnson? See this great post to understand why all we’re getting is radio silence. Yes, terrorism is a real issue and we all need to be concerned about it. But it’s funny how if the terrorist isn’t a swarthy Muslim, those who claim to be so concerned about it turn a hypocritical blind eye.


Keeping America terrified

Today’s Republican leadership is truly a one-trick pony. It has no achievements to stand on, nothing to recommend it to voters, and so it turns to the only thing it can produce en masse: fear.

The Republican Party will begin airing a hard-hitting ad this weekend that warns of more cataclysmic terror attacks against the U.S. homeland. The ad portrays Osama bin Laden and quotes his threats against America dating to February 1998. “These are the stakes,” the ad concludes. “Vote November 7.”

Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the ad would run on national cable beginning Sunday, but he declined to discuss specifics of the buy. The commercial tracks with Republican Party strategy to make the war on terrorism a central theme of this election. It will air as recent polls show Republicans losing ground as the party best able to combat terrorism.

The level of cynicism here is difficult to conceive. Most of today’s terrorism is taking place in Iraq, a country of little interest to Al Qaeda and career terrorists until we decided to invade it. (Saddam terrorized his citizenry, to be sure, but there was no civil war, no car bombs or IEDs or Shiite death squads making mass murder of innocents – and of American soldiers – a daily feature of Iraqi life.) And now, after creating the big mess, the GOP is trying to convince us we should vote for them because they are the only ones who can handle it. The Democrats, effette and French to the core, are too busy eating snails, spreading cheese on their baguettes and sipping latte.

Of course, the GOP has proved to all of us just how well they handle huge threats. Like the Taliban, now making a frightening resurgence. Like hurricane Katrina. Like Iraq after more than three years. Why on earth would we even think of giving them yet another try at it?

Time to yet again revisit the words of the man who got it all right, who had the prescience and genius half a century ago to envisage exactly what our world was coming to:

In accordance with the principles of double-think it does not matter if the war is not real. For when it is, victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, but it is meant to be continuous. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance, this new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.

From George Orwell’s 1984. Without the ongoing hysteria, the Republican house of cards, rotted from the inside out, would collapse in an instant. So prepare for fear and more fear. It’s going to get a lot worse over the next three weeks.


Arrested for satirical SMS message in Chongqing

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the time of stunning advances in communication and self-expression thanks to technology, and it was the time of mind-numbingly stupid and fear-inducing censorship.

Chongqing recently announced plans to target libel, satire, and other uncivilized behavior online. In a case unrelated to this new rule, a Chongqing man is facing three years in prison for writing a satirical poem and sending it to friends via SMS and QQ.

In mid-August, reports Southern Weekly, Qin Zhongfei wrote a few lines of poetry satirizing local leaders and a few public works boondoggles. Thinking it fairly amusing, Qin sent it off to “10-15 friends” via SMS and another “4-6 friends” via QQ instant message service. He was arrested for his troubles, since officials felt that the poem could cause social unrest and might harm business for Pengshui if too many people got wind of it.

Click the link to see how Southern Weekly has covered the story – the article is a painful reminder that CR-style political correctness, where a single harmless comment can result in the unexpected knock on the door in the middle of the night by the PSB, isn’y completely dead. It’s great that this article can be published (though Southern Weekly has had its own door knocked on by the PSB more than once) and that so many are willing to speak about it with the media. As I said, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It all depends on which side of the fence you sit.


How Many Chinas Are There?

Yes, yes, One China and all that. I’m not talking about separatism, I’m referring to those invisible and not-so-invisible cultural and social lines you cross within the Chinese universe. I’ve heard the term Two Chinas used to refer to the gap between Chinas upwardly mobile elite and poverty mired majority. I’ve heard the term Three Chinas used to refer to the different worlds of the Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Personally, I add to that Xinjiang and Tibet, which exist in reform time warps (and are both administered directly by the Central government and a small clique of interchangable Politboro members), as another China; Macau could be considered another one with its unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese cultures with a healthy dash of iniquity. Then there’s the diasporas – how many of those are there? Remember – 树高å?ƒä¸ˆå?¶è?½å½’æ ¹. A tree may grow very high, but the leaves always return to the roots, as the saying goes. Popular thinking says the huaren are extensions of China itself. I’d say the diaspora could at least be divided into two groups: huaqiao and huayi, those born in China and those born abroad.

I’ve got eight (Mainland: SEZs/DINKs/etc., XJ-Tibet, everybody else; Taiwan; HK; Macau; Huaqiao; Huayi). What’s everybody else think?


Why does the FBI hate America?

From reader THM comes this story about the FBI’s wanting ISPs to track their customers’ online activities:

“Terrorists coordinate their plans cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, as do violent sexual predators prowling chat rooms,” (FBI Director) Mueller said in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Boston.

“All too often, we find that before we can catch these offenders, Internet service providers have unwittingly deleted the very records that would help us identify these offenders and protect future victims,” Mueller said. “We must find a balance between the legitimate need for privacy and law enforcement’s clear need for access.”

The speech to the law enforcement group, which approved a resolution on the topic earlier in the day, echoes other calls from Bush administration officials to force private firms to record information about customers. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for instance, told Congress last month that “this is a national problem that requires federal legislation.”

In Europe, such data retention rules are already in place:

The Europe-wide requirement applies to a wide variety of “traffic” and “location” data, including: the identities of the customers’ correspondents; the date, time and duration of phone calls, VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls or e-mail messages; and the location of the device used for the communications. But the “content” of the communications is not supposed to be retained. The rules are expected to take effect in 2008.

You would think that if a law enforcement agency wanted to get information on a particular person’s online activities or needed to say, trace back the identities of terrorists in anonymous chat-rooms, they already have a mechanism to do so – you know, probable cause, a warrant. And in fact, ISPs argue that existing data retention requirements should be sufficient for a criminal investigation. Law enforcement groups beg to differ:

Law enforcement groups claim that by the time they contact Internet service providers, customers’ records may have been deleted in the routine course of business. Industry representatives, however, say that if police respond to tips promptly instead of dawdling, it would be difficult to imagine any investigation that would be imperiled.

It’s unclear what an American data retention law would look like – would the ISP be required to keep content, like emails? Will search engines be forced to keep logs of user requests? But what makes me the most uneasy about such proposals is the context in which they are happening. We have data-mining, Echelon, warrantless wire-tapping, renditions, legalized torture and the gutting of habeas corpus, all of which adds up to the diminishment of the rule of law and the strengthening of a culture of surveillance, one in which the expression of authority can easily become arbitrary and abusive.

If you have a tool, you tend to use it. And as someone once said, a gun doesn’t care what it shoots.


China and North Korea’s Nukes

I’m staying out of the discussion because it’s just too big and time-consuming an issue, but I would like to point you to two interesting related posts.

China Matters, in a long and well-researched essay, makes an intriguing argument that it’s all a power play between North Korea and China:

As I’ve previously argued, North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear antics are an effort to demand attention, respect, and assistance from the PRC.

Certainly, I don’t think anybody seriously believes that Kim Jung Il expected to be able to extort concessions from George Bush and John Bolton prior to the U.S. mid-term elections with a piece of nuclear blackmail.

North Korea’s weapons programs are meant to discommode China with the threat of a Asian arms race and the specter of Japan becoming a pro-active regional security force with US backing, and remind Beijing of the necessity of advancing North Korea’s interests on the world stage – in this particular case, getting China to support lifting some onerous U.S. financial sanctions.

Well, I believe China’s looked at its options and opportunities and decided that the best riposte to North Korea’s nuclear program is to strip Pyongyang of its independence in national defense and foreign affairs – in other words, assert virtually the same suzerainty that China imposed on the peninsula before the Japanese occupation in 1895.

The second must-read comes from The 88s, who brilliantly deconstructs a recent colum by Anne Applebaum that blames China for the whole mess (for not doing all it can to reign Pyongyang in). It’s wickedly funny and illuminating and it certainly makes Anne appear, well, stupid. (And it pains me to say that, because I love her book Gulag, which I’m about half-way through at the moment.) Here’s how this excellent post concludes:

Yes, the US should teach the region a lesson and just walk away, but unfortunately that “clearly isn’t possible at this point.” Too bad, though, because that would have worked. Oh, wait, we already tried that, which is why the DPRK now has nuclear weapons. I guess it won’t work. And “next time” we should pick a non-proliferation fight in a country or region where we have leverage. Like, say, Canada. Because picking countries or regions in which to stop nuclear proliferation where the US lacks leverage (i.e., not Canada or Mexico) just doesn’t make any sense.

Heh. For both of these posts, I strongly suggest you “read the whole thing.”


Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 tries to play catch-up to Firefox

I usually avoid IT issues, but when it comes to comparisons of IE and Firefox I am outspoken.

After wiping out Netscape, Microsoft got lazy and avoided any significant improvements to IE – a typical MS pattern – making life for all of us miserable. Here’s how the pattern works: Wipe out your competition by offering for free what they offered for a price, and bundle it into the Windows operating system and claim it’s an indispensable part of the overall OS that can’t be left out. Then, after your competitor falls on his sword, Microsoft forgets all about it, jumping to improve the product only after the imminent threat of competition looms over them.

And what a threat Firefox turned out to be! Its elegance and simplicity make IE look downright medieval. The joys of tabbed browsing literally transform your online experience, especially if you are a blogger – you can easily hop from story to story to grap copy, with all tabs visible in a single window. Only now, years after Firefox changed the way the world works, is Microsoft playing copycat and adding tabbed browsing to IE.

All Microsoft seems able to do is try, rather feebly, to catch up with Firefox. Walt Mossberg, the most important IT reporter in the country (only because no one else comes close when it comes to influencing the public’s buying choices) had this to say.

I have been testing IE 7, and I agree with Microsoft that it’s much improved. If you are a confirmed IE user, upgrading to this new version makes perfect sense, because it is likely to be more secure and its new features make Web browsing better. But if you are already using Firefox, IE’s main competitor, I see nothing in IE 7 that should make you switch. It’s mostly a catch-up release, adding to IE some features long present in Firefox and other browsers. The one big feature in IE 7 that wasn’t already in Firefox, a built-in detector that warns against fraudulent Web sites, is being added to Firefox in version 2.0.

The new Internet Explorer, which is free, runs only on the latest revision of Windows XP and the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system, while Firefox offers nearly identical versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers. IE 7 will be offered automatically to Windows XP users — gradually over the next few months — via the Windows update program. Microsoft will also make it available for manual download….

But the most important new security feature in IE 7 — something called Protected Mode, which stops Web sites from changing your computer’s important files or settings — will work only in the new Vista version of Windows, due next year, not in Windows XP.

Ironically, the improved security in the new version may erode IE’s greatest strength: its broad compatibility with Web sites. Some sites may not work properly in IE 7 because techniques they used are blocked by the new security features.

In addition to matching IE 7’s antiphishing warning feature, Firefox 2.0 will feature a spell checker, a system for suggesting popular search terms, and a way to resume where you left off after a crash, among other things.

The new Internet Explorer is a solid upgrade, but it’s disappointing that after five years, the best Microsoft could do was to mostly catch up to smaller competitors.

Disappointing, but not at all surprising. In fact, it was depressingly predictable. I cringe when I go to Internet cafes in Asia, where there is no choice but to use IE. And since most of the computers in these Internet cafes are antiques, I doubt we’ll be seeing many of them upgrading to the new version of IE anytime soon. What a trail of misery, pain and mediocrity Microsoft has left in its wake, making life unnecessarily miserable for so many of its customers.

Update: If it was unclear to anyone, I don’t like Microsoft.

UPDATE 2: My company just issued this global email:

IE 7 compatibility issues with [company name] systems
Date/Time: October 19, 2006 / 1:30 PM (EDT)

Notice: Microsoft has just released a new version of their web browser called Internet Explorer version 7. This new version is currently not compatible with all of our applications, including eRoom’s and Time Entry. If you connect to the company systems from a home computer we advise you to not upgrade to this version at this time. I.T. will notify the company when applications become compatible.

Luckily we finally became Firefox-compatible earlier this year. This tells me that once again even more customers will be cursing Microsoft in the days ahead.