12 October, 2005

guardian roundup/possible new keyword filters

Bingfeng has a very good roundup, of both blogging and blog commentary, on the beating of activist Lu Banglie outside of Taishi village and the controversy surrounding the reporting of accompanying Guardian correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Watt.

The Guardian, in the article linked to here from Howard French’s site, notes that Joffe-Watt was not the only one to have thought Lu was dead. While the paper’s credibility is being questioned, this is still worth noting.

A second witness to the attack, whom the Guardian cannot name to protect his safety, last night said that he believed Mr Lu had been left for dead. “A group of men attacked Lu with fists and legs. We thought he was dead,” the witness said. “An ambulance came [and] left without him. We were fearful for our lives; we thought they might kill us.”

Mr Lu told the Guardian there was nothing anyone could have done to help him.

To AsiaPundit, it seems the Anglo side of the Sino-blogosphere is more divided than usual on this matter - possibly driven by a split in knee-jerk CPC bashers and knee-jerk MSM bashers.

Optimistically, despite the divide and the distraction from the core issues in the Taishi dispute, I’m hopeful that this incident may produce results. I believe the Chinese public, and the central government, are taking notice more serious of the Taishi situation.

Why? For starters, this site, which also has a good roundup, stops loading in Shanghai if attempts to access it without a proxy are made. The stalling is more indicative of filtering than a block. A trace-route test showed access is allowed and proxies will allow full access. Without proxy, the site stops loading when the Taishi incident is mentioned. This is indicative of keyword filtering.

I haven’t yet confirmed filtering through sufficient testing - although attempts to load Simon World also briefly caused similar problems in the same manner - if filtering is (or was) in place that would mean that the central government was trying to prevent discussion of the issue. In turn, that would mean that it finally has Beijing’s attention.

I’m not a fan of the central government. However, the central CPC is better by far than the fiefdoms that litter the country, and an intervention in Taishi would be beneficial.

If other Sinobloggers can provide notice of possible filtering of Taishi/Lu Banglie it would be welcome.

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by @ 10:33 pm. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

is the chinese government targeting nigerian citizens?

I’ve cross-posted an article on The Horse’s Mouth from BNW Magazine that claims the Chinese government has implemented an unofficial policy for refusing to grant visa extensions for Nigerian citizens.

I want to comment on the continuous detention of Nigerians in China as a result of the prohibition of visa extension on the Nigeria passport. Most of the people detained are innocent Nigerians. Their crime is that they have expired visas because their visas could not be extended like those of other foreigners in China.

As a result of this issue, most Nigerians are intimidated and are living in fear. A lot of people have used this opportunity to oppress and dupe Nigerians because they know that we cannot report to the police.

There are many cases where employers refused to pay us our salaries because they know that we cannot report to the authorities. They tell us to do our worst. Reporting to the police means detention and deportation.

by @ 8:19 am. Filed under Uncategorized

a defense of benjamin joffe-walt

First the good news. Lu Banglie, the Chinese activist who was beaten to near-death outside of Taishi village is alive. Whether or not he’s ‘fine’ has yet to be fully determined.

Lu, a People’s Congress representative who had fallen afoul of village officials, was beaten while escorting Guardian foreign correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Walt to the village. Joffe-Walt’s account of the incident is here.

Chinese blogger Michael Anti, in a translated post provided by ESWN, accuses Joffe-Walt of negligence and, in a round-about way, racism.

As for The Guardian’s Benjamin Joffe-Walt, how the fuck did he still have to nerve to write this kind of report? Perhaps he is young and does not yet know that reporting in certain areas of China is just like in a war zone. He should not have gone there against the advice of others, and he should not have brought Lu Banglie to the village. Since he was being taken out by the police, why didn’t he insist on rescuing Lu Banglie as well? It is alright to beg for mercy when it happened. But the more important thing is that you have a duty and you must assume responsibility for your companion. Or is that Chinese person just a guide dog?

Thus, we the Chinese people are treated like dogs by the government and we are also treated like dogs by certain arrogant and ignorant foreigners. I have no idea how this tragedy can be changed.

Full disclosure, I am a foreign correspondent in China and have a tendency to defend my brethren against accusations. I also have lower different ethical standards compared with most of those brethren - and most bloggers for that matter - so my comments should not be taken as representative as those of my profession or the English-language blogosphere.

I was also invited to the Guardian’s house-warming in Shanghai on the day of the Taishi incident — though I didn’t attend and have never met Joffe-Walt (ergo, this defense of his actions cannot be attributed to payola from free drinks. Not that such a thing has ever happened before … I’m in wires, so I always file before the free drinks.)

As ex-CNN china bureau chief Rebecca McKinnion notes in the first link in this post, there has been considerable criticism of Joffe-Walt in the SinoBlogosphere - much of it reflecting Michael Anti’s comments that he did not respect his ‘fixer.’ Fons is fence-sitting (or, in more respectful terms, contemplative), while Running Dog, a more opinionated but anonymous Shanghai-based journo (anon for good reason given the specific blocks on his website), does not discuss Joffe-Walt’s role but sees this as another failure of China’s central government.

Although I cover finance and would never likely be in a similar situation, AsiaPundit believes he would have done the same as Joffe-Walt in the same situation. Protecting sources is important, and I have in recent months, to my shame or credit, asked a Chinese-national source to review some of his on-the-record comments that were highly critical of the central government. He did and it almost ruined a great story, but I feared they were a risk to his livelihood, albeit not his life.

I would never put my staff at risk, but I’ve personally always ignored the most-sound advice and taken insane risks (usually with my own life and typically during leisure activities). And it seems from Joffe-Walt’s account that the risk was taken willingly by Lu and not taken at the correspondent’s request. Indeed, it was after his repeated objections.

There is a healthy debate on the Shanghai Foreign Correspondents’ Club mailing list about Joffe-Walt’s probable responsibility, and how to protect sources. The harshest post, which shall remain unattributed, is this:

Please tell Joffe-Walt and other foreign correspondents in Shanghai that I am shamed by his conduct. He risked the life of Lu Banglie and his own Chinese assistant, stood watching Mr. Lu being beaten so that he can fabricate a report about the beating and then he runs away to save his skin. He makes us excuse him for doing nothing because we do not know what we would have done in his place except that we won’t have been so stupid as to take a Chinese with us on sensitive assignments in the first place. My Chinese friends are asking me “How can you do something like that?”

But it seems clear to me that Joffe-Walt cannot be blamed in any way for this. Lu, who had his own agenda, was insistent about accompanying the Guardian correspondent, and Lu - likely more that Joffe-Walt - knew the risks involved.

I would never instruct any of my Chinese staff to take any political risks - they face penalty of jail while I, at worst, face deportation - and I will advise sources to remain anonymous or alter sensitive quotes rather than take what I deem unnecessary personal risks (though this is very rare as getting a decent comment in China financial journalism is like pulling teeth… with tweezers).

Lu did have an agenda to push, and was taking his own risks to achieve his goals. I’m largely sympathetic to these goals and, I actually believe most senior-level central government officials also are. However, this means Lu was a political figure and he cannot have the same status as an employee or even a trusted or coaxed source.

That said, this is not to put the responsibility on Lu.

Lu was beaten by hired goons! The responsibility for the crime is on the hired goons and their employer(s)!!


Much thanks to GI Korea for all of the posts in my unexpectedly long absence, normal service will resume shortly, featuring more tabloid sensationalism, no introspection and fewer exclamation marks!!!!

UPDATE (12 October 19:12 Shanghai time):

Sun Bin posted in the comments that “the bigger controversy is about the ‘exaggeration’ or ‘inaccurate description’ of Joffe-Walt’s story.” I didn’t address this yesterday and I’m still reluctant to do so in definitive terms. I haven’t fully made up my mind on the matter and probably won’t until I see a thorough update on Lu’s physical condition or some sort of follow-up from Joffe-Walt.

I’m reserving judgement on the accuracy of the report until I have more information. By ‘accuracy’ I mean whether it is poor observation caused by panic or whether it was simply blatant exaggeration.

As well, for argument’s sake, I will suggest that it is possible that what Joffe-Walt says he witnessed may be a relatively accurate retelling of what he thought he saw. I haven’t seen many beatings, and no serious ones. However, I have had friends in such things as motorcycle accidents. Someone who looks near death can look almost normal after a quick cleanup in the hospital. Head wounds, because of the concentration of blood vessels, very often look much worse than they actually are.

An inspection of the apparently-not-lifeless body would have been helpful, as would have been a camera (though that may seem ghoulish). But given that there were allegedly 30 thugs standing around, it is understandable that he did neither of these things.

The primary thing that bothered me yesterday was not the report, but the matter of blaming Joffe-Walt for the beating, That is not a rational response. It’s not quite like blaming a rape on the dress of the victim - as Lu was the real victim - but to point accusing fingers at a bystander rather than the assailants shows a serious lapse of judgement.

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by @ 1:12 am. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, World record watch, Riot watch

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