Saturday, 28 February 2015

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Says Cooperation Between China and Russia Helps Stabilise Global Situation

According to the 'People's Daily', a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on February 27 Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov stressed the importance of Sino-Russian cooperation in a speech at the Diplomatic Academy. 

"In general, Russia's cooperation with China on foreign issues ... is an important stabilizing factor in the current complicated international situation," he was quoted as saying. 

Lavrov emphasized that both China and Russia promote a foreign policy based on non-interference and peaceful settlement of international disputes. He argued that the world needs a "more democratic, impartial global order" and that Western countries should take into account the balance of interest and legal framework when cooperating with Russia.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mainland Chinese Tourists' Bad Behaviour Angers Japanese

While this year the number of mainland Chinese tourists that spent their Chinese New Year holidays in Hong Kong has declined for the first time since the 1997 handover, neighbouring Japan and South Korea have become increasingly popular with Chinese travellers.

Data released by Hong Kong's immigration department show that 675,155 mainlanders visited Hong Kong between February 18 and 22, a 0.16%  drop compared with last year. Many regard the rising anti-Chinese sentiment in Hong Kong as the main cause for the diminishing popularity of the former British colony among mainland visitors. 

Over the last few years, the misbehaviour of some mainland tourists as well as the soaring number of Chinese shoppers have caused widespread anger in Hong Kong and prompted many citizens to take to the streets. On February 8, for example, around 800 Hong Kong residents protested against Chinese one-day shoppers and parallel traders that are making the city unlivable.

Japan and South Korea, on the contrary, have seen a 10% increase in the number of mainland tourists this year. Recent data show that a total of 5.2 million Chinese visited the two countries during the Chinese New Year holidays. However, if they hoped to be treated with more leniency and understanding than in Hong Kong, they were wrong. Uncivilised behaviour has, once again, tarnished the image of Chinese tourists.

On 25 February, a Japanese TV programme showed a mainland Chinese mother who let her child urinate in front of a shop in Tokyo's famous Ginza district. A journalist approached the mother and told her that her behaviour was improper. Yet instead of acknowledging her mistake and apologising, the woman showed the journalist a plastic bag and said her child had urinated inside the bag and had not made the floor dirty. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Is Taiwan Ruled Dictatorially?

On February 2 Lee Teng-hui, the former leader of the Guomindang and the first democratically elected president of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan), gave a speech at the Legislative Yuan concerning the issue of constitutional reform. 

Lee Teng-hui is my favourite Taiwanese president. He implemented democratic reforms, defended the ROC against Beijing's claims to Taiwan, he managed the economy well and was a politician who exercised a strong leadership but was at the same time tolerant, humane, and capable of understanding and representing Taiwan's mainstream public opinion. In this respect, I consider him a better politician than Chen Shuibian and Ma Ying-jeou (Ma Yingjiu), let alone Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo). 

Three points in his speech seem to me quite interesting, and in this post I will briefly examine them. The first two points concern Taiwan's identity and economic situation. The third point relates to Lee's assertion that Taiwan is currently ruled in a "dictatorial" way. While I concur with the first two of Lee's remarks, I strongly disagree with the third one, as I will explain below. 

Taiwan's Economy and the China Factor 

In his speech, Lee made some interesting and, in my opinion, correct remarks about the status of Taiwan's economy and society. 

"On the surface," he said, "Taiwan’s economic figures look good, but in reality, Taiwanese people are becoming poorer and poorer. The unemployment rate is grave. Salaries are falling backwards. The wealth gap is getting bigger and bigger. Society is becoming more and more unfair. Young people can’t afford to buy homes, are afraid to get married and have children, and don’t even feel sure they can afford to eat three meals a day. Life is unstable, and hope is harder and harder to see. And yet, the current government hasn’t presented a single effective policy to respond to these problems."

A look at the national statistics of the ROC confirms the validity of Lee's remarks. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Papa Xi “Beats The Tiger” – Xi Jinping’s New Year Propaganda Cartoon

On 17 February Beijing Chaoyang Studio (北京朝阳工作室) released three cartoons which aim at spreading among the people the values of the Xi Jinping administration in a way that is closer to the common citizen and less stiff and cold than traditional political propaganda.

One of the three cartoons is entitled “Has the mass line been truly implemented?” (群众路线动真格了?) The animation revolves around Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption, a phenomenon which, according to the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), runs counter the Communist Party’s mass line.

The cartoon condemns the vices that the official party language describes as “The Four Decadent Customs” (四风)and “The Three Abuses” (三公).

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报), the animations represent a departure from the previous style of government communication, which was too cold and detached from the people. “In the past,” writes the paper, “the Chinese people only saw pictures, portraits or official videos of their leaders, while it was extremely rare to see them in animated films.”

Friday, 20 February 2015

Taiwan, Breathtaking Miniskirts and the Wrong Laowai

I am not a big fan of hiking, but I love to take long walks in the city, where I can observe people and see interesting buildings. If I have to go somewhere, I usually go on foot instead of taking the MRT. Yesterday evening, too, I walked from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to Xindian.

Before going home I went to Family Mart because I needed toothpaste and milk. While I was looking for the things I wanted to buy I suddenly saw a girl, one of the many girls one sees in Taiwan who will take your breath away. She looked young (I would guess between 18 and 20, but here you never know, she might have been 30, as well). She had a petite, slender body, and long dyed brown hair. Her clothes were simple and reflected the common and to me inexplicable Taiwanese habit of wearing winter clothes on the upper body and summer clothes on the lower body. 

In fact, she wore a black hooded sweatshirt, which definitely suited yesterday's cold and windy weather. Below she wore a tiny, really tiny skirt that revealed her gracefully long, slim legs, and high-heeled flip-flops. She was bending over the ice cream compartment, and her skirt was so short I could see a part of her panties. 

That girl was so pretty that I just forgot why I had gone to the store in the first place. I began randomly taking stuff off the shelves - a chicken salad, a potato salad, two boiled eggs, a chocolate croissant - none of which I needed. The girl kept standing there, moving gently to the right and to the left, searching for an ice cream. After a few minutes she took one out of the freezer and went to the cashier. I had finished my random purchases and I queued behind her. She asked for a packet of cigarettes. She paid and left. I realised I was buying things I didn't need, but it was too late to put them back. 

Girlfriend of Hong Kong Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Detained In Mainland China

On February 18 Tiffany Chin (錢詩文), a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, was denied entry into mainland China and detained at Kunming Airport. The 19-year-old Tiffany Chin is the girlfriend ofJoshua Wong, the founder of ‘Scholarism‘, a pro-democracy student association that was at the forefront of last year’s Occupy Centralmovement. Joshua Wong soon became one of the most famous leaders of the demonstrations.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The 10 Questions Taiwanese Are Afraid To Be Asked on Chinese New Year

One might think that Chinese New Year is a time of rest and joy, of warmth and love. And to a certain extent it is. Family members eat together, exchange 'red envelopes' (i.e. cash gifts), chat and relax. Yet there is more behind the apparent happiness of this event, a less bright and merry side. As the family holiday par excellence, Chinese New Year is also a period in which people face a lot of pressure, a pressure that is often quite unbearable.

In Taiwan as in the rest of the Chinese-speaking world, the family was traditionally the most important thing in one's life. What a single family member did - his or her job, relationships, offspring, property and reputation - were not individual matters, but collective matters that concerned the entire family. Although in a weakened form, much of this still holds true.

The proof of this is the number of articles published in Taiwan before Chinese New Year which discuss how to deal with family pressure and with the dreaded 'questions' that relatives will ask to the younger members of the family - usually those in their twenties and thirties.

What people are so afraid of are questions regarding their private lives, and especially family planning and work. That's because, due to the specific social structure of the Taiwanese/Chinese family, which I have discussed in other posts, family members are extremely competitive and "face"-oriented. Not that this doesn't happen in Western families, as well. But since there has never been in the West a kind of family ideology as powerful and institutionalised as in Confucian societies, in the West family pressure is, as a rule, less fierce.  

According to a poll conducted by Apple Daily among its readers, the most feared questions are:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Foreign National Attacked on Taipei Metro

According to reports, today (17/02) a fight broke out between a Taiwanese worker and a man who is allegedly a foreign national. The clash erupted at around 17:00 local time at Hongshulin Station (紅樹林站), on Taipei Metro Line 2. 

Apparently the fight started because of a queuing dispute when the passengers boarded the train. The worker allegedly hit the foreigner with pliers. The man's head was injured and bled. The victim's Taiwanese wife succoured him and tried to keep the worker away.

Continue Reading >>>

Friday, 13 February 2015

Taiwan - Kaohsiung Prison Drama

On February 11 Taiwan‘s society was shocked by the events that unfolded in Kaohsiung prison, where 6 inmates rebelled and took staff members hostage. This was the first prison riot in Taiwan’s history. This drama highlighted not only Taiwan’s need to reform its prison management system, but also the existence of a grey zone between legality and criminal syndicates.
At about 16:30 local time Zheng Lide (鄭立德), a leader of the Bamboo Gang (竹聯幫), a notorious Taiwanese criminal syndicate, and 5 other prisoners faked an illness and asked for medical treatment. Then the six men took hostage the three guards who had come to help them. They forced the staff to take them to the prison armoury, where they stole four 65K2 rifles with 177 bullets and 6 guns with 46 bullets.
The prison’s head guard, Wang Shicang (王世倉), and the prison warden, Chen Shizhi (陳世志), asked to be taken hostage in exchange for the three guards, to which the prisoners agreed.
The inmates entered into negotiations with the authorities and claimed that they had rioted because of what they considered an unfair treatment on the part of the state. They demanded that a car be delivered to them and that they be allowed to leave the prison. However, the police refused to accept their requests.
The police asked the help of former lawmaker Li Fangzong (李榮宗) and of the prisoners’ family members.
According to reports, the six men had committed serious crimes and were all serving prison sentences exceeding 20 years. Bamboo Gang leader Zheng Lide (鄭立德) had been arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 28 years in prison for murder, possession of weapons and other crimes; Qin Yiming (秦義明) was serving a 46 years’ prison term for banditry; Wei Liangxian (魏良顯) had been sentenced to 34 years and 3 months in prison for drug trafficking; Huang Xiansheng (黃顯勝) had been sentenced to 34 years and 2 months in prison for drug trafficking; Huang Ziyan (黃子晏) had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking and robbery; Jin Zhusheng (靳竹生) was serving a life term for robbery.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Launching a New Website

After thinking about it for a long time, I have finally decided to start an entirely new blog. That's because I am not quite satisfied with this one, especially with the name. You have to imagine that when I started this website in late 2012 I didn't have a clear idea of how it would develop. Since a name reflects the purpose and content of a blog, and my newly-created blog had neither purpose nor content, finding a name was particularly difficult.

Although I had already lived in Taiwan for a few months, I didn't want my blog to be exclusively a "Taiwan blog". I am interested in the whole Chinese-speaking world, and I wanted to write about China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well. The problem is that there is no name that describes this whole cultural area, a name that is politically neutral. If I had used the word "China" in the blog's name, then people would have wondered why I also wrote so much about Taiwan. Someone would have - as usual - politicised the name issue and implied that I consider Taiwan a part of China

On the other hand, using the word "Taiwan" or "Hong Kong" in the blog's name would have made no sense, either. At the beginning, I thought that the words "sina" or "sino-" would be a good element to include in the blog's name. But I was a latecomer in the world of blogging. All the domain names I tried this way were already taken.

In the end, I just got tired of searching and decided to find just a passable domain name. After all, I didn't even know how to write a blog. Maybe I'd get bored soon and give it up altogether. Why should I rack my brains so much for a blog that might not last a month? So I settled for the title "My New Life in Asia". It was a neutral name. I could write about my life in Taiwan but also in other parts of East Asia if I decided to move somewhere else. At the beginning, my life here was also supposed to be the main topic, whereas in the end I basically wrote nothing about all the things that happened to me. Maybe I'll write down all my "adventures" some day.

I soon discovered that I really loved blogging and this has become one of my main hobbies. Over the past two years I wrote about many things, like culture, history and sightseeing. There are endless topics one can write about. The Chinese-speaking world not only has a fascinating, thousand-year-old history and culture, but also comprises a fascinatingly diverse and heterogeneous population.

As soon as I realised I would continue blogging for a long time, I felt the name I had chosen did not fit the content of the website. As I like to write about many different things - from trivial to serious news, from history to family issues -, I thought that the kind of themes the title suggested (i.e., a personal blog about an expat's life) absolutely did not match what I was actually doing.

Moreover, I do not like the 'blogspot' part of the name because it makes it too long. At first, I thought about maintaining this website but changing the name. However, I soon realised that doing so was not practical. It would have altered the relatively good Google ranking of the website and it would have deprived me of a personal space to write about my own life (in fact, sometimes I do write about strictly personal things).

In the end, I decided to create a whole new blog and to switch from blogger to wordpress. I never used wordpress before, but I read it is a good platform that offers a lot of premium updates, just in case one chooses to invest some money in improving one's website.

The problem, once again, was the name. What name would be suitable for a website about China, Hong Kong and Taiwan? What name would have no particular political implication? What name would be short, easy to remember, and easy to pronounce for foreigners who are not familiar with pinyin?

After thinking it over for a few days, I came up with a title that I really, really loved. I thought it sounded nice, simple and appropriate. But when I tried to register the domain name - of course, it was already taken. There are several websites with that name. Although the Chinese characters I had chosen were different from those of any other site, the way they are written in pinyin is the same. There was nothing I could do and I had to give up the name I liked so much.

At last, I realised that finding a really nice name was almost impossible. I was forced to do the same thing I had done two years ago: just pick a name. So I chose the name "kuangguo" (匡國). What does "kuangguo" mean?

The combination of the characters "kuang" and "guo" has actually no meaning in Chinese. They simply refer to the Chinese given name of the Italian Jesuit Martino Martini (1614 – 1661), a missionary, cartographer and historian who worked and lived in Imperial China and is considered one of the first Western sinologists. Martini's Chinese name was Wei Kuangguo (卫匡国 / 衛匡國).

Martini is one of the most famous Jesuits who lived in China in the 17th century. He was born in Trento, a city that now belongs to Italy but at that time was part of the Habsburg Empire. Martini began his journey to China in 1640 and arrived in Macau three years later. He stayed in Macau for a year, studying Chinese, and then he was sent to Hangzhou (on Martini's life in China see: D. E. Mungello: Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation And The Origins of Sinology, 1989, and ibid.: The Forgotten Christians of Hangzhou, 1994).

Martini travelled to the Middle Kingdom during a period of turmoil. By the time he arrived in Hangzhou, the Ming Dynasty had been overthrown by the peasant soldier Li Zicheng. His army took Beijing in May 1644, and the last Ming Emperor hanged himself in the gardens of the Forbidden City. Li proclaimed himself Emperor, but his reign did not last long. The Manchu took advantage of the chaos to invade China. They defeated Li Zicheng and proclaimed the Qing Dynasty, which would last until 1911.

While these events unfolded, Martini was travelling from Macao to Hangzhou via the so-called 'ambassador's route', which was the safest possible itinerary. When the Manchu took Beijing, Martini was residing in Nanjing, where he was guided by a Christian eunuch and visited the famous tombs of the Ming Emperors. Due to the political situation, however, he soon left the city and continued his journey to Hangzhou.

South China was not a safe place to live in those years, as armies of Ming loyalist were still waging a war of resistance against the new dynasty. When the Manchus conquered Hangzhou in August 1645, Martini escaped and travelled around southern China.

Taipei Is World's 13th Safest City - The Economist Safe City Index 2015

According to the Economist Safe City Index 2015, Taipei confirms its position as one of the world's safest cities. The index is based on four categories: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety and personal safety. Here is the list:

1 Tokyo
2 Singapore
3 Osaka
4 Stockholm
5 Amsterdam
6 Sydney
7 Zurich
8 Toronto
9 Melbourne
10 New York
11 Hong Kong
12 San Francisco
13 Taipei
14 Montreal
15 Barcelona
16 Chicago
17 Los Angeles
18 London
19 Washington DC
20 Frankfurt

Taipei performs best in terms of personal safety: it is the world's 5th city in this category. However, in the index of the top 25 cities, that is, the cities where it is best to live, Taipei ranks 21st. The top cities index is based on the data of 6 other indexes  (Safe Cities, Liveability Rankings, Cost of Living, Business Environment Rankings, Democracy Index, Global Food Security Index). 

Monday, 9 February 2015

China Cuts Growth Targets of 29 Provinces

A total of 29 provinces of the People's Republic of China (PRC) have revised their growth targets downwards. 

On February 9 the provincial-level National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of Guangdong, Jilin and Hainan provinces announced that they have lowered their growth target for 2015. Similar announcements had been made by other 26 provinces in January. 

Guangdong’s growth target has been adjusted to 7.5%, down from 8.5% last year; Hainan has set a target of 8%, compared to 10% last year; and Jilin is expected to grow 6.5%, down from 8% in 2014. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

"The Chinese Communist Party Stands Beside You" - Xi Jinping's Charm Offensive

"It is important to mould the image of our country," wrote Xi Jinping in his best-seller, 'The Governance Of China '. "We should create the image of a great civilised country with a long history; of a united multiethnic state, in which different cultures live side by side in harmony; of a great Asian power with an upright and honest policy, a relatively developed economy, a thriving culture, a stable society, a people living in harmony, and beautiful landscapes; of a great responsible country that defends international justice and fairness and gives its contribution to the development of humanity; and of a great socialist country full of charm, hopes and vitality, which continues to open itself up to the world."

Papa Xi (习大大), as he is now called by the subservient state media that glorify him like no other Communist leader after Mao Zedong, describes this strategy as "raising China's cultural soft power". Upon taking over from his predecessors in 2013, Xi Jinping tried to put this strategy into practice in various ways. One of them was a video released by the PRC authorities that aimed at both foreigners and Chinese, a video that presents exactly the image of China Xi Jinping has in mind: a harmonious, vital and youthful country that completely identifies itself with the Chinese Communist Party, a country where Communism, old Chinese culture, and economic development are perfectly blended and form a coherent and well balanced whole. 

The video is titled "The Communist Party Stands Beside You" (中国共产党与你一起在路上, literally: "The Chinese Communist Party Stands By You Along the Way"). This is the somewhat naive text of the video, composed in the style of ostentatious, state-sanctioned optimism:


  This is an ancient


  and youthful country

Friday, 6 February 2015

Getting Scammed in Beijing

After two lazy months I am trying to update my blog again more regularly. There was a time when I used to write one post each day, but it's a really hard pace to keep for a long time. 

There's also something that's bothering me. A week ago I was in Beijing and I got scammed. I'm kind of ashamed of admitting that, since apparently everyone knows that Beijing is famous for its scams. So was I the only one who didn't know? Obviously not, since these scammers find new victims each day among the naive and trusting foreign visitors. 

The funny thing about that is that I always felt totally safe in Beijing, especially in Wangfujing, Dongdan, Tiananmen Square, Jianguo Road and in the hutongs. Even in Dongzhimen in the evening I never had any problem. 

Beijing is one of the most militarised places I've ever visited. In Tiananmen, Wangfujing and the whole of Jianguo Road there are policemen and soldiers everywhere. Who could have imagined that in this country, with its all-powerful army and police, scammers thrived undisturbed in the city centre of the capital of the biggest Communist dictatorship on earth? 

Isn't this the state that detains people just because they have shared a picture online, or because they have "spread rumours"? Isn't this the state where in 1989 the army put an end to the democratic aspirations of an entire generation of students? And yet this almighty state can't handle a bunch of swindlers. Suddenly, the police need "proofs" and "evidence". Come on, this is the place where the CCP makes the law, and when it wants, it arrests, punishes, censors and blocks websites, and who cares about "laws"? 

But when it comes to stopping criminal activities that have been known to the authorities for years, they are, all of a sudden, powerless, weak, slow. The stern and menacing faces of the people in uniform turn into lazy, annoyed grimaces. 'Another one of those naive laowai who got scammed,' they seem to say, 'there's just nothing we can do to help you.' 

I am writing an account of how I got scammed, but it's getting too long, already over 10 pages, so I won't post it here. Moreover, I can't remember the details exactly, so I have to fill the 'blank spots' with my imagination. So I decided to write a kind of "short story" and upload it as an ebook. I would like people to see what shrewd and talented actors the scammers are, and what sort of psychological relationship, what an ambiguous interplay of true and simulated feelings, there is between the swindlers and their unsuspecting (and credulous) victims. 

I have been to mainland China several times. I wouldn't like to live there because I don't like censorship and the many restrictions on personal freedom (restrictions that are intensifying under Xi Jinping). However, I am very interested in the country and despite this annoying incident, I won't give up returning there if I get the chance to. Nor do I feel inclined to blame the entire Chinese people because of a few bad apples. 

But one thing is sure. As a traveller, and especially as a foreigner, it is much better not to trust people. The honesty that one may take for granted in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is a point of weakness in mainland China. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A History of TransAsia Airways Accidents

After the deadly crash of TransAsia Airways Flight GE235, which claimed the lives of at least 31 of the 58 people on board, the reputation of the Taiwan-based airline has been damaged. Only 7 months ago, on July 23, 2014, another TransAsia Flight crashed near Magong Airport, on Taiwan's Penghu Island, resulting in 47 deaths. The images of the two fatal incidents are now engraved in the public's mind. Many people will now ask the question: Just how safe is TransAsia Airways?

TransAsia Airways (復興航空/复兴航空; pinyin: Fùxīng Hángkōng) was founded in 1951 as Taiwan's first private civil airline. In 1958, however, it terminated its air services and specialised in meal catering services for other airlines. 

It was only 30 years later, in 1988, that TransAsia reentered the air service market. In 1991 the company purchased its first ATR 72 aircraft and in 1992 it launched its first unscheduled charter services to various destinations in Asia. In 1995 it started its first scheduled international flights from Macau to Surabaya. 

TransAsia currently operates various domestic and international routes. In Taiwan it operates flights to and from Taipei, Taichung, Kaoshiung, Hualian, Magong and Jinmen. Among its international destinations are Shanghai, Xiamen, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Quanzhou, Yichang, Tianjin, Macau, Osaka, Tokyo, and Bangkok. 

Since 1995 TransAsia has been involved in 5 accidents:

  1. On January 1995 an ATR 72-200 of TransAsia from Penghu to Taipei crashed, killing 4 crew members.
  2. On December 2002 a cargo flight from Taipei to Macau encountered severe icing conditions and crashed off Magong city. According to the official investigation ice accumulated around components of the aircraft. The two crew members failed to take the appropriate measures. Both of them were killed.
  3. TransAsia Flight 543 collided with a truck after landing at Tainan Airport. The aircraft was severely damaged, but none of the people on board were killed or injured.
  4. On July 23 TransAsia Flight 222 crashed near Magong Airport after a flight from Kaohsiung. 47 people were killed. 
  5. TransAsia Flight 235 to Jinmen Island crashed a few minutes after taking off from Songshan Airport in Taipei. At least 31 people were killed.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Another Black Day For Taiwan's Aviation - Flight GE-235 To Jinmen Crashes Shortly After Take-off

In the past 20 years 7 plane crashes occurred in Taiwan, killing around 900 people. The country had barely recovered from the tragic plane accident that happened on July 23 of last year, when a TransAsia Airways aircraft flying from Kaohsiung to the outbound island of Penghu crashed near the airport. 

Today, Taiwan mourns again the victims of a fatal plane accident, and again a TransAsia Airways flight is involved. 

Flight GE-235 from Taipei City to Jinmen, an island off the coast of the People's Republic of China, carried 53 passengers, 31 of whom are tourists from mainland China, and 5 crew members. The plane took off from Songshan Airport, in Taipei City, at 10:45 of February 4. 

Only 5 minutes after take-off the engine of the aircraft failed. The airplane was forced to attempt an emergency landing. The machine precipitated at high speed towards Jilong river, hitting a bridge and a taxi. The plane broke into pieces. According to reports, the last communication of the pilot to air traffic control was "Mayday, mayday, engine flame out". 

The shocking footage of the airplane falling towards the bridge soon went viral, conveying to the public the horror of this disaster. 

As to 19:00 of February 4, of the 58 people on board 23 are dead, 15 are injured, and 20 people are still missing. Of the injured people, 12 were Taiwanese and 3 were tourists from mainland China.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

China Web Portal NetEase Accused of 'Rumour-Mongering'

The Chinese internet company NetEase has been accused by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) of "illegally republishing news and information, spreading pornography, rumour-mongering and other issues".

According to a law against online rumours which was adopted in September 2013, internet users who spread "false information" will be charged with defamation if the posts carrying the alleged rumours are visited by at least 5,000 people or are shared more than 500 times. The Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate declared in a judicial interpretation that an internet user found guilty of spreading online rumours faces up to three years in jail. Rumour-mongering is considered a "serious breach" of Criminal Law.

The CAC has not provided details about NetEase's alleged misbehaviour. The internet company is headquartered in Guangdong, one of the first provinces that benefited from China's "opening up and reform" in the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to its distance from the capital Beijing, its proximity to Hong Kong, and its rapid industrial growth that linked it to the rest of the world, Guangdong has developed a relatively liberal and progressive atmosphere. 

Since NetEase does not strictly censor users' comments, the accusation of "rumour-mongering" may refer to the failure of he portal to restrict free online discussion and the uncontrolled sharing of news. 

NetEase has released a statement declaring its willingness to cooperate with the authorities. "[We will] actively spread positive energy and provide news services in strict accordance with the law", it said. 

The allegations are seen as part of Beijing's expanding crackdown on internet freedom. While internet censorship has always existed in the PRC, the Communist government has recently tightened its control on the free flow of information not only through its law against rumour-mongering but also through the blocking of VPNs, Gmail, Instagram and other foreign websites and internet services.

But the worst may not have come, yet. Since Xi Jinping's rise to power in 2013, the Communist regime has returned to a Maoist-style control of the citizens' mind through openly propagated ideology and censorship. 

In a speech from 19 August 2013 Xi Jinping announced this objective plainly: