Mark Collins – The Dragon vs the Press: Covert (Canada); Overt (Hong Kong)

Further to this post,

The Dragon’s Grasp on Canadian Chinese-Language Press

two stories at the Globe and Mail, which is doing a fine job on this beat:

1) Canada:

Columnist’s firing at B.C.-based Chinese paper stirs press-freedom concerns

For more than a decade, the acerbic Gao Bingchen wrote a column for the Global Chinese Press, a Burnaby, B.C.-based, Chinese-language newspaper that is distributed, among other places, to the Chinese consulate in Vancouver [website here, no picture of President Xi–yet].

But last Tuesday [June 14], Global’s deputy editor told him that while the publication had long faced down pressure over his writing, this time, it was too great. The paper had to put an end to his column, Mr. Gao said. The editor then asked Mr. Gao, who writes under the pen name Huang Hebian, whether he might consider writing under another byline. He asked why. “‘Some people don’t want to see your name in the newspaper,’” he said he was told.

The decision came after Mr. Gao applied his sharp claws to Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who dressed down a Canadian journalist in Ottawa earlier this month after she asked Mr. Wang’s Canadian counterpart, Stéphane Dion, about China’s human-rights record [see plus “Comments”: “New Government’s Stealthy Diplomacy Promoting Sino-Canadian Relations“]. A week later, Mr. Gao mocked Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan’s controversial response to the incident, in which the MPP argued that human rights, when seen through the lens of economic livelihood, have improved over 40 years [see ‘How Convenient: “Ontario minister Michael Chan defends China’s human-rights record”‘]. Even though Mr. Gao published both pieces on his own social media account, the distinction hardly mattered.

At a Toronto press conference on Monday June 20], Chinese-Canadian community activists held up Mr. Gao’s case as an example of diminishing freedom of the press. One panelist warned that without intervention of Canada’s various governments, “Canadian values will be swallowed up step by step.

“If it happens in this community, it can happen to other communities, too,” Jonathan Fon, a columnist, said.

Mr. Fon came on behalf of Toronto-area journalist Xin Feng, who earlier this month wrote a critique of Mr. Wang’s behaviour on – one of Canada’s most popular Chinese-language websites [it’s here] – and later received two death threats…

2) Hong Kong:

Hong Kong bookseller refuses to be silenced after harsh detention in China

His girlfriend has disavowed him. His colleagues have accused him of lying. His romantic life has been made uncomfortably public, he has been labelled a traitor by angry Chinese Internet users and he has been warned that his outspokenness has placed him in danger.

But Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee [lots more here] is not backing down from his explosive account of being abducted in China and subjected to harsh interrogation by secretive authorities.

He has instead continued to speak out, telling The Globe and Mail in an interview on Monday [June 20] that his lengthy detention led him to formulate detailed suicide options, and saying it’s time for countries such as Canada to more forcefully speak out against Chinese abuses [emphasis added, we’ll just have to wait and see].

His lowest moment, he said, came when a special interrogation team dispatched from a central investigative unit in Beijing “told me my ‘crimes’ were so grave that I could be held indefinitely without the need to go to any trial.”

The two interrogators pounded the table and shouted down any attempt he made to defend himself. He was not beaten. But barred from speaking with a lawyer or his family, the experience left him psychologically devastated. “They could have killed me any time they wanted. I thought I had entered another world,” Mr. Lam said.

His crime: mailing banned books to mainland China, including political thrillers jammed with thinly sourced details about the personal lives of China’s elite leadership.

The disappearance of Mr. Lam and four other booksellers last year raised fears that Chinese authorities are seizing critics to silence them, and in some cases reaching across state borders to do so.

Mr. Lam said he was taken by a special Chinese special investigative group – one China scholars say likely has ties to the top leadership in Beijing – who forced him to make a televised confession, providing a script from which he could not deviate.

On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying promised to immediately write Beijing to “express Hong Kong people’s concern on this case.” The city’s most powerful political figure also promised to review the notification system by which mainland authorities communicate with Hong Kong about detainees. Hong Kong officials will be sent to China to follow up “if necessary,” Mr. Leung told reporters.

Mr. Lam, however, said his experience has left him deeply disenchanted with the “one-country, two-systems” model that is intended to allow Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy.

Mr. Leung “can achieve nothing,” he said, lashing out at a Hong Kong government that “has absolutely no credibility. It is just a puppet government,” answering to Beijing…

More at the Globe:

Remember the name Lam Wing-kee: A brave bookseller who stood up to tyranny
Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist…

Very relevant:

Hong Kong’s Growing Chicom Heebie Jeebies

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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