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New add-on to China’s Social Credit System: Suzhou’s “Civilization Code”

Media in China reported that Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, introduced a “Civilization Code” on September 3rd. It consists of a “civil transport index” and a “volunteer index,” with more indices and functions to be added in the future.

The civil transport index relates to manners on the road, such as traffic violations and voluntarily assisting with traffic duty, while the volunteer index is a measure of the degree of involvement in voluntary work, which the local authorities say aims to help strengthen awareness of social responsibilities and duty.

During the earlier days of the covid-19 epidemic outbreak, China introduced a “health code” to identify people’s health status and their movements. This invited widespread concern over the issues of privacy and social control. The new measure announced by the Suzhou city government also went viral in China’s cyber space.

People questioned on WeChat whether “scores” could actually quantify the degree of civilization. Others compared this to the British sci-fi series Black Mirror where there was a scoring system to distinguish good people from bad ones.

In 2014, the State Council issued the Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System. The main objectives were as follows. By the year 2020, to have established basic fundamental laws, regulations and standard systems for social credit and to have completed a credit investigation system that would cover the entire society with credit information and resource sharing as the basis. This would represent the basic completion of the credit supervision and management systems.

Source: Central News Agency, September 5, 2020

Mass Protests in Inner Mongolia as Officials Replace Mongolian Language with Chinese

The Education Department of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region announced that, starting with the new semester on September 1, all elementary and middle schools in the region will adopt what is called the bilingual teaching model. That is, the three subjects related to China, which are history, ethics, and the rule of law,  will be taught in Chinese instead of the traditional Mongolian language. The move triggered a strong backlash from the locals in Inner Mongolia. Mongolian rights organizations in the U.S. also condemned China for suppressing Mongolian freedom of speech and destroying their national identity. They called it “cultural extermination” in Inner Mongolia.

The Mongolian teachers in Erenhot City launched a strike. Many Mongolian parents plan to teach their children at home instead of sending them to school. Herders also held simultaneous demonstrations in major cities across Inner Mongolia to protest the “cultural extinction.” Thousands of local students dressed in traditional Mongolian costumes participated in the demonstrations. Video footage of the protests also circulated on Twitter.

The Inner Mongolia Human Rights Information Center reported that, as the scale of the protests continues to escalate, the authorities also started to suppress the demonstrators. Hundreds of parents from the Mongolian language school in Zalut Banner gathered in front of the school and demanded the immediate release of the children detained in the school’s dormitory. The local police, however, blocked them from entering into the school. In Horqin Zuoyizhong Banner, the police beat the parents. In Hohhot, students and their parents from the Inner Mongolia Normal University Affiliated School protested in front of the school and launched a petition. Many parents said that if the appeal fails, they will not send their children to school. There are also reports that several hundred Mongolian activists were either detained or under house arrest because they participated in organizing the protests.

1. Secret China, August 30, 2020
2. Twitter Post

Cypress Papers: China’s Riches Quietly Emigrate Overseas

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has obtained copies of documents that were leaked and which reveal that Cyprus, an EU country, approved 1,400 “golden passports” between 2017 and 2019, among which more than 500 were issued to Chinese. The project started in 2013, when Cyprus launched a “Cyprus Investment Plan.” According to this plan, through the purchase of real estate and other forms of investment in the local area amounting to at least 2.15 million euros, a foreigner could apply for a so-called “golden passport.” A Cyprus passport brings benefits including no requirement of a local residence and the freedom to live and work in the other 26 EU countries.

Al Jazeera discovered that most of the people who obtained the “golden passports” were Russians, Chinese, and Ukrainians. By selling citizenship, the Cyprus government received 7 billion euros in revenue within two years, a good boost for a sluggish economy.

Among about 500 naturalized people from China, Al Jazeera released the information on eight individuals, including Yang Huiyan, a property developer and the majority shareholder of Country Garden Holdings. In 2007, her father, Yang Guoqiang largely transferred the stake to her. She is the richest woman in Asia. It is legal for a Chinese to apply for a passport or permanent resident status of another country, but China does not recognize dual citizenship. In theory, after Yang Huiyan obtained the Cyprus passport on October 23, 2018, she could not continue to remain Chinese as her nationality.

The Chinese who have acquired Cyprus citizenship include a few representatives of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in provincial and city governments. Lu Wenbin, a representative of the Chengdu Municipal People’s Congress, obtained a Cypress passport in July 2019. Chen Anlin, a member of the CPPCC in Huangpi District, Wuhan City, became a Cypress citizen in July 2018. Fu Zhengjun, a former member of the CPPCC in Jinhua city of Zhejiang Province, was naturalized in November 2017. Zhao Zhenpeng, a member of the CPPCC of Binzhou City, Shandong Province, received a Cyprus passport in February 2019. The South China Morning Post pointed out that once these people are found to have foreign citizenship, they will be disqualified as representatives of the NPC or the CPPCC.

According to the South China Morning Post, people holding important positions in state-owned enterprises are not allowed to have foreign passports. Tang Yong, executive director and president of the state giant China Resources Power, is on the list that Al Jazeera disclosed. Tang obtained a Cyprus passport in January 2019. Then in December, he was transferred to China Resources Power as its president.

Being rich is not the only condition for investing in Cyprus to obtain a passport. The Cyprus government requires strict verification of the background of the applicants. Those with criminal records cannot be naturalized. However, the “Cypress Papers” show that Zhang Keqiang, a businessman from China, was sentenced for equity trading. Another Chinese businessman, Li Jiadong, was sanctioned by the United States for laundering more than US$ 100 million. Both of them bought Cyprus “golden passports.” In 2019, Cyprus revised relevant laws so that it now requires a strict investigation of investors and allows cancellation of passports already issued.

The “Cyprus Investment Plan” is an ongoing project. According to Al Jazeera, out of more than 500 people from China, only eight “politically public figures” have been disclosed. Most of the rest have no important political background or criminal history.

The European Commission once gave out warnings about some EU countries carelessly issuing EU visas and even granting EU citizenship for money, claiming that this approach contains risks.

Source: Deutsche Welle, August 25, 2020.
Al Jazeera, The Cyprus Papers.

Global Times: Hong Kong Is Changing Textbooks

Global Times recently reported that seven Hong Kong publishers have submitted changes to their General Studies Textbooks. General Studies is a core course in Hong Kong high schools. Traditionally, Hong Kong has allowed private sector publishers to design textbooks and high schools have been allowed to pick textbooks from approved publishers. According to the Hong Kong Education Bureau, the publishers are making adjustments to the textbooks based on new “guidelines” that the government has offered. So far, the media has discovered that the changes are mainly on political topics. For example, “separation of powers” was removed; the mention of “fighting for social justice via social movements like demonstrations and protests” was also removed. Pictures of protesters asking for a “true general election” disappeared as well. The publishers that do not follow the guidelines that the the Education Bureau “recommended” will not be allowed to upload textbooks to the approved list.

Source: Global Times, August 19, 2020

CNA: Peking University Tightens Permission to Attend Overseas Online Conferences

Primary Taiwanese news agency CNA (The Central News Agency) recently reported that China’s top university, Peking University, just announced new rules for attending online conferences held overseas. The new rules apply to all branches of the University. The leaders of all branches are required to review the applications from the faculty or from students strictly in order to tighten up attendance at conferences that organizations outside of China may host. The rules emphasized that “confidentiality requirements” must be “strictly” followed. No individual can personally decide on attending such events. Instead, each person must follow the exact same review and approval process the University had in place before for attending overseas events in person. All applications must be submitted for approval at least 15 days before the event starts and should include an invitation letter and a clear agenda. All online events hosted in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are considered “international.” The announcement mentioned that the new rules are based on the requirements that the government authorities have set. The goal is to “ensure the online international exchanges are done in an orderly fashion.”

Source: CNA, August 21, 2020

World Outbreak: California Church Network Sued Governor Newsom over Ban on Worship

On July 17, a network of California churches filed a lawsuit against California Governor Newsom, against his announcement to close or suspend indoor activities at many facilities, including places of worship.

The churches believe that the worship service has “been essential for 2,000 years.”

It also challenged Newsom for having a double standard in banning the indoor church service while state officials had been encouraging protests.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, representing Harvest International Ministry in the lawsuit, said in a statement on the lawsuit: “Newsom encourages tens of thousands of people to gather for mass protests, he bans all in-person worship and home Bible studies and fellowship. Such repression is well-known in despotic governments, and it is shocking that even home fellowship is banned in America.”  “This outrage will not stand!”

On July 15, three Northern California churches, including Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel of Fort Bragg, and River of Life Church in Oroville, filed a lawsuit, seeking to block Newsom’s July 1 ban on singing in houses of worship to stop the spread of coronavirus.

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Source: Fox News, July 20, 2020

World Outbreak: 37 Countries Reported Record High Daily Infection Count in the Past Week

On July 25, Reuters reported that 37 countries have reported record single-day increases in the coronavirus infections over the past week. This includes not only the leading infection countries like the United States, Brazil, and India, but also countries including Spain, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Uzbekistan, Israel, and others.

The Reuters data, compiled from official reports, shows a steady rise in the number of countries reporting record daily increases over the past month. At least seven countries recorded such increases three weeks ago; at least 13 countries two weeks ago; 20 countries last week; and 37 countries this week.

The true numbers of both cases and deaths are almost certainly underreported, particularly in countries with poorer health care systems.

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Source: Reuters, July 25, 2020

Infection Count: Dalian City Reported Coronavirus Infection Cases

Dalian City in Liaoning Province recently reported coronavirus infection cases. The infection also spread to other cities in the northeastern region of China. The municipal authorities claimed “wartime” status in Dalian and locked down certain areas within the city.

From July 22 to July 24, Dalian reported a total of 12 confirmed infection cases and 27 asymptomatic carrier cases. Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is known for hiding information, the actual infection numbers are unknown.

#1: Dalian reported the first infection case on July 22 and two on July 23. It reported nine confirmed cases and 27 asymptomatic carrier cases on July 24.

Anshan City, Liaoning Province reported an asymptomatic case on July 24, which was due to close contact with Dalian’s patient.

Suihua City, Heilongjiang Province reported an asymptomatic case on July 24, which was also due to close contact with Dalian’s patient. (China Business Network)

#2: On July 23, Dalian city entered into “wartime” status based on the central and provincial directions. The authorities locked down two residential neighborhoods and conducted disinfections.

The Liaoning Provincial Health Commission sent a 50-member medical team, a 10-member disinfection team, and 8 nucleic Acid testing teams to Dalian.

On July 23, the National Health Commission sent an 18-member expert team to Dalian. (Beijing Daily)

#3: At a press conference on July 24, Zhao Lian, Deputy Director of the Dalian Health Commission stated that, in principle, residents of Dalian should not leave the city; anyone who must leave the city should provide negative result of a nucleic acid test conducted in the past seven days. (China News Agency)

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