“HRIC is thrilled to announce the launch of the HRIC Weekly Brief! “

HRIC is thrilled to announce the launch of the HRIC Weekly Brief! The Weekly Brief is a Substack newsletter featuring the best of the week’s China news, selected by our staff to highlight human rights and legal issues.
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Stay informed on the latest human rights developments in China, supporting activists and fostering global understanding.

Welcome to the Human Rights in China Weekly Brief! Starting this week, we will send out a round-up of the week’s top China news every Tuesday, as curated by our staff. We draw on English and Chinese media to highlight the key human rights and legal news every week, so be sure to share and subscribe.

Top News ??

Tightening restrictions on civil society continue, and arrests and detentions have continued to ramp up: in Hong Kong, authorities targeted the families of the eight “wanted” pro-democracy activists, vowed to crack down on “soft resistance,” enlisted thousands of taxi drivers to report “suspicious” behavior, and detained ten pro-democracy activists on suspicion of “conspiring” to “accept donations from foreign organizations”; while in the mainland, police detained the CEO of the city’s largest immigration consultancy in Shanghai and missing activist Qiao Xinxin has resurfaced in a Hunan detention center.

In cybersecurity news, two widely used softwares, Zoom and Sogou Input Method, have been revealed to be vulnerable to Chinese security agencies. HRIC’s Zhou Fengsuo, current Executive Director, blew the whistle in 2020 when Zoom started closing accounts of U.S.-based pro-democracy activists on Beijing’s orders.


China’s Reach & Internal Control 

China to require all apps to share business details in new oversight push: Mobile app providers must file business details with the information ministry before March 2024. The move forces foreign companies to either register a Chinese company or work with a local publisher, and effectively requires all apps to be approved by the ministry.

When tragedy strikes in China, the government cracks down on grief: Despite the series of tragic events that have recently unfolded, including the recent floods and the deaths of a middle school volleyball team when their gymnasium roof collapsed, Chinese censors have blocked posts sharing victims’ names or mourning them publicly. Official media, meanwhile, promotes a rosy view of government disaster response.

Hong Kong taxi drivers urged to report suspected terrorism tip-offs: Hong Kong police have launched a campaign to recruit taxi drivers to participate in “crime and terrorism prevention” by identifying and reporting “suspicious individuals.” Police stated that several “zealous” taxi drivers have already provided information leading to arrests.

Diaspora Community & Transnational Repression 

Parents of wanted overseas Hong Kong activist Anna Kwok questioned by national security police: The parents of Anna Kwok, one of the eight Hong Kong pro-democracy activists currently wanted by the Hong Kong government, were detained on Tuesday for questioning by police. The families of the other eight activists have also been targeted in recent weeks.

 [New Zealand national security report: Chinese spies monitor diaspora communities]: According to the report, Chinese intelligence agencies’ infiltration of Chinese diaspora communities in New Zealand has become a significant problem, indicating the widespread nature of threats, harassment, and surveillance against both dissidents and regular Chinese expats. (English)

Chinese propaganda takes over a graffiti wall on London’s Brick Lane: Chinese international students painted over a famous graffiti wall in London with the 12 “Socialist Core Values” in the style of Chinese propaganda. The move sparked a graffiti war, with others writing messages such as “Tibet will be free!”

International Responses

Biden issues order regulating investment in China: In order to limit China’s access to certain technologies that are “essential” to military innovation, Biden has signed an executive order banning new American investment in China’s microchip, quantum computing and artificial intelligence industries.

Related: Beijing accuses US of disrupting global supply chains with new policy to restrict investment in China tech.


Human Rights Defenders & Civil Society

In blow to ‘run’ movement, Shanghai police arrest head of immigration consultancy: The CEO of the top immigration consultancy firm in Shanghai, He Mei, has been detained by police, along with an employee of the company. The move indicates that Beijing is taking steps to prevent Chinese citizens from leaving the country in response to concerns over mass emigration.

Missing Laos-based activist Qiao Xinxin resurfaces in a Chinese detention center: The Chinese authorities informed the family of Qiao Xinxin (real name Yang Zewei), founder of the BanGFW Movement, an online campaign to end internet censorship in China, that the activist is currently being held in a detention facility in Hunan, China. Qiao disappeared in Ventiane, Laos, on May 31, in another example of international cooperation with Chinese security forces.

[A global joint search for Gao Zhisheng, who has been forcibly disappeared for 6 years]: August 13, 2023, was the six-year anniversary of the forced disappearance of well-known Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Since his disappearance, no information has surfaced regarding his location or status.

AP gets rare glimpse of jailed Hong Kong pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai: The Associated Press has released the first photos since February 2021 of prominent Hong Kong activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest in 2020. The photos show a glimpse into the harsh conditions Lai and other detained pro-democracy figures have experienced. (??)

Hong Kong police arrest 10 for ‘collusion with foreign forces’ over protest fund: Ten people have been arrested by Hong Kong police on suspicion of “conspiring” with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a defunct fund set up in 2019 to support protestors, to “accept donations from foreign organizations.” Pro-democracy activist Bobo Yip is among those detained.

Law & Policy ?????

[Notice on Further Strengthening the Standardized Management of Forum Activities]: Beijing has issued a “Notice on Further Strengthening the Standardized Management of Forum Activities,” which creates a list of rules for local governments to follow in regulating forum activities that are open to the public, including adhering to the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought to ensure events have the “correct” political direction and “severely” cracking down on events held by unregistered organizations.

China’s Censors Back Down on Generative AI: China’s finalized rules for generative AI show a significant shift from earlier drafts, particularly pulling back on censorship of non-public-facing usage.

China to Require Regular Compliance Audits for Personal Information Protection: China’s Cybersecurity Administration has released new draft laws which would require companies that process the personal information of more than one million people per year to undergo an annual audit to ensure compliance with the Personal Information Protection Law. (??)

Further Observations on the Second Revision Draft of the Administrative Reconsideration Law: A new draft seeks to improve the institutional neutrality of public appeals mechanisms against government actions by implementing “administrative reconsideration committees,” which will provide advisory opinions to administrative bodies, and increasing access to in-person hearings.

Gov’t launches bid to appeal court’s rejection of ban on pro-democracy protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’: After a Hong Kong High Court judge refused to grant an injunction banning HK protest song “Glory to Hong Kong,” the HK Department of Justice has filed an application for leave to appeal in the midst of criticism from pro-Beijing lawmakers. (??)

Related: Hong Kong leader should outweigh courts in national security matters, gov’t says after protest song ban rejected.

What is ‘soft resistance’? Hong Kong officials vow to take a hard line against it, but provide no definition: Hong Kong officials crack down on ideological opponents by declaring war on “soft resistance,” a vague concept which legal scholars characterize as disagreeing with the authorities. Officials have focused on “provocative ideas” aimed at the youth, including children’s books.

Cyber Security & Digital Rights 

Muting Zoom: In 2020, Zhou Fengsuo, the current HRIC Executive Director, exposed Zoom, a U.S. company, for closing the accounts of U.S.-based pro-democracy activists on Beijing’s orders. The ensuing DOJ investigation revealed the alarming extent to which China has extended its reach into U.S. businesses.

 [Canadian research institute: “Sogou” sends every word typed by users back to the headquarters]: The Citizen Lab has found serious security flaws in Tencent’s Sogou Input Method, the most popular software used for typing Chinese characters using an alphabetic keyboard. The flaw in Sogou’s encryption reveals users’ keystrokes to network eavesdroppers, allowing them to read what users type. (Read the original report in English or Chinese.)

Firms using facial recognition in China face new rules, with some exceptions: China’s Cybersecurity Administration has released new draft rules to regulate the usage of facial recognition technology, but leaves open a huge loophole—the law does not apply to those entities “not required by laws and administrative regulations to obtain personal consent.”

China has fallen into a psycho-political funk: Chinese netizens play a cat-and-mouse game with censors, as a revival of “soviet-style” subtle political jokes reflects a growing sense of unease among the country’s youth.




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