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July 16 2013

Protests Crush Nuclear Complex Plans in Southern China

Following three days of continuous protests, it seems the Heshan municipal government in Jiangmen city has abandoned its plans to construct a massive nuclear fuel complex.

Some believe that this victory – confirmed in a written document  [zh] released on July 14, 2013 – is only temporary. They worry the project may simply prop up somewhere else, near the highly populated Pear River Delta in Southern China.

The Heshan government made several concessions after hundreds of local residents took to the street on July 12 enraged by the high-risk project. At first, the government tried to negotiate to extend their consultation period to 20 days. But this move failed to pacify local residents and at a press conference on July 13 they announced, “with respect to public opinion, the project would not be approved” [zh], even though the city government had already signed the initial agreement with China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).

Protesters took to the street to oppose construction of the proposed nuclear fuel plant on July 12, 2013. Image from Zhu Kunling's weibo.

But some people are not satisfied with the government's claim. In the past, Chinese local governments have adopted delay-tactics like this to pacify people's anger. For example, in Dalian, the city government suspended the PX factory after thousands took to the streets in 2011 in the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” campaign, but the factory was restored back to normal operations after a few months [zh].

“Little bee” (@小蜜蜂-V) and “Little Eaffen” (@Eaffen细细)'s comments on Sina Weibo:


“Little bee”: Having seen the press conference, (the spokesperson) did not mention ‘cancel’, only said ‘as long as there is no agreement in the society, the project will not be approved and built. (Have we) misunderstood?


Little Eaffen: Is it true? What does it mean by ‘not approve’? We only accept ‘not to build the plant forever’!

Some netizens spelled out that the halt is just a ‘delay tactic’ [zh]:


Zhang Erfei flyfan: Wonder if which inland city will be unlucky.


Damn like motorcycle: Will (the government) announce that the Heshan nuclear processing plant is cancelled, and with research from professionals, the project will be relocated to Xinhui (another Guangdong city)?

This government document is what the protesters had been longing for. It is written that Jiangmen government cancelled the plant project. (Source: Sina Weibo)

The government document on the cancellation of the nuclear plant project [zh].

With anger and distrust, hundreds of local residents continued to rally on the third day on July 14 demanding a written official document on the cancellation of the project. The city's two vice mayors arrived at the protest spot, Donghu Square [video] to reassure the public of their decision. Still people could not accept their verbal promise and they marched to the municipal government building, where the secretary of municipal Party committee showed them a written notice of the project's cancellation. They cheered and claimed victory.

However, the written document has not cleared all skepticism as the contract signed between Heshan government and CNNC involves 37 billion RMB (6 billion USD) investment. So far, the CNNC has not announced any change in its plan. Some are worried that the project will eventually find a home in the Pearl River Delta. For example, “ocean_Joe” said:


Ocean_Joe: We have to think carefully. Why did the government introduce the project? Why wasn't it introduced after public consultation? Why did (the government) intend to make a decision that affects our lives and our offsprings’ lives, in only 13 days? The dispute has been settled, but who will know [when or where] the project might start again in the future? Please do not test the baseline of the people of Jiangmen and Pearl River Delta. My home belongs to the Delta.

February 04 2013

Taiwan: Who Misled Chomsky?

Chomsky's support for the anti-media monopoly campaign in Taiwan has been reported as being misled by activists. [Public domain photo]

Chomsky's support for the anti-media monopoly campaign in Taiwan has been reported as being misled by activists. [Public domain photo]

The photo above, in which Noam Chomsky is holding a placard, is part of a global campaign organized by Taiwanese student against media monopoly in Taiwan. Chomsky's photo has been circulated widely online via social media since early January 2013. However, a number of news outlets recently reported that he was misled by Taiwanese anti-media monopoly activists into supporting the campaign. What has exactly happened? Who has misled Chomsky?

In the past few days, a number of mainstream media outlets run by the Want Want China Times Group in Taiwan reported that Chomsky was misled by a young Taiwanese female student, Lin Ting-An. Below is a list of translated headlines:

1. Chomsky: If I knew the campaign is against China, I would not have hold the placard [zh] – China Times 04﹣02﹣2013
2. Anti-media monopoly became anti-China campaign, Chomsky was set up [zh] – China Times 29-01-2013
3. Misled to hold the placard, Chomsky: This is series distortion [zh] – China Times 28-01-2013

In addition to the newspapers, the Citi TV channel, also controlled by Want Want China, ran a two one-hour news commentary program on January 29 and 30, 2013 dedicated to “clarify” Chomsky's position. The program accused Lin Ting-An, who invited Chomsky to hold the placard, of misleading and using the famous linguist, “the conscience of the U.S”. The commentators in the program also criticized the strategy of the media monopoly movement for singling out pro-China capital, namely Want Want China Times, for its campaign. Below is a short clip of a Citi TV interview with Chomsky:

The media reports were triggered by some email communications between a Macau based media professor Shih-Diing Liu and Chomsky in which Liu explained his understanding of the anti-media monopoly movement in Taiwan on January 27 2013:

However, I am unsure if you have realized that this anti-media monopoly movement, with its high level of participation among young people, cannot be understood as a simply a movement seeking freedom of the press and democracy on the island. The participants, speakers, and interveners (including the mainstream media, scholars, and groups who have followed along and appropriated the issue) not only focus on the issue of media resources being monopolized by capitalists but also point toward an enemy. This enemy happens to be the one that the government of your country has been cautiously dealing with. However, in the context of Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait, using the name of “defending Taiwan” to refuse, oppose, and reject all people and matters relating to China and the Chinese government is not an isolated phenomenon, and it needs to be placed in the hegemonic structure led by the United States that you have described so we can fully understand it. The slogan in your hands should also be interpreted in a specific political context.  

In response to Liu's long email Chomsky wrote a brief reply which was quoted and made public by Liu in his Facebook:

Thanks for the interesting comments, which go far beyond anything I know about. I also don’t recall a placard referring to “Chinese manipulation.” What I was shown, and held, didn’t go beyond media monopoly and freedom of press. I hope that interpretations don’t go beyond that.

Attached to Chomsky's reply is Liu's rather lengthly interpretation which was picked up by China Times on its January 28 news report and turned into a news and commentary framework among Want Want China Times’ media outlets for use against the anti-media monopoly campaign. Liu interpreted Chomsky's photo as “abduction”:


[…]If Chomsky did not know about this demand [anti-China factor], you have “abducted” him by asking him to hold a placard that expressed your own position. Isn't this rather disrespectful? Why didn't you explain clearly your anti-China position to him? Why was the only English translation the slogan “anti-media monopoly”? Why do you have to cover this up and not let him know your anti-China position? Are you afraid that if Chomsky knew the position, he would not have shown his support? That's why the slogan has been blurred? Of course we don't know the real intention. But if Chomsky did not know there is an anti-China factor in your movement and you placed him in the duck's window display [meaning abduction], your political tactic is very poor!

他所認定和支持的立場,針對的是反對媒體壟斷和媒體新聞自由。喬老並不希望外界的解讀,踰越這個範疇,或加油添醋。 問題是,台灣部分反中人士和媒體,卻綁架他來為自己的立場掩護。每個運動都有自己的立場訴求,但為自己的立場訴求辯護手段要經得起檢驗,要用道理說服人。

What he knew and supported was against media monopoly and supported media and press freedom. He doesn't want people to misinterpret and add “other favors” to his position. The issue at stake is, some anti-China people and media have abducted him to strengthen their position. Every movement has their own stand but they have to establish their position with valid means and reason.

According to such understanding, I don't know what would have happened if Chomsky had not been misled or fooled. Those who asked him to hold the placard should know exactly what had happened. It is obvious that he had not been told the compete message and been dragged to support your position. The way the messages have been hidden and transplanted is as bad as the kind of distortion and monopoly that you criticize. Under the flag of “anti-monopoly”, you are doing the opposite.

To clarify the situation, Lin Ting-An posted her email communication to Chomsky in her Facebook. The email, inviting Chomsky to join the campaign, explained in detail the background of the campaign against Pro-China media group Want Want China Times’ acquisition of Next Media, with the translation of the placard slogans:

Here is now a horrible media monopoly event happening in Taiwan: The Pro-China Want Want China Times Group chairman, Tsia Eng-meng, is going to buy the Taiwanese branch of Next Media (which was owned by Hong Kong mogul Jimmy Lai). If this purchase is approved, Mr. Tsai will control about 46% of Taiwan's newspaper market. Mr. Tsai not only owns the newspaper (China Times, Commercial Times), but also the magazine, TV channel, and cable TV service, and his turning a blind eye to Beijing's human rights violations (He denies the Tiananmen square massacre) make us become really worried about the future of Taiwanese media.

In order to against this purchase and the government ignorance, Taiwanese students have launched several protests since November and will hold another one on New Year's Eve. There is now an activity which urges global supporters to photograph themselves, holding the slogan of “Oppose Media Monopoly, Reject the black hand of China, uphold freedom of the press, I protect Taiwan in ___”, and upload it online. (I attached my photo which took at Yang Ming university, Taiwan.)

Although Chomsky has further clarified that he had not been misled by anyone and the incident was a “misunderstanding”, his statement has not had much bearing on the major media outlets.

The debate about whether or not the China Factor should be stressed in the anti-media monopoly campaign has been a debate within the movement since day one. On the one hand, activists are aware that the media liberalization policy since the 1990s has been the driving force of the capital monopoly of Taiwan mainstream media. On the other hand, the influence of mainland China capital, as well as its political agenda to take control of Taiwanese media corporations, has become more and more obvious in the Want Want China Times’ acquisition of TV Cable Network and Taiwan Next Media. Similar debates have been going on among activists for months. After the Chomsky incident, in the anti-Want Want China Times campaign page, Jiangeng Chiou raised the issue [zh] again:


I think we should discuss if the “anti-media monopoly” should go hand -n-hand with “anti-China manipulation”. Currently the anti-media monopoly has attracted the public attention and it is a golden opportunity to campaign for media reform. The blue vs green and unification vs. independence sentiment is not helping the campaign. Let's take a look at the problem faced by Taiwan Public Television Service, the pressure faced by media workers in Taiwan not only comes from China, but also other political clans and capital. Apart from China, we have to confront other political and corporate forces.

In a comment Charlene Delerk replied:


The key is China government wants to manipulate Taiwanese media. Some people who have occupied special positions have become their groves [covering their black hands]. The discussion of whether or not we should delete China factor in the campaign is serving their purpose of dividing our supporters. This issue has been discussed some months ago, now people are still dancing with CitiTV and re-firing the rice that is also sour [meaning turning outdated news into news]. If they like China so much, they can go to China, no one stops them.

For those who are outside Taiwan, it is very difficult to understand the political dynamic and it seems rather inevitable that Chomsky be misled and distorted in such a media and political environment.

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August 31 2012

Portuguese, a Global Language?

A community page on Facebook, Língua Portuguesa: Uma Língua Global? (Portuguese Language: A Global Language?) [pt], provides a diversity of materials to promote the debate about the expansion of Portuguese language and its consequences. Several critical issues on the policies of this language of around 200 million speakers are addressed, such as minority languages, multilinguism and linguistic colonialism.

September 15 2011

Social Media Uprising in the Chinese-speaking World

Hong Kong In-Media, a media advocacy organization based in Hong Kong has published an e-book, Social Media Uprising in the Chinese-speaking World. The preface of the book, written by Jack Qui Linchuan is posted at, where you can also download a pdf preview of the book.

November 19 2010

Taiwan: National dignity hurted in the Asian Games

By Portnoy Zheng

On November 17, leading Taiwanese Taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun got disqualified in the 2010 Asian Games during a match with a Vietnamese competitor for “wearing non-certified electronic foot equipment”, or “electronic socks”. The incident has stirred up a lot of emotions in Taiwan. It was turned into an online populist nationalistic outrage, with more than 27,000 angry Taiwanese Facebook users joining the online Anti-Rogue campaign.

The controversial referee

Engadget Chinese addresses the controversy from a technical perspective. He points out that the function of the “electronic socks” is to help the judge to record details of a successful attack in Taekwondo. Yang's “electronic socks” are an old version and may affect the recording. However, the judge could have issued a warning and asked her to change the equipment, instead of disqualifying her:

本屆亞運會規則從嚴,不符合 規定會馬上被判失去資格,與一般跆拳道比賽,選手護具、衣服、牙套出現問題,以罰分或警告處罰不同。

The rules in this Asian Game are harsh, they disqualify the athlete immediately if they made a mistake. In other competitions, if the Taekwondo athletes wear non-standard equipments, such as clothes, teeth braces or protection wears, the penalty is usually a warning or deduction of points.

A Dong collects all related video clips to show what had exactly happened during the match. Below are two video clips. The first one shows the match between Yang and the Vietnamese competitor. Arguably Yang is more skillful. The second one shows the emotional scene on how the judgment caught Yang by surprise. She kept asking what had happened and refused to leave the stage, with tears in her eyes.

To show their support for Yang Shu-chun, netizen very quickly launch an online sticker campaign:

Translation: Go go go! Yang, we are proud of you!

Su Li-wen (蘇麗文), another national female Taekwondo athlete who is considered the “light of Taiwan”, protests against the referee and believes that the event is a political framing:


As a national athlete for so many years, this is my first time seeing such outrageous and vicious framing!! Especially as all our points come from our top quality actions.
We have no reasons to cheat in a fight against a competitor who is not at the same level as we are, the World Top 3! This is political framing!
It unfairly damages the athlete's sports character! All the athlete's hard work is preparation for this moment. No matter win or fail, fight for Taiwan!
It is no big deal to die in the game, but we just can never accept such framing and unfair treatment!
I am madly angry!! We Taiwanese are not for bullying! Huan Hsien-uung proved that! (Note: Huang is another female Taekwondo athlete who won Gold medal after the row)
In the remaining three days, we will use all our strength to revenge for all the bullying and humiliation.
Just wait and see, we Taiwanese will not be easily humiliated!

Who to blame?

The controversy has taken a political turn and the Sports Affairs Council of Taiwan has become a target of online criticism[zht]. Many angry Facebook users criticize the Council for not standing firmly and fighting back against the disqualification:


We cannot but ask, when such an unfair judgment caught a majority of Taiwanese by surprise, why can the Taiwanese government be so rational? Of course we are not asking the government to fight with the Chinese government or boycott the Asian Games. But at least the Taiwanese government should appear tough…

The emotion has induced a number of racial remarks against the Korean Filippino referee and mainland Chinese. In mainland China, there are also some debates about the incident. Tianya user Big sparrow points out that other athletes from mainland China and East Timor also got disqualified in the Taekwondo Game. Another Tianya user 5218734 says:

棒子+菲律宾猴子 双重国籍的裁判整的事,你不去骂裁判,反而怪到中国头上了,还说中国阴谋论,脑残吧。。。中国亚运会拿100多个金牌分分秒秒的事,还用的着干这事? 弯弯媒体反正知道,只要是中国“打压”台湾的新闻,就等于升职+奖金大大地,让我们拭目以待,看看弯弯媒体会找到几条 “打压“的证据,只要自己输了就是老共的阴谋, 厌倦了弯弯天天喊被打压的悲情牌, 天天吵吵闹闹的, 自己作弊也说被打压, 比赛前服用兴奋剂没有查出来,比赛完后,被查出你服用兴奋剂,然后处罚你就是打压???

That Korean Filipino referee with dual nationality made the decision… instead of blaming the referee, you blame China, and accuse China of conspiracy, this is idiotic…China has won more than 100 gold medals, we are winning every second and every minute, why do we need to cheat? Taiwanese media professionals know that as long as they report news about China “suppressing” Taiwan, they can get promotions and huge bonuses. Let us see how much evidence Taiwanese media will find out about the “repression”. When Taiwan loses, they say that it is the conspiracy of the communists. I just got tired of Taiwanese media shouting “repression” everyday. They are shouting and wrangling all the time, even when Taiwanese cheated, they still said they were being repressed. You are caught after the game for doping, but not before. If you got punished for this, do you still call that a repression???

Populist politics

Very often, social media like Facebook and Plurk have become platforms for accelerating irrational hatred and nationalism in Taiwan, especially during international games. The upcoming mayoral election and the manipulations along with it also provide a lot of firewood to let all those online campaigns burn.

In fact, it is not the first time that rage against referee over controversial game results has appeared during international sports competition. Cheng Da-wei (鄭大為), an experienced and world-famous Taiwanese Taekwondo coach, referee and ex-athlete, faced fierce protests and scolding over a controversial ruling. In the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong, he decided that the Korean competitor won without a foul over a controversial hit at the neck of the Taiwanese competitor. Cheng's family was harassed by raging people for “not supporting our own man” and his Korean wife left him because she could not stand the harassment anymore. Under great populist pressure, Cheng was deprived of his qualification as coach by the National Taekwondo Association for three years. Even though there was an online petition aiming to rehabilitate Cheng's reputation and job[zht] because his referee was reasonable and fair, not many people really cared.

Orbisx finds such sports related populist nationalism hypocritical:


Sometimes Taiwanese people really are hypocrite. Our nation and national dignity are trampled all the time, our national identity is a mess and most of the time people don't seem to care. But when an athlete was bullied, people suddenly think that it is like the death of our country. This is just concentrating on the symptoms while neglecting the causes behind.

Some netizens, such as PipperL, are worried that the interplay between emotions in the social media and the mainstream media may amplify such irrational hatred. Is this going to be something that netizens can fix on themselves? Or will populist politics in social networking sites lead to further tribalization? We will see.

August 24 2010

Taiwan: Let’s go poking around under the rock of ECFA

By I-fan Lin

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China was signed on June 29, 2010 by the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (semi-official representatives for Taiwan and China). Later on August 17, the Legislation Yuan of Taiwan approved this agreement.

The process seems smooth and efficient at the surface, but the story is not simple. Many Taiwanese have poked around under the rock of ECFA and questioned the rationality behind the agreement.

The story of ECFA began two years ago. In 2008, Ma Ying-Jeou, the president candidate of Kuomintang (KMT), was elected as Taiwan’s 12th president. After Ma sworn into office as president, his office proposed to sign CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) with China. platocast explained how CEPA evolved to ECFA:


In the beginning, Ma’s office proposed to sign CEPA with China…After some background check, we found only Hong Kong and Macau signed CEPA with China. Therefore, signing CEPA with China would give away Taiwan’s sovereignty. Due to the blame, Ma’s office changed their mind and proposed to sign CECA with China. However, we found CECA was similar to CEPA and blamed Ma’s office again. At last, President Ma proposed to sign ECFA in Feb (2009).

Although Taiwan’s government started to work on ECFA in Feb, 2009, the contents of ECFA were hidden from the public until it was signed by the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait in June, 2010. The blackbox process worried the opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and they called for a debate about ECFA with the president. Under the pressure, a televised debate between President Ma Ying-Jeou and the chairperson of DPP, Tsai Ing-wen, was held and aired on April 25th, 2010.

blackrain was disappointed that Ma failed to clarify the doubtful points in ECFA that were addressed by Tsai in the debate.

蔡英文的幾個質疑,加深了 ECFA 的可疑程度。例如:
。馬英九完全不答有哪些產業會受到衝擊,或是他所宣稱的 17 個受影響的產業是什麼,加深了更多人的疑慮

What Tsai Ing-Wen questioned deepens the doubt toward ECFA. For example
(1) There are 600-700 agriculture products listed in ECFA, but Ma avoided answering if the government has prepared for the impact.
(2) Ma did not answer the question regarding the industries that will be influenced by ECFA or the details of the 17 industries that he claimed will be influenced by ECFA, which deepened many people’s suspicion.
(3) Tsai pointed out that Ma benefits the big firms and ignores the problems of the poverty gap and social justice, but Ma could not answer this question.
(4) When Tsai controverted the urgency (of signing ECFA) claimed by Ma successfully, Ma could not explain.

Later the DPP distributed a video below accusing ECFA, as CEPA, will cause social injustice:

Here is ESWN's transcription of the video:

(Cantonese voice-over)

There are lots of rich people in Hong Kong. Reports speak of the averarge income in Hong Kong, but I don't get it. There are more and more poor people; everybody works longer hours; eight out of ten street sweepers are university graduates; senior citizens have to scavenge in the streets. Actually, is the Chief Executive sent over from Beijing? It does not matter what CEPA is. It can't be a bad thing to let the people of Hong Kong make more money. But it shouldn't be this way. The rich eat shark fin, whereas the poor cannot even have a single vermicelli noodle?

(in written words) After Hong Kong signed CEPA, it has become the city with the largest wealth inequality in the world. We don't want an ECFA that let the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

After the debate, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) requested to hold a referendum on the question: “Do you agree that the government signs ECFA with China?” However, this referendum was rejected by the Referendum Review Commission.

The decision made by the Referendum Review Commission reminded Taiwanese the problem of having this commission in their government. subing said,


At most, the Review Commission should be only authorized to review the process, e.g., check if the number of people cosigned is enough or if all the documents are submitted…Based on the Law of Referendum, we will need 870000 people to cosign the referendum to pass it. Why do these 21 people (in the commission) have the right to judge the intention of these 870000 people? What this commission did violates the basic rules of democracy and violates our constitution.

Despite the dispute, ECFA was signed by the semi-official representatives for Taiwan and China on June 29, 2010. After the articles of ECFA were finally revealed, they stimulated a lot of discussions. For example, KuanMom criticized the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee mentioned in article 11,

(ECFA)第11條所成立的「兩岸經濟合作委員會」(*),完全不受任何台灣立法機關的監督,空白授權給海基海協指定任何人選, 全權負責協議的執行、解釋、爭議處理、後續所有協商的速度及廣度。ECFA第11條完全不提該委員會如何組成?對誰負責?由誰授權?受誰監督?經費何來?設置在哪?


The 11th article (in ECFA) mention setting up the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee (*), but it does not mention how the Legislation Yuan of Taiwan can supervise this committee. In other words, the committee members assigned by the Strait Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait without appropriate authorization will handle the execution and explanation of ECFA, the arbitration of disputes, and all the following negotiations. The 11th article in ECFA does not mention how the committee will be organized, who it should be responsible for, where its authorization comes from, who will supervise it, the funding source of it, or the location of it.

(*) Temporary translation of this article based on the available Chinese version: Both sides should set up the ‘Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee’ (abbreviated as the committee). The members of this committee are assigned by both side, and these members will be responsible to the processes related to this agreement.

Despite the dispute, ECFA was sent to the Legislation Yuan. According to the video taken from the conference room, ECFA was read and passed rapidly without sufficient discussion. hehe said,


From the media, we only see the physical confrontations between some legislators. However, the real violence is the tyranny of the majority in the meeting without any justice.
To be honest, I do not have a strong opinion regarding signing ECFA or not. I believe most people are like me, and what we want is a consensus that is reached by discussions from different perspectives and following the rules in democracy. Even if we cannot reach a consensus, we hope the government can benefit from these discussions and protect those who will be influenced by ECFA.
Nevertheless, in this video, the way ECFA, which may include tens or hundreds of articles, was passed make us doubt that what we can expect with this kind of legislation process.

Well, we all know what will happen if we poke around the rocks–some very nasty things live under rocks.

August 08 2010

China: Visa tales

By John Kennedy

Just how how hard can it be, asks Sina blogger and freelance journalist Chen Zikun in his August 6 post, for Chinese travelers to get a visa—with Chen's answer apparently being: not too hard—in which he shares the stories behind visas for the many countries he's been to:



Until I went to apply for a visa for my first ever trip out of the country, I was always happily under the impression that, being from a country with a rapidly-developing economy, and especially with how smug red-to-the-root media like CCTV are in their frequent reports about how Chinese tourists always rank first in purchasing power of luxury goods. Couldn't have felt better. China had already learned how to say No, thus there probably wasn't any country that wouldn't greet me with a smile, never mind give me a visa hassle-free.

Then, the opposite turned out to be true…..


In late fall 2003, the first overseas tourist visa I applied for was for a Schengen country, Austria. They required property ownership certificates, car ownership certificates, proof of bank balance exceeding RMB 50,000, a letter of introduction from my workplace, the purpose of which being to confirm my annual salary to be over RMB 100,000 as well as guarantee that I would return to the country and not overstay my visa to work illegally. Of course, they also needed an “accurate” record of my ancestry going back eight generations….


My second time was to Egypt and that country long despised by the EU, Turkey. Egypt was fairly simple, but which isn't to say there weren't a fair number of preconditions. Being so subject to discrimination as it is, I would have though Turkey would be reasonable about processing visas. Turns out, the former Ottoman Empire country is just as arrogant toward citizens of the People's Republic of China as it is to those of European Union countries!


Having said that, don't be too quick to judge the foreigners. Even our own Hong Kong and Macau require you to first undergo a strict process before they'll issue a visa. The paperwork and procedures involved are just as complicated and elaborate as those required by anybody else, but even more important is that once you do get it, you find yourself constantly stuck with cold glares and even abuse from tour guides.


My second time applying to a Schengen country was with a visa to France. Per usual, they wanted copies of yet another stack of information as well as proof of financial statements, and again I had to swear that I wouldn't remain anywhere and that I would return on schedule.


We are brothers of the same misfortune, after all, and Vietnam is much friendlier, not taking the trouble to check whether or not you own sufficient assets or fixating on the suitability of your job; you pay your money and then you're more or less good to go!


In the Pacific Ocean, Saipan, although administered by the United States, its masters know that even with as clever as Chinese are, there's no way for any of us to use the island as a springboard to land on American soil, and therefore applications are relatively straightforward, but of course that employee letter is still required.


Despite the similar political system we once shared, Russia has in fact made multiple attempts to relax procedures for its former brethren, at least until it became clear that each time they did, large numbers of Chinese would flood in and end up staying. The result of this tightening and relaxing has been requirements that are only marginally more strict than those of the EU, and don't forget those notarized papers and proof of identity!


Oh-so-intimate North Korea, which doesn't place much emphasis on proof of assets for Chinese travelers; screening based on profession, however, is extremely strict. Journalists, don't even think about getting in! Travel agencies, however, in pursuit of profit, have found a way around this, by changing employment status to ‘instructor' or ‘manager'. What's disappointing is that visas don't come with a picture of The Great Leader, or stamped with the special Juche year Gregorian calendar unique to their country alone.


Malaysia, aside from harsh screening of young Chinese women (large numbers of sex workers are highly active in Malaysia, something which implicates even upstanding Chinese women), basically has its doors wide open. Singapore is the same, although proof of sufficient bank balance is needed. Visas are issued separately, not on a page in your passport.


Although we put their foreign ministry, ministry of defence and Executive Yuan in quotation marks, that's just to comfort ourselves. Under the “One-China policy”, applying to go to Taiwan is far more complicated than for other countries. At least up until 2004 when things had yet to formally open up.


Taiwan's visas are different from most, covered in sayings from Lee Teng-hui. After all, these are “special state-to-state” relations. Fortunately I'm not a soldier, Party member or official, so getting approval was easy. Though if you go to Taiwan, you have to go through Hong Kong or another country.


For my third country, I chose the Philippines. This the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia, and neither my assets nor profession were checked.


The difference between South and North Korean visas is obvious. When the employee at Seoul Airport saw my North Korean visa, they asked excitedly if they could take a picture of it with their cellphone.


Cambodia is not worried about “negative reports” from Chinese journalists, and are definitely not worried about Chinese people working or staying illegally. You can even apply for a visa upon arrival.


With a military regime so frequently criticized by the international community for its human rights situation, Myanmar has a lot in common with North Korea: neither of them like journalists coming chasing after the truth.


Thailand belongs to the small group of countries whose visas are easiest to obtain, even when the red shirt army isn't creating any disturbance. Although, I have no interest in traveling there except that the capital Bangkok is a transportation hub and from there one can fly on to Yangon in Myanmar, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Jakarta in Indonesia, and other places.


In 2005, Indonesia was still not issuing visas to Chinese citizens; one had to pay a hundred times the normal cost to a travel agent to take care of the paperwork.


The African island nation of Seychelles, quite similar to the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius in that, unlike nearly all other countries, exempts Chinese travelers from a visa. This is the stamp given at the Immigration crossing. When Chinese go through, however, inspection is more thorough than normal.


With Africa full of countries we think of like brothers, definitely anyone with a People's Republic of China passport will not be faced with this kind of discrimination. Nope, turns out the Superpower Dream gets destroyed in black Africa too! Tanzania and Kenya were equally strict in requiring visa processing to be completed at their embassies in Beijing before I could go. Fortunately, I was able to “truck” into Uganda. Currently, one travel throughout the EAC with a visa from any of its member countries.


In Madagascar, the least developed country in the world, they went and stipulated in Chinese on the French-language form that “this person is not allowed to work illegally during their stay in Madagascar.” In Zambia, another least developed nation, it was much clearer: “China is one of the six countries not privy to visas upon arrival”……


If you want a visa to Zimbabwe, please remember, as with North Korea and Myanmar, do not under any circumstances reveal that you are a journalist! Authoritarian regimes all fear open discussion.


American visas are the most troublesome. Like job-hunting, you have to first go to the embassy for an “interview” and be fingerprinted (Beijingers will tell you that Xinjiangers face the same thing when they show up and try their luck at the Xiushui Silk Market), and if you get rejected, you don't get that USD 100 back! Although, when I had my interview, they didn't even bother looking at my proof of assets!


Back in 1989, I got denied a Canadian visa. Who knew that I'd actually end up going there three times? Although, I had a lot of trouble the second time when the visa officer, after repeatedly going through my passport and with no explanation, kept asking my: why did you go to Iran? Or countries like Syria, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and North Korea? Were you in contact with any soldiers there? Did you meet with any of their leaders?


India requires a return plane ticket and proof of RMB 10,000 in the bank. Only one entry is allowed for a maximum of thirty days. The biggest headache is that the Indian embassy is so unreliable—this was extremely uncool—such that when you go back to the embassy at the specified time to pick up your passport, you keep getting the completely unapologetic response of “it's not ready, come back tomorrow.”


Nepal is the friendliest of all countries to China: visas are free and processed in two days. No line-ups outside the embassy, you can go straight in and fill out the forms. No proof of assets necessary.


Although travelers from our own brothers of Taiwan and Hong Kong are lovingly exempted visas for Schengen as well as European Union and many other countries, citizens of China, one of the five major permanent members of the UN Security Council, are unable to enjoy such treatment. When I went through four countries in Northern Europe, I had to bring proof of at least RMB 10,000 in savings at Bank of China, proof of employment and annual salary, my employer's company code and, among other things, a signed letter of guarantee from my leader or a legal representative as well as various proofs of assets, to get a visa from the Finnish embassy.


A visa to Laos costs RMB 130 and requirements are loose.


As was the situation in Qatar, as the largest transportation hub in Middle East, the visa I was given in Dubai, UAE, was not stamped into the passport.


Iran is the only country that requires women to wear head scarves going through Immigration, unless other countries in the Gulf have similar forced requirements.


Syria, another enemy of Israel, which is why until this passport expires, I don't dare head to the Israeli embassy for a visa.


Staff at the Jordanian embassy to China were quite rude, far more vile even than attitudes of some Chinese staff at any other embassy in China.


The Mongolian visa officer actually got my date of birth wrong the first time, after I noticed I had to go back and ask them to correct it.


Although Australia required the names of both parents from the past 20-40 years “written accurately” and fully investigated my ever last detail, in the end gave my a multiple entry one year visa. The second time I went, I was spared the humiliating ritual.


Although Japan keeps lowering its visa requirements, it's a dream still years in the future when Chinese will be able to go in or out as freely as their Taiwan or Hong Kong compatriots. And no wonder, ever tour group runs the risk of travelers escaping partway through; even a deposit of RMB 100,000 kept by the travel company hasn't stopped the flood of runners.


Bhutan, which has yet to establish diplomatic relations with China, naturally leaves no visa in the passport, instead just a stamp when pass through Immigration.


By the time of my third visa to Nepal, the era of free visas had long passed.


Bangladesh requires an invitation letter, and if that can't be provided the travel agent will arrange it for several times the cost. Some evil travel agents will raise the fees as high as up to four times the original cost!

How does all that that compare to your experiences traveling?

In a final note, Chen writes:


By now, everyone must have noticed that people one can ascertain the international standing and national power, image and reputation of a country through the process of applying for visas. I hope they hurry up and release that propaganda film which will “improve China's national image” so that the Yellow children of China don't have to put up with being treated like third-rate scum any longer (of course, those with money and power already have have their own other “citizenship”).

June 09 2010

Macau: Amendment of media law

By Oiwan Lam

Michelle from translated an article updating the free speech situation in Macau. Professional media workers are calling for media reform while the government wants to amend laws to control the Internet.

February 25 2010

Macau: Alternative public sphere

Chong from interlocals has a summary of a local research on the development of online alternative public sphere in Macau.

December 21 2009

Macau and China: The 10-year anniversary of Macau’s handover

Jottings from the Granite Studio reviewed the colonial history of Macau and the politics of historical narration by the Chinese Communist Party in the 10-year anniversary of Macau's handover.

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