Unabated Repression

The second quarter of 2019 saw unabated repression of critical voices in China. On 4 April, Mongolian historian Lhamjab A. Borjigin was tried in secret for charges of ‘separatism’ and ‘sabotaging national unity’. Borjigin maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings and a verdict has yet to be announced. Another writer, publishing online under the penname Tianyi, was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence for publishing homoerotic works, while Liu Pengfei, the moderator of a news chat group on WeChat bringing verified news from overseas to a Chinese audience, was sentenced to two years in jail on unclear charges. Human rights lawyers are not faring any better. On 29 April, rights lawyer Chen Jiahong was detained by the police on suspicion of ‘incitement to subvert state power’. Meanwhile, prominent rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan was stripped of his practicing licence following an online photo where he is seen selling pesticides, an artistic form of protest he resorted to in order to denounce his inability to practice law due to official obstruction. On 28 June, Li Wenzu, the wife of lawyer Wang Quanzhang, was allowed to meet her husband for the first time since his arrest in July 2015. She found him a ‘totally changed man’, who spoke in a ‘robotic tone’. The situation in Xinjiang, where an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs are believed to be held in internment camps, has shown no sign of improvement either. On 14 June, prominent Uyghur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti died while being held in an internment camp in Xinjiang. Amid the trade conflict between China and the United States, American universities are reevaluating their collaborations and partnerships with Chinese companies. Reports have emerged that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at least one other American university maintain partnerships with iFlytek, a Chinese artificial intelligence company whose voice recognition software has been used to securitise Xinjiang. TS

(Sources: ABC News; Global Times; Radio Free Asia 1; Radio Free Asia 2; Radio Free Asia 3; Reuters; South China Morning Post; Voice of America)

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