The stage was full of empty chairs on Thursday at "China in Two Acts," part of the five-day PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York, which ended on Sunday. A two-part program featured writer Zha Jianying speaking for the first part followed by a panel discussion in the second. The chairs, a nod to Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's recent imprisonment, also signified the absence of Liao Yiwu, author and fellow IndePENdent Chinese PEN Center board member. Liao was barred from leaving the country, festival chair Salman Rushdie wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
As predicted by CPJ and many other commentators, results of the U.S.-China human rights dialogue this week are less than satisfactory. The U.S. side was more critical than it has been, but China remained defiantly deaf to foreign pressure.
One day ahead of two-day bilateral talks with the U.S., China's Foreign Ministry rejected what it labeled "interference" in the country's internal affairs under the rubric of human rights, according to international news reports. Despite this obstructionist tone, CPJ hopes that Washington officials, led by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, will stick to their announced agenda--and cast it as a matter of China's own national interest.
Among the first concerns a journalist may have on coming to China as a foreign correspondent is how to communicate with the Chinese people, the majority of whom do not speak a word of English. Finding a "news assistant" is usually the answer.
In reporting on the Libyan conflict, China's media "emphasize only the humanitarian disasters caused by Western air bombardments, and [report] sparingly if at all on the violent suppression and massacre of the people by Qaddafi," Al-Jazeera's Beijing bureau chief, Ezzat Shahrour, writes on his blog. Chinese readers so far have been largely supportive of his viewpoint.
The Chinese security apparatus is kidnapping government critics, unchallenged by the domestic press. Writer Yang Hengjun, who went missing in March and has since reappeared, criticized the Chinese press this week for failing to report on his enforced disappearance. While state media are accusing the missing artist and social critic Ai Weiwei of plagiarism and being "erratic," according to UK-based The Economist, they are not questioning his apparent, unlawful detention.
We reported Thursday that Chinese media reports on Ai Weiwei have reflected his ambiguous status in Chinese law. After several days in which Ai was considered missing, the Foreign Ministry acknowledged police were investigating him for "economic crimes" although it stopped short of saying he was detained. Coverage within China remains very limited, although there have been a couple of surprising, ambivalent notes about his fate.
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