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China Reform Monitor - No. 1203

Spotlight on repression in Xinjiang;
Beijing mulls rural land reform

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
January 15, 2016

January 2:

Xinjiang is "a society seething with anger and trepidation," 
the New York Times reportsafter a ten-day visit to the region. Uighurs are under pressure from authorities fearful of the expansion of radical Islam. In Kashgar, mosques are barred from broadcasting the call to prayer forcing muezzins to shout out five times a day from the rooftops. Communications are under surveillance and receiving overseas phone calls warrants a visit from state security. Armed soldiers man highway checkpoints, rummage through car trunks, and examine ID cards. Uighur motorists and passengers are regularly asked to hand over their cellphones so police can search them for prohibited content or software. Two dozen names considered too Muslim have been outlawed, forcing parents to rename their children or be unable to register them for school. Young men are prohibited from wearing beards, women from veiling their faces, and children under 18 cannot enter a mosque. Schools have adopted Mandarin over Uighur as the language of instruction. The government is offering cash and housing subsidies to encourage intermarriage between Uighurs and Hans. Since 2014, Uighurs travelling outside their hometowns must carry a "convenience contact card" that lists phone numbers for their landlord and local police. 

January 3:

Pro-democracy activists staged protests outside the Chinese government's liaison office over the disappearance of five men linked to Causeway Bay Books, which specializes in titles critical of Beijing. Pictures of the missing men were posted on the wall outside the liaison office. Around 40 activists from the League of Social Democrats called on Beijing to clarify whether or not mainland authorities are secretly working in Hong Kong. At another protest, Democratic Party representative James To said the disappearances undermine Hong Kong's freedom of speech. Another lawmaker said the disappearances show it would be dangerous to allow Chinese immigration officers to be stationed in Hong Kong for the new cross-border express rail line, 
The Standardreports.

January 4:

Finance minister Lou Jiwei has penned an article 
in the CPC journal Qiushi (Seeking Truth) calling for China to reform its system of collectively owned rural land and allow farmers to transfer land rights. "It's advisable to encourage farmers to transfer and lease out their land, or use it for equity financing," Lou said. Farmers could use the proceeds to move to cities and help spur economic growth. Authorities could sell the land to manufacturers and investors to modernize agricultural production. But to move to cities, farmers would need adequate compensation. Reforms would begin with affluent provinces like Zhejiang to test the scheme. Under existing law, urban residents cannot buy homes in rural areas because the land is collectively owned. In the past two decades, some local authorities have expropriated rural land from farmers for sale to investors for industrial projects, South China Morning Post reports

January 5:

While in Beijing, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond expressed concern over the disappearance of Lee Bo, a British citizen, who worked at Causeway Bay Books. It appears that Lee was abducted by Chinese authorities and entered Beijing without travel documents or being detected by Hong Kong immigration. Foreign Minister Wang Yi refused to recognize Lee's British nationality, arguing he is "first and foremost a Chinese citizen." Three other bookshop workers were detained in southern China and in October the bookshop's owner, a Swedish citizen named Gui Minghai, disappeared in Thailand. Causeway books was planning to to release a book entitled Xi and His Six Women and it appears the mainland authorities decided to shut it down before the release, 
the Guardian reports.

[Editor's Note: In November, when the first of five men linked to the bookshop was reported missing, a chain bookstore in Hong Kong pulled books about China with "sensitive material." Although chain's operator has refused to comment on the decision, workers said they were told to pull the books from shelves.

January 7:

The National Online Propaganda Work Conference, held on January 5 and 6, emphasized that the Cyberspace Administration of China must promote "innovation for online propaganda so that the Party's positions become the strongest online voice [and] there is strong online public opinion support for the the 13th Five Year Plan,"
 the official People's Daily reports. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said over the past three years there are "louder mainstream opinions and [a] clearer environment." To "achieve comprehensive internet management" the CAC will use websites, online social organizations, internet users, and Chinese proposals to change the global system of internet governance. The China Media Project published an English version of the story. 

Related Categories: China; China and East Asia Program

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