Showing posts with label China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China. Show all posts

July 3, 2019

LGBTQ 5 Year Journey of Documenting Their Love Stories in China



 
       
SHURAN HUANG
  Although China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, activists say the stigma around being LGBTQ — and discussing it publicly — remains today.
In the past few years, Chinese Web censors have made headlines for repeatedly targeting depictions of homosexuality. In a 2018 survey by the U.N. and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, only 5% of LGBTQ people in China felt comfortable being out at work.
Italian-born photographer Raul Ariano is currently based between Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He says he traveled from Italy because he was fascinated by "Chinese people and their way of adapting themselves in the fast-paced change of their society."
Over dinner during Ariano's first weekend in mainland China, he says he was talking with a friend who called LGBTQ people "sick and dangerous."
"I was shocked to hear that," Ariano says.
So, over the course of five years, Ariano set out to photograph more than 30 LGBTQ participants across mainland China — eventually turning the project into a portrait series.
He says his goal was to "share stories of love, dignity and hope in a segment of society that tends to be hidden in China." 
Because many people avoid coming out to their parents and relatives for fear of being rejected, Ariano says he constantly faced difficulties finding willing participants. He almost gave up on the project several times.
But between commercial and editorial assignments, he reached out to the local community with the help of PFLAG China, an organization based in Guangzhou City.
Ariano photographed participants in their apartments, with natural lighting and different colors to show the intimacy between couples.
He says he was inspired by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai's 1997 movie Happy Together. The movie is famous for his masterful explorations of colors and blurs and its distinctive style.
Ariano says getting access to such private spaces in people's lives was the most challenging part of the project.
But the concept of home was compelling for him. He says it's "the space where the couples share their time, their intimacy, and is a sort of shelter where they are protected and can be their real selves."
Throughout the series, Ariano met LGBTQ people across mainland China. Some had the support of their families. Others had been forced to endure conversion therapy.
"But the most incredible thing I have felt was the strength and the determination of those people to live the life they want," he says. "Whatever it takes."
Raul Ariano is an Italian photographer based in Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Shuran Huang is NPR's photo intern.

June 17, 2019

China is Raiding North Korean Defectors and Throwing Their Underground Railroad Off Its Tracks



                         Image result for china raids on north korean defectors




SEOUL (Reuters) - A decade after leaving her family behind to flee North Korea, the defector was overwhelmed with excitement when she spoke to her 22-year-old son on the phone for the first time in May after he too escaped into China.  While speaking to him again on the phone days later, however, she listened in horror as the safe house where her son and four other North Korean escapees were hiding was raided by Chinese authorities. 
“I heard voices, someone saying ‘shut up’ in Chinese,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her son’s safety. “Then the line was cut off, and I heard later he was caught.” 
The woman, now living in South Korea, said she heard rumors her son is being held in a Chinese prison near the North Korean border but has had no official news of his whereabouts. 
At least 30 North Korean escapees have been rounded up in a string of raids across China since mid-April, according to family members and activist groups. 
It is not clear whether this is part of a larger crackdown by China, but activists say the raids have disrupted parts of the informal network of brokers, charities, and middlemen who have been dubbed the North Korean “Underground Railroad”. 
“The crackdown is severe,” said Y. H. Kim, chairman of the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea. 
Most worrisome for activists is that the arrests largely occurred away from the North Korean border – an area dubbed the “red zone” where most escapees get caught - and included rare raids on at least two safe houses. 
“Raiding a house? I’ve only seen two or three times,” said Kim, who left North Korea in 1988 and has acted as a middleman for the past 15 years, connecting donors with brokers who help defectors. 
“You get caught on the way, you get caught moving. But getting caught at a home, you can count on one hand.” 
The increase in arrests is likely driven by multiple factors, including deteriorating economic conditions in North Korea and China’s concern about the potential for a big influx of refugees, said Kim Seung-eun, a pastor at Seoul’s Caleb Mission Church, which helps defectors escape. 
“In the past, up to half a million North Korean defectors came to China,” Kim said, citing the period in the 1990s when famine struck North Korea. “A lot of these arrests have to do with China wanting to prevent this again.”  
DIVIDED FAMILIES 
Kim Jeong-Cheol already lost his brother trying to escape from North Korea, and now fears his sister will meet a similar fate after she was caught by Chinese authorities. 
“My elder brother was caught in 2005, and he went to a political prison and was executed in North Korea,” Kim told Reuters. “That’s why my sister will surely die if she goes back there. What sin is it for a man to leave because he’s hungry and about to die?” 
Reuters was unable to verify the fate of Kim’s brother or sister. Calls to the North Korean embassy in Beijing were not answered. 
Activist groups and lawyers seeking to help the families say there is no sign China has deported the recently arrested North Koreans yet, and their status is unknown. 
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which does not typically acknowledge arrests of individual North Korean escapees, said it had no information about the raids or status of detainees. 
“We do not know about the situation to which you are referring,” the ministry said in a statement when asked by Reuters. 
North Koreans who enter China illegally because of economic reasons are not refugees, it added. 
“They use illegal channels to enter China, breaking Chinese law and damaging order for China’s entry and exit management,” the ministry said. “For North Koreans who illegally enter the country, China handles them under the principled stance of domestic and international law and humanitarianism.” 
South Korea’s government said it tries to ensure North Korean defectors can reach their desired destinations safely and swiftly without being forcibly sent back to the North, but declined to provide details, citing defectors’ safety and diplomatic relations. 
When another woman - who also asked to be unnamed for her family’s safety - escaped from North Korea eight years ago, she promised her sister and mother she would work to bring them out later. 
In January, however, her mother died of cancer, she said. 
On her death bed, her mother wrote a message on her palm pleading for her remaining daughter to escape North Korea. 
“It will haunt me for the rest of my life that I didn’t keep my promise,” said woman, who now lives in South Korea. 
Her 27-year-old sister was in a group of four defectors who made it all the way to Nanning, near the border with Vietnam, before being caught. 
“When you get there, you think you’re almost home free,” she said. “You think you’re safe.” 

INCREASE IN ARRESTS 

There are no hard statistics on how many North Koreans try to leave their country, but South Korea, where most defectors try to go, says the number safely arriving in the South dropped after Kim Jong Un came to power in 2011. 
In 2018 about 1,137 North Korean defectors entered South Korea, compared to 2,706 in 2011. 
Observers say the drop is partly because of increased security and crackdowns in both North Korea and China. 
Over the past year, more cameras and updated guard posts have been seen at the border, said Kang Dong-wan, who heads an official North Korean defector resettlement organization in South Korea and often travels to the border between China and North Korea. 
“Kim Jong Un’s policy itself is tightening its grip on defection,” he said. “Such changes led to stronger crackdowns in China as well.” 
Under President Xi Jinping, China has also cracked down on a variety of other activities, including illicit drugs, which are sometimes smuggled by the same people who transport escapees, said one activist who asked not to be named due to the sensitive work. 
North Koreans who enter China illegally face numerous threats, including from the criminal networks they often have to turn to for help. 
Tens of thousands of women and girls trying to flee North Korea have been pressed into prostitution, forced marriage, or cybersex operations in China, according to a report last month by the non-profit Korea Future Initiative. 

“SMASH UP NETWORKS” 

An activist at another organization that helps spirit defectors out of North Korea said so far its network had not been affected, but they were concerned about networks being targeted and safe houses being raided. 
“That is a bit of a different level, more targeted and acting on intelligence that they may have been sitting on to smash up networks,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect the organization’s work.  Y. H. Kim, of the Refugees Human Rights Association, said the raids raised concerns that Chinese authorities had infiltrated some smuggling networks, possibly with the aid of North Korean intelligence agents. 
“I don’t know about other organizations, but no one is moving in our organization right now,” he said. “Because everyone who moves is caught.” 
Reporting by Josh Smith and Joyce Lee. Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and David Brunnstrom in Washington. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

April 2, 2019

Surprisingly China Accepts UN LGBT Rights Recommendations~~ Optimism on The Air








China’s frequently marginalized LGBT community is now cautiously optimistic after the government officially pledged to protect them. Chinese officials recently agreed to comply with five anti-discrimination recommendations from the United Nations, in what is being hailed as a “rare commitment to human rights” by the UK's Gay Star News. Not only were all five of the recommendations accepted, officials also said that they are already in effect, although they did not elaborate further on that point, much to the frustration of activists.
The UN's recommendations are as follows:
James Yang, an activist who helped lobby the government on behalf of the UN, says, "it's definitely a good sign that China has accepted these recommendations, meaning they’re not rejecting LGBT issues."
That point is echoed by other activists like Yanzi Peng, director of the LGBT Rights Advocacy Chinanonprofit. However, Peng says much of the queer community has some reservations about these developments.

A lesbian couple pose for a photo with the slogan “free love isn’t defined by gender” in front of the Temple of Heaven

"We welcome such a positive sentiment from the government when they say they have 'already accepted' these recommendations. However, it's not true that it's already implemented,'" Yanzi says, adding that he is also unimpressed with the lack of specifics in officials' claims about implementing the recommendations. He adds that China should go further and "introduce anti-discrimination laws explicitly against discriminations on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity."

Beijing LGBT Center director Ying Xin (second from the left) during TBJ's LGBT round table in 2018

While Ying Xin, director of the Beijing LGBT Center, agrees with Yanzi's points, she can't deny that the significance of the government's acceptance of these recommendations. "On the one hand, it's good news for us, because their attitude is friendly. That's a big change," she says, referring to China only legalizing gay sex in 1997, and taking until 2001 for homosexuality to be removed from its official list of mental illnesses. "But on the other hand," she adds, "How will these recommendations be implemented and localized? There's no way for people to benefit from this yet."
Ying goes on to say that even if such milestones are reached, there is still plenty of work to be done from there. "More and more countries have achieved marriage equality, and others have better transgender rights like having gender reassignment surgery available or officially recognizing their new gender," she adds. "Right now it's impossible to achieve marriage equality in China. Having that would mean having real equality."
Regardless, Yang remains determined, saying, "I think we really need to work with China Civil Society and other organizations to try to push for changes, to hold the authorities accountable. This is a positive step, but there is still a lot to be done for sure."

March 30, 2019

Grindr Was Banned From Selling Dating Apps to US Personnel Being A Threat~~But Then China Comes In




grindr china





 


A Chinese gaming company has decided to sell the popular LGBTQ dating app Grindr LLC after a U.S. national security panel declared the app to be a threat to service members, Reuters first reported.

Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd, which has owned the California-based dating app since 2016, decided to sever ties at the behest of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which pointed to major concerns over personal data of app users — notably military and intelligence personnel — being made publicly available.

Grindr, which labels itself “the largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people,” came under intense heat last year when it was revealed that the app was releasing the HIV statuses of users without their permission.

The app had 27 million users as of 2017, Reuters reported.

Currently, the app’s privacy policy allows for the data collection of a user’s location, messages and HIV status, the report said.


The decision of CFIUS to intervene in Grindr’s business operations signals increasing doubt on the part of U.S. officials in the ability of Chinese businesses to keep sensitive information of Americans secret.

In recent years, the panel also blocked the sale of the money transfer company MoneyGram to Chinese business owners, the report said.

The Trump administration has been at the forefront of scrutinizing Chinese cyber practices.

Trump says Google is committed to US not Chinese military

Amid growing concern about the risks of Google and other U.S. companies doing business in China, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the CEO of Google has "strongly stated" that he is "totally committed" to the American, not Chinese, military.

By: Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Earlier this month, President Trump accused Google in a tweet of “helping China and their military, but not the U.S.”

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Google’s artificial intelligence venture in China and other U.S. companies’ business in the country indirectly benefit the Chinese military and create a challenge for the United States as it seeks to maintain a competitive advantage.

“CFIUS made the right decision in unwinding Grindr’s acquisition," U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey commented in a statement acknowledging CFIUS’ intervention of the app.


“It should continue to draw a line in the sand for future foreign acquisition of sensitive personal data.”

A spokesman for CFIUS said the national security panel does not comment on public cases like Grindr, according to Reuters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

February 27, 2019

Chinese Broadcaster Faces Criticism After Changing Reference to Homosexuality During Malek’s Speech





                                 

Chinese broadcaster Mango TV is facing criticism after its online transmission of the Oscars amended a reference to homosexuality in best actor winner Rami Malek's speech.
Accepting the award for his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic of British rock act Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek said the film could help those struggling with their identity.
"We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically himself," the actor said.
But Mango TV, one of China's most popular channels, avoided using the words "gay man", instead of translating them as "special group".
The broadcaster has previously come under fire for censoring LGBT references in the Eurovision Song ContestThe mistranslation has generated significant reaction online. Tens of thousands of users of Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging platform, shared screenshots of the broadcaster's coverage.
Prominent music blogger Linglei Guodu was among those to note the mistranslation.
"Mango TV translated 'gay man' as 'special group'", the blogger wrote on Weibo, alongside a screenshot of Mango TV's broadcast, in a post that has more than 14,000 shares.
"There are still so many people in today's society who show prejudice or discriminate by referring to so-called 'special people'," another user wrote.
"Even the word 'gay' can't appear on our screens, this is so sad."
"What on earth are they afraid of?" one asked.
Others noted previous incidents of censorship involving Mango TV.
Screenshot of Switzerland's Eurovision performance with a rainbow flag in the audience blurred out and circledImage copyrightMANGO TV
Image captionA screenshot from Mango TV shows a blurred rainbow flag in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest
In 2018, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) barred the Chinese broadcaster from airing the Eurovision Song Contest after it censored LGBT elements of the competition, including blurring audience members' rainbow flags.
The EBU said the censorship was "not in line with its values of universality and inclusivity and our proud tradition of celebrating diversity through music".
Mango TV has not responded to the criticism online.
Chinese authorities have embarked on a campaign in recent years aimed at purging content that it deems inappropriate.
In April, Weibo announced a move to ban gay content on its platform. But that decision was reversed following a massive outcry.

January 7, 2019

Linkedin Profiles Censored Zhou Fengsuo in Repressive China




                                                                          

          
 Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images



LinkedIn censored, and then quickly restored, the profile of a New York-based Chinese human rights activist on its Chinese platform after a wave of negative publicity.

Zhou Fengsuo, one of the founders of a nonprofit organization that aids political prisoners and other vulnerable groups in China, is best known as one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, which ended in a bloody crackdown by the Chinese government. He was forced into exile in the United States over his role in the student movement, which landed him on a most-wanted list in China. 

On Jan. 3, LinkedIn sent Zhou a message saying although the company "strongly supports freedom of expression," his profile and activities would not be viewable to users in China because of "specific content on your profile."

Hours later, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn reversed its decision, apparently after South China Morning Post reporter Owen Churchill brought attention to the case. 

The development comes as Silicon Valley companies come under increasing pressure over their compliance with censorship rules in authoritarian countries such as China. Netflix this week pulled an episode of Hasan Minhaj's political comedy show in Saudi Arabia, apparently because it was critical of the Saudi government. And Google recently faced heavy criticism for a secret project that would have brought a censored version of its search platform to users in China, though the company has reportedly scrapped the project amid protests from its own employees.

LinkedIn, one of the few non-Chinese social media platforms not blocked by China's heavy-handed online censorship apparatus has agreed to remove certain content in China that violates government rules. But like other tech companies, LinkedIn doesn't usually disclose what content is taken down, in response to which authorities, and why.

In the message to Zhou, LinkedIn says it is notifying him that his profile would not be visible in China as a transparency measure, prompting criticism from human rights advocates including Peter Dahlin, director of the group Safeguard Defenders and a campaigner against extrajudicial detention in China. 

Asked about the reasoning behind the decision, Nicole Leverich, a spokesperson for LinkedIn, said, "our Trust and Safety team has reviewed this issue, determined the profile was blocked in error and restored the visibility of the member’s profile in China."

She declined to respond to questions about whether LinkedIn initially took the profile down at the request of Chinese government authorities or what content on Zhou's profile prompted the decision.

Zhou told BuzzFeed News he wasn't certain why his profile was targeted but said it came the same day that his WeChat account was suspended, leading him to suspect a demand from authorities had resulted in both suspensions. WeChat, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, frequently censors politically sensitive content at the request of Chinese government authorities. Zhou believes the trigger for the suspensions was a 29-minute video he posted that centers on the massacre near Tiananmen Square in 1989.


Zhou was one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Zhou was one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Zhou was one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
"I feel threatened and outraged," he said. LinkedIn's decision was doubly painful for him, he said, as a survivor of that massacre — an event the Chinese government has sought to censor and repress for decades.

"As as Tiananmen survivor, my profile was erased from Chinese public together with the whole movement since 1989," he said. "Now the western companies are by default complicit with [the Chinese Communist Party]."

"What is normal for others is, for me, a fight against ignorance and forced amnesia," he added.




November 28, 2018

HIV Researchers Slam Chinese Scientists Who Engineered Twins As Reckless and Probably Not Resistant to HIV



                             Image result for engineered human embryos
 




HIV researchers are incensed that the first reported use of gene editing in human embryos was aimed at conferring HIV immunity, criticizing the move as reckless and unnecessary.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that twin girls Lulu and Nana were born after a team led by He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, edited their genes when they were days-old embryos. Their father reportedly had HIV, and the procedure wiped out a gene that is usually necessary for the virus to infect cells. The news, first reported by MIT Technology Review, broke before the scientist had published any of his data, and was accompanied by YouTube videos in which He described his work. Genetics experts immediately criticized the project as premature and said it risked conferring dangerous mutations to the twins.
Adding to that chorus, HIV researchers told BuzzFeed News that such a procedure doesn’t make sense for preventing HIV. Targeting and knocking out a single gene, as He claimed to do, does not offer resistance against all strains of the virus. What’s more, there are simpler and less risky ways for people with HIV to have children without transmitting the disease. Critics also said that the move draws additional stigma to people with HIV.
“It’s all such, such bullshit,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of immunology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “I’m angry on behalf of the genetic engineering community. I’m angry on behalf of the HIV community.”
“It feels a little crazy to have HIV be involved in what appears to be the first-ever attempt to gene-edit a human being from birth,” Richard Jefferys, of the HIV/AIDS advocacy organization Treatment Action Group, told BuzzFeed News. “It just seems all kinds of wrong.” 
The researchers said that existing methods already offer parents simple ways to have children without transmitting the disease. “It’s very easy — there’s no reason a HIV-positive man can’t have HIV-negative children,” Cannon said. “Dr. He’s just making up a medical need that is not there.”
For instance, the CDC and World Health Organization have suggested combining in-vitro fertilization and “sperm washing,” in which the semen — which could carry cells infected with the virus — is separated from the sperm cells, which cannot be infected. “There was no need to participate in an experiment involving the gene editing of embryos in order to avoid transmitting HIV,” Jefferys said.  
In one of five videos introducing the procedure, He said that pioneering gene-editing trials in the US had already targeted this gene, and suggested that the approach was known and safe.

Cannon refuted that characterization, calling it an “incorrect extrapolation.” She said that other trials that had sought to knock out the same gene, known as CCR5, had significant differences: They included adults who were already HIV-positive and had consented to participate; the editing technique did not use CRISPR or the variation that He used in his work; and crucially, the edits to the genes were made after cells had been isolated from study subjects.
“Nothing from the trials concerns us in terms of safety — but it’s too early to say if CCR5 knockouts, even in HIV-infected individuals, is going to be an effective therapy,” Cannon said.
Among his justifications for picking CCR5 as a worthy target, He said that he was concerned about discrimination that people with the disease faced. “Employers may fire people after discovering their HIV status. Doctors may refuse to treat,” He said. The method may help some “very high-risk families protect their children from this same fate.”
Cannon said that He’s choice actually increased the stigma associated with HIV. “He’s now branding HIV as something so terrible that you, as an embryo, need to be gene-edited to make sure you can’t get it. Please. You could also just educate people, or wear a condom, or if you are at high risk, you can take anti-retroviral medication,” Cannon said.
The technique, even if successful, would not fully protect the girls from infection, the experts said.
Researchers who have been studying HIV elimination for the past few years have zeroed in on CCR5 as a gene of interest because it codes for a protein that most kinds of HIV need to infect cells. But not all strains of the HIV family of viruses use this path. If the twins were exposed to any of these alternative strains, they could still be infected.
“If you have any other flavors of the virus, then knocking out CCR5 is not going to work,” Cannon said.


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