In the land where ministers and rocket men are disappearing one by one and national television lionizes the coming together of dictators, plans are afoot to criminalize producing and publicizing articles or remarks that hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation.
If changes to law go through on this footing, they will add another layer of punitive jeopardy — fines, two weeks’ detention without trial and black marks on resumes — to actions like wearing a controversial T-shirt or running a business in a manner that irks the Chinese Communist Party.
By the party’s logic, in recent years, the feelings of the Chinese nation have been injured variously by quotes from the Dalai Lama, kimonos, the covering of an eye, avoiding the purchase of forced labor cotton, naming oneself Mao, phoning Taiwan and requesting to know the reasons why exactly COVID-19 became a rampant pandemic with an official death toll of 7,000,000 to date and counting.
Teething problems for the proposed law include how to gauge whether feelings are indeed hurt when nobody can convey news or express an honest opinion without the risk of withering in jail for years on end. These will presumably be overcome by social media censors and helpful pointers from state media, such as to bombard Japan with hate and perform the nation’s pain therein.
Raising not dissimilar points, an authoritative criticism of the plan to prevent bruised feelings seem of itself to be bruising feelings, triggering its consignment to one of the most fascinating, insightful and inspiring corners of the whole internet: China’s digital trash can.
Other speech in danger of being slowly squeezed from existence in an equally alarming manner is Mongolian. As the new school year starts in that part of Mongolia within China’s present borders, the highly controversial transition to Mandarin-language instruction is complete, meaning that students will no longer be taught in their own tongue.
Many people see the move as an attempt to eradicate the local identity in South (Inner) Mongolia. It comes as books on Mongolian history are banned, and dissidents face arrest by Chinese police even on soils nominally ruled, not by Beijing, but by Ulaanbaatar. Far from being a crime, wounding the feelings of the Mongolian nation is state-endorsed.
One of many points of contention between Mongolians and the Chinese government over the years has been mining, a sector that is identified as one of the most deadly for environmental defenders worldwide in a just-released report by London-founded NGO Global Witness. While the NGO does not record killings in China, it does note both the 63% of global rare earth mining that the country accounts for and the poorly traceable, abuse-riven supply chains where its corporations operate in Myanmar.
Moreover, in the last few weeks alone, Chinese extraction firms, at least one of which is state-owned, have been implicated in holding 50 Laotian citizens hostage, attempting to evict a village with help from the Naypyidaw junta, again, in Myanmar and exploring for titanium without a license or environmental impact assessment in Nigeria. A serious explosion at a facility of Omni Quarries, a Chinese company, has left five dead in Ghana as well. Omni was also operating without a license, according to the Ghanaian Minerals Commission.
The Global Witness report drew particular attention to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). It is proceeding in Uganda and Tanzania, under the auspices of France’s Total, two state-owned entities for each of the African nations and the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC). Via its subsidiaries, the latter is also reportedly involved in the pipeline’s physical construction.
Four protesters have already been arrested in relation to the project, which, according to Human Rights Watch, has caused impoverishment of many families and will eventually lead to the displacement of 100,000 people. Due to the biodiversity, human and massive climate warming costs, several leading international financiers and insurers have withdrawn their services for the pipeline, yet banks from China, including Exim, are apparently set to offer loans, enabling it to proceed.
National companies like CNOOC may well seek to make all the money they can as China’s domestic economy continues to falter, and the country’s wealth gap slews to its widest point since records began. Not only is this potentially destabilizing, it is also embarrassing, given Beijing’s attempts to redefine human rights in the language of development and economics instead of notions like being able to express oneself openly, follow a chosen religion, assemble with whom one chooses or move within and beyond the borders of one’s country.
Here, China is chronically underperforming as evidenced in the past few days by its fearful blocking of Tibetans from attending an already delayed Buddhist sermon in Gansu province, by which Beijing demonstrated its palpable terror of an uprising, even as it rounded up its usual coterie of obsequious ambassadors to delude the world into believing that Tibet gladly receives colonial rule.
The reworking of Buddhism in the image of Marx and Xi Jinping thought is not yet complete, so it would seem. Nor are the hurt feelings of the Tibetan nation yet ready to be heard.