Over four weeks in January and February 2011, during and after President Hu Jintao’s state visit to the United States, the Chinese government launched a “public diplomacy” campaign including a 60-second video, “Experience China,” which ran a total of 8,400 times on a giant video screen in Times Square. The spot, featuring international Chinese superstars, such as basketball player Yao Ming and pianist Lang Lang, projected an image of a modern, prosperous, and harmonious China. A 30-second version ran on major television outlets such as CNN’s domestic and international channels. Though there are no official figures available on the video production costs, the video was part of a $6.8 billion “external propaganda campaign” (外宣战) begun in 2009.
Despite the costly propaganda efforts, the Chinese authorities were not able to erase images of a different China. On February 27, in photographs and video footage circulated worldwide, Chinese policemen roughed up foreign journalists trying to report on a peaceful rally in Beijing, which was inspired by the Jasmine Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Since then, the Chinese authorities have carried out an intensified wave of crackdowns by disappearing, arresting, detaining, and harassing Chinese activists, writers, artists, lawyers, and other rights advocates. The Chinese authorities have not accounted for those disappeared, and have intimidated those released from custody into staying silent about their ordeals.
In a special photography section in this combined No. 1 and 2 issue of the China Rights Forum for 2011, we present 32 photos selected from a Human Rights in China (HRIC) photo contest, titled “China through Different Lenses.” We thank the contributors of the some 300 photos for sharing these powerful images, as well as their stories of loss and hope and of individual and collective efforts to live with dignity in the face of formidable challenges: lawlessness, destruction of communities, environmental degradation, and dangerous workplaces. Our congratulations go to Du Bin, who won first prize for “Kneeling is Not a Crime” (photo 1.1); to Shuang Jian, who won second prize for “Living in Fear” (photo 5.1); and to Jin Yuehua, who won third prize for “Hu Xiaomei Airing Grievances on Behalf of Wrongfully Imprisoned Daughter” (photo 1.6).
The special photo section is preceded and followed by two sections of articles. Section One: Jasmine Shock Waves, presents different perspectives — from China journalist Paul Mooney, independent critic Ku Yang, political commentator Bao Pu, and documentary film producer Hua Ze, who was kidnapped and held in extra-legal detention for more than a month — on the Chinese government’s reactions to the Jasmine Rallies, and the intensifying crackdown on rights activists since the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo was announced in early October 2010.
Section Two: Challenges Facing China, presents expert discussions of major challenges to Chinese society and the systemic changes required: Fu Hualing on the use of extra-legal “law” by the authorities, Christine Loh on environmental pollution and degradation, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Food’s report on his mission to China. Also in this section is a portrait of the dream-crushing conditions for migrant workers in Guangdong.
Beginning in 2012, the print edition of the China Rights Forum will move to a semi-annual schedule — two issues a year — from the current quarterly schedule. We will also be introducing an expanded online format that will include additional articles and interactive features.
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