- China announced it will deport three Wall Street Journal reporters after a separate writer for the newspaper published what the Chinese government called a “racist statement.”
- The article the Chinese government is referring to is titled, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
- That article, which is largely about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, calls the Communist Party weak, but also invokes the use of a historical phrase many in China deem to be racist.
- This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since the era of Mao Zedong.
China Expels Three WSJ Reporters
The Chinese Government is revoking the visas for three Wall Street Journal reporters after the newspaper ran an opinion piece titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
Denouncing the headline and article as racist, an official with China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the three reporters now have five days to leave the country.
“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” he said.
“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with WSJ and made our solemn position clear,” that official continued. “China demands the WSJ recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable. Meanwhile, we reserve the right to take further actions.”
This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since Mao Zedong’s rule, though the Communist Party did ban a BuzzFeed reporter in 2018 and a different WSJ reporter in 2019.
However, none of those three reporters who are now being expelled from the country wrote that column. In fact, they didn’t have anything to do with it aside from working at the WSJ. The article was actually written by Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russel Mead.
Why Is the Communist Party Calling the Column Racist?
The article, which is about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, begins by challenging the might of the coronavirus against Beijing’s influence and power.
“The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus,” Mead says in the column. “While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.”
The article then continues by calling China’s initial response “less than impressive,” insulting Wuhan’s action by calling it “secretive and self-serving.” Mead also says while the national government reacted vigorously, its response has also been seemingly ineffective at stopping the virus.
He adds that “the performance to date has shaken confidence in the Chinese Communist Party at home and abroad.” Mead ends by saying “that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle.”
While the Chinese Government is no stranger to censoring those critical of it, the article’s headline seemed to strike a different cord.
The term “sick man of Asia” began as a different phrase: “sick man of Europe;” however, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “sick man of Asia” was to describe internal conflict within the Chinese government. That conflict then led to a weakened government. Because of that, China was then forced to sign a number of unequal treaties with imperial powers such as Japan, Russia, and Western powers.
To this day, the phrase is particularly hated in China. In fact, in the 1972 film Fist of Fury, a character portrayed by Bruce Lee smashes and rips up a sign carrying the words “sick man of Asia” while in front of a group of Japanese men.
Chinese Citizens Double Down on Racism Claims
Because of the phrase’s historical use, many Chinese people have also echoed criticisms of racism, saying that the term “sick man” stereotypes them as disease-ridden and unclean.
“…this article will further encourage racism and discriminatory [behavior] towards all Chinese, and possibly all east Asians in the US or outside the country,” one person said in the comments section under Mead’s article.
“Content is not necessarily all wrong but definitely a bit salty – but I get it,” another person said before adding: “However, I must say that the title is quite misleading, if not utterly offensive.”
The WSJ Stands By Its Opinion Department
In a statement, WSJ publisher William Lewis stressed the division between the News and Opinion departments at the newspaper while also criticizing China’s decision to remove the three reporters from its country.
“We are deeply disappointed with today’s announcement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel three Wall Street Journal news reporters,” Lewis said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it.”
In that statement, Lewis also noted the Opinion Department “regularly” publishes pieces that people both agree and disagree with.
“However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst Chinese people, which we regret,” he added.
Lewis then ended his statement by asking China’s Foreign Ministry to reinstate the visas for those three reporters.
Meanwhile, Mead also posting to Twitter, insinuated that he did not write the headline that was ascribed to his article.
“…a word to my new Chinese followers: at American newspapers, writers typically do NOT write or approve the headlines,” Mead said. “Argue with the writer about the article content, with the editors about the headlines.”
U.S. Labels Major Chinese Media Outlets as Government Operatives
The Chinese Government’s decision to expel the reporters comes one day after U.S. State Department labeled five major Chinese state-run media outlets as government operatives.
Those five outlets include Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily.
“There is no dispute that all five of these entities are part of the [Chinese] party-state propaganda news apparatus and they take their orders directly from the top,” an unnamed State Department official told reporters.
“We all know these guys have been state-controlled forever, but that control has gotten stronger over time, and it’s far more aggressive,” that reporter added.
Now, employees of those agencies will be required by the State Department to register as consular staff, though the U.S. has noted that it won’t impede their reporting activities.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (South China Morning Post) (NPR)
Thousands Protest in Russia Demanding Release of Putin Foe Alexei Navalny
- Russia faced some of the largest protests it has seen in recent years after thousands took to the streets Saturday demanding the government release opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
- Russian authorities declared the protests illegal and detained more than 3,500 people from more than 100 cities, including Navalny’s wife.
- The government also released a statement addressing Navalny by name for the first time, attempting to discredit claims he has made, including the idea that President Vladimir Putin has a billion-dollar villa on the Black Sea coast.
Largest Russian Protests in Recent History
Russia experienced some of its largest protests in years Saturday after opposition figure Alexei Navalny called for demonstrations to be held following his arrest.
Supporters demanded Navalny’s release but also called for an end to perceived rampant corruption in the Russian state.
Tens of thousands took to the streets and clashed with police in more than 100 cities, with independent monitors claiming that 3,500 people were detained by police. Among those detained was Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, who was targeted by authorities during the protests. She is reported to have been released by Russian media agencies such as TASS.
Despite Russian authorities declaring the protests illegal and warning of repercussions for those who attend, the protests managed to reach a wide range of people. According to the New York Times, over ⅓ of protesters in Moscow said they had never protested before.
Despite the movements current popularity, it may be difficult to turn the popular, anti-Putin movement into something more.The protesters span a broad range of the political spectrum, from far-left communist and anarchist groups to nationalists and libertarians, meaning that while they dislike Putin and the corruption in the Russian government, they agree on little else.
Changing the Message
The protests unveiled a new shift in how Russian authorities deal with Navalny. In the past, authorities and state-backed media never mentioned him by name in order to downplay him; however, that changed this weekend.
Newscasters aired multiple programs to discredit him and paint him as a tool of the West, while Putin denied Navalny’s claims that he has a secret, billion-dollar villa on the coast of the Black Sea. Based on his salary of $133,000 a year, Putin would only be able to afford a single home in Russia. However, there is speculation that due to corruption and embezzling, Putin is likely the actual richest person alive.
Regarding Navalny himself, he’s still in jail pending court proceedings on Feb. 2. If those go poorly for Navalny, he could be in prison until the mid-2020s, but he is more concerned about his immediate future.
In a video to supporters prior to the protests, he made it clear that he has no intention of committing suicide. That statement was likely made due to the fact that many Russian dissidents seem to die via suicide, with much speculation about whether or not that was actually the case.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Business Insider) (Associated Press)
Some Flyers Are Forging Old COVID-19 Tests To Travel
- As a number of countries and airlines impose rules requiring negative COVID tests up to 72 before flights, more and more people have been forging old tests to make them look new.
- In a recent report from Vice’s Motherboard, two anonymous men detailed how they forged documents to avoid having to pay for new ones.
- “Fun fact, the document was in French whereas they were in Sweden the day it was supposedly made, but [airport officials] didn’t see a problem in that,” one man told Motherboard.
Forging Old COVID-19 Tests
Many countries are now requiring flyers to present negative COVID-19 tests no more than 72 hours before they board planes; however, some people are reportedly forging their test results to get around the restrictions.
According to Vice’s Motherboard, one anonymous individual used Photoshop to change the date of several of his friends’ older coronavirus tests.
“Fun fact, the document was in French whereas they were in Sweden the day it was supposedly made, but [airport officials] didn’t see a problem in that,” the man told the outlet.
Another person told Motherboard that he had changed the date of an old test result using Microsoft Paint in order to travel to Southern Europe for vacation.
Situations like this in Europe are not completely new.
“We needed a COVID-19 test for a family member and I spoke to one travel agent and he said, ‘Get it done and even if it comes out positive we will provide a negative one for you for £50’,” one person told The Sun in October.
While those people seemingly got away with potential forgery crimes, others haven’t.
Last week, it was reported that 45 people were caught trying to enter Croatia with fake COVID tests. Notably, they could each face up to three years in prison for forging documents.
Earlier this month, a 17-year-old Dutch girl was also caught with a forged COVID test while trying to escape quarantine in Switzerland.
Why Are People Forging Documents?
Part of the reason people are forging old COVID-19 tests may be to keep from being barred if a new test comes back positive; however, there also appears to be at least one other major reason: money.
Right now, tests in most European countries are free, but that’s not the case for people trying to go on vacation.
In fact, people traveling for leisure have been warned not to use free COVID-19 testing services to meet flight demands. Instead, they are required to pay out of pocket to have their test sent to a private company.
See what others are saying: (Motherboard) (The Independent) (TravelPulse)
Russia Orders Social Media Sites To Block Calls for Navalny Protests
- Shortly after his arrest on Sunday, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for protests to take place on Jan. 23 and was met with a wave of support online.
- In response, the government ordered tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and Russian-centric VK to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”
- TikTok has already deleted 38% of posts with such calls while VK and YouTube have deleted 50%, and Instagram has removed 17%.
Navalny Calls for Protests
Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and subsequent arrest earlier this week has set off a chain of events in the country.
Since his arrest, Navalny has called for protests to occur on Jan. 23. Now, Russian authorities are taking precautions and arresting his allies in an effort to slow down the momentum of the looming demonstrations. Among their many demands are that Navalny be released.
Throughout the week, thousands of posts shared by younger Russians have raged across social media asking that people partake in the protests. The reach of those posts, however, have been curtailed by the government.
Social media tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and the Russian-centric VK were ordered by the Russian government to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”
Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications watchdog, later stated, “Internet sites will be brought to administrative responsibility in connection with the dissemination of information prohibited by law and aimed at attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events.”
“Participation in such events is in violation of the established procedure, including in a pandemic, and carries risks of harm to life and health,” it added.
Censorship Payoff Unknown
For many of the sites, which are often seen as a way to promote free speech in regimes that are far more restrictive, the order puts them in an awkward position. Still, many have already complied, at least to some extend.
According to Roskomnadzor, Tiktok has deleted 38% of videos calling for minors to attend the protests. VK and YouTube have both deleted 50% of similar posts, while Instagram has removed 17% of posts that violate the regulations.
It’s unclear to what extent this censorship will have on stopping Russians from attending tomorrow’s protests; however, some of the nation’s largest protests in modern history have been organized by Navalny.