Tibetan man gets five years in prison for speaking about his native language

For the crime of talking to a western media outlet about his native tongue, Tashi Wangchuk has been sentenced to prison.

Back in 2015, Mr. Tashi spoke to the New York Times about his concerns that Tibetans were in danger of losing their native language. It was a problem that had been brewing for a while. Tibet declared independence from the much larger nation in 1913. They had their culture, their Dalai Lama and their territory. Things were good… for around 36 years. In 1949, Mao Zedong got China all hot and horny for Communism. Looking to regain the lands that they felt belonged to them, for political and defensive reasons, The People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet in 1950, invaded Tibet, scourging the nation’s culture, language and beliefs in an effort to bring it into line with China’s political doctrine.

China’s never relented its stranglehold on Tibet’s politics but, over time, it did come to allow a certain amount of levity for ethnic minorities, not just in Tibet, but in other Chinese territories (both traditionally recognized or taken by force). Diversity in custom and language were begrudgingly tolerated. In 1984, China went so far as to protect the right to the preservation of language and culture, so long as it didn’t get in the way of their political agenda, under the law. So, when Mr. Tashi chatted with The Grey Lady, he assumed that he and the Chinese government would be cool.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

The most recent iteration of the Central People’s Government holds a more assimilationist approach to governance: One people, one language, yadda yadda. Read the rest

Apple bends to Chinese government demands... again

One of the best reasons to buy a piece of Apple hardware, in my opinion, is the company’s history of protecting the privacy of its customers.

Provided you're not a customer living in China.

You may recall that, a while back, iOS users in China lost the ability to download most VPN clients to their phones and tablets from the iTunes App Store—the Chinese government doesn’t like their citizens to be able to anonymously access the Internet or view the world through the lens of unapproved news sources. So, Virtual Private Networks were kicked to the curb. According to 9to5mac, Apple is once again showing the Chinese government their soft underbelly, in the name of being able to continue to sell their hardware in the country.

According to 9to5mac, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has decided that they’d like Callkit—a developer framework that lets devs bake VoIP capabilities into their apps for iOS—to not be a thing for applications available to its citizens. You likely use Callkit-backed apps on a regular basis, without even knowing it. When your iPhone displays you the name or number of who’s calling you on Skype? That’s Callkit, doing it’s thing. The Chinese government doesn’t dig on Callkit because of the fact that it’s difficult, if not impossible to intercept and monitor calls made using it. Last summer, Skype was removed from the Apple’s Chinese App Store portal, likely for this very reason.

Look. Before anyone swoops in to say that I’m anti-Apple I wrote this post on a MacBook. Read the rest

A visit to China's Commodity City, the world's biggest "shopping mall"

"Commodity City is an observational documentary exploring the daily lives of vendors who work in the largest wholesale consumer market in the world: the Yiwu Markets in China," says director Jessica Kingdon.

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Watch Commodity City, short documentary on a massive Chinese market

Yiwu International Trade City in Yiwu, Zhejiang, China is the largest wholesale consumer market in the world. This documentary looks at the people who look after its countless booths. Read the rest

The last of China's cave dwellers want nothing to do with modern housing

Before China came under the sway of Communist rule, many of the impoverished people of the country's southwestern Guizhou province opted to live in caves rather than face the frequent assaults by the region's criminal element. The cave complexes in Guizhou are massive, and until recently, were unknown to those who hailed from outside of the province. Its connection to the outside world is a small one. In order to enter Guizhou, visitors to the region need to navigate a narrow mountain footpath. The difficulties that getting to Guizhou poses has gifted its people with a rare commodity in our increasingly connected world: seclusion.

But of late, the region's cave dwellers have become less cloistered. Tourists eager to see cave dwellers' way of life have been making the trek to Guizhou. This is good news for Guizhou's cave dwellers: The tourists have proven happy to pay for the privilege of renting space in the caves. It's also bad news: the Chinese government has noted that some of its citizens are hiding out in caves. Because of the optics this presents, they've been encouraging the cave dwellers to move onto farm properties, complete with modest houses and a relocation payment – let's call it a bribe – of $9,500. Five of the cave dwelling families were totally into the deal. The other 18? Not so much.

From The Globe & Mail:

The remaining 18 families have held on stubbornly to their homes inside the cave. They say that the new homes are too small, that they fear losing access to their land, and that they alone, because of their historical connection to the cave, should have the right to independently control its small tourism economy.

Read the rest

Neurobollocks with Chinese characteristics: Chinese employers use "brain wave sensors" to tune workforces

Giant Chinese companies are outfitting millions of employees -- everyone from factory workers to military personnel to pilots and train drivers -- with special uniform hats containing an unspecified neurological sensor package claimed to be capable of detecting "depression, anxiety or rage" as well as "fatigue and attention loss with an accuracy of more than 90 per cent"; the practice is largely unregulated. Read the rest

With these smartphone 'swinging cradles,' people are cheating to get to 10K steps

Apparently in China people can get discounts on their health insurance (and avoid punishment) if their phone hits 10K steps a day. That's nearly five miles of exercise they're expected to get every day.

Well, if there's a way to cheat something, someone will figure it out. And someone did.

Canadian-born Mark Rowswell, aka Chinese comedian Dashan, tweeted that a restaurant in China is offering a "swinging cradle" for its patrons to hit their daily steps quota while dining, drinking, and smoking.

I dug around a bit. It seems these clever devices (called "摇步器") have been around since at least 2016, as evidenced by this video:

Previously: Is China's social credit system becoming a Black Mirror episode?

(Super Punch) Read the rest

The predictable dystopian trajectory of China's Citizen Scores

China's Citizen Score system combines surveillance of your social media and social graph with your credit report, your purchase history and state spy agencies and police files on you to produce a "trustworthiness" score -- people who score low are denied access to high-speed travel, financial products, and other services like private school for their kids. Read the rest

China escalates the war on jaywalkers with automated shouting laser/squirtguns tied to motion-sensors

Chinese authorities hate jaywalkers and they've decided to use technology to end the practice; in Shenzhen, jaywalkers are identified with facial recognition and sent threatening texts while their faces are displayed on oversized nearby LED screens; in Daye, Hubei province, shouting robotic squirt-guns target and soak anyone who attempts to walk into an intersection against the lights. Read the rest

Is China's social credit system becoming a Black Mirror episode?

This edition of Asian Boss asks residents of Shanghai what they think about China's new national reputation system, a mass surveillance tool that uses big data analysis to rewards and punish people based on their social and and financial behavior. Read the rest

Watch a Chinese space station fall to earth

Launched in 2011, Tiangong-1 was China's first space station. In the past seven years, it hasn't gotten a lot of use – only two crews of astronauts have spent time on it, in 2012 and 2013. Despite this, Tiangong-1 remained fully operational until, in 2016, China's space agency, the China National Space Administration, lost contact with it. As you read this, Tiangong-1 is falling towards earth. Each orbit it takes brings it closer to our atmosphere. Soon, gravity will finish the job it started, pulling Tiangong-1 back to earth.

No one's quite sure where the eight-ton piece of space junk is going to land yet, but thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project, it's possible to watch it as it comes down.

From Space.com:

As Tiangong-1 makes its last few orbits of Earth before burning up in the atmosphere in a few days, you can watch the Chinese space station live online through a robotically controlled telescope at The Virtual Telescope Project.

Live coverage of the event will start Wednesday (March 28) at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), but the organizers said the timing could change closer to the event. You can visit this page on The Virtual Telescope Project's website to see updates.

 

Image: PxHere Read the rest

Chinese jaywalkers are identified and shamed by facial recognition, and now they'll get warnings over text message

Last April, the industrial capital of Shenzhen installed anti-jaywalking cameras that use facial recognition to automatically identify people crossing without a green pedestrian light; jaywalkers are shamed on a public website and their photos are displayed on large screens at the intersection, Read the rest

Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping secretly met in #Beijing for historic first visit

Kim Jong Un secretly met with China's Xi Jinping in Beijing, an historic first visit by North Korea's leader. Read the rest

Invisible, targeted infrared light can fool facial recognition software into thinking anyone is anyone else

A group of Chinese computer scientists from academia and industry have published a paper documenting a tool for fooling facial recognition software by shining hat-brim-mounted infrared LEDs on the user's face, projecting CCTV-visible, human-eye-invisible shapes designed to fool the face recognition software. Read the rest

Chinese surveillance/tech giant Alibaba joins ALEC, will start co-authoring US legislation

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a big-business think-tank that authors "model legislation" at the local, state and national level that benefits corporations at the expense of everyday people; their greatest hits make for scary reading -- you can thank ALEC for ag-gag laws, stand-your-ground laws, private prisons, bans on municipal ISPs, killing Obamacare and jailing pipeline protesters. Read the rest

China's mass surveillance and pervasive social controls are based on a rocket scientist's advocacy for "systems thinking"

In 1955, MIT- and Caltech-educated Qian Xuesen was fired from his job teaching at JPL and deported from the USA under suspicion of being a communist sympathizer; on his return to China, he led the country's nuclear weapons program and became a folk hero who is still worshipped today.

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Watch the US premiere of this concerto for orchestra and ping pong

To celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. the New York Philharmonic played Ricochet, Andy Akiho's concerto for ping pong. Read the rest

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